Opuntia humifusa

Eastern prickly pear

CODE: 081-0001
ZONE: 5a
PRICE: $11.00
POT SIZE: #1 container, 2450 ml

We Northerners don't get many opportunities to grow cactus in our gardens. I think this hardy US native recognized our predicament, felt sorry for us, and decided to make up for it in spades.

Happy in temperatures to -20[degrees]F, it produces large, fleshy grayish-green pads that lie askew like frisbees in the sand. From these pads small needles (yes, needles, so careful!) arise, but not in large quantities.

It's the flowers that really make me adore this plant, though. Ranging from 2-3" in diameter, the semi-double, clear yellow blooms perch atop the pads, each blossom lasting for only a single day. Some flowers are tinged with apricot while others are a pure yellow through and through.

The flowers eventually form into apricot to reddish fruit which last for several months (unless you pick them and eat them).

It's even cute in winter months -- the pads shrivel like fingers left in dishwater a tad too long, huddled against the earth for warmth. But when spring comes they plump right up again.

The key to growing this plant is drainage and not too much moisture. It will even grow in clay beds as long as it isn't crowded by other plants and doesn't get too wet.

Spread the word. Let people know that cactus aren't just for Southwesterners any more by planting a few in your yard. You won't regret it (unless you weed around it without gloves, of course).

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(c) 2007 Christopher P. Lindsey