Prickly Pear Opuntia

How to sow prickly pear: Transplant leaf pad cuttings outdoors or direct seed indoors

Sun requirement for prickly pear: Plant in Full Sun

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Prickly Pear is a species of cactus that is cultivated for its edible fruit and young paddles. Other cacti in the Optunia genus can also be cultivated for food, but Opuntia ficus-indica is most common. The plant has thick oblong or tapered paddles covered in spines that produce flowers and fruit in their first or second year. The hermaphrodite flowers can be orange, yellow, or pink and are pollinated by insects. There are a few spineless cultivars. Paddles are harvested while young, before the spines harden, and sliced and cooked like green beans. Fruit are red or purple, covered in spines, and 5-9 cm long when ripe. They taste like sweet watermelon and have a gelatinous texture. They are eaten raw, cooked, or dried. Prickly Pear are one of the more cold-hardy cacti, but cannot survive temperatures below -12° C. Their ideal temperature range is 1.5-50° C. Prickly Pear can also be grown as livestock fencing (with spines), cattle forage (spineless cultivars), and to reduce soil erosion. If starting from seed, soak, scarify, and be patient. Germination can take at least 6 weeks. Propagation from rooted cuttings is faster and more successful. Prickly Pear can become invasive in some regions.

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