Nopalea cochenillifera (L.) Salm-Dyck
Cochineal Nopal Cactus, Cochineal Cactus, Cochineal Opuntia, Prickly Pear, Nopal Cactus
Nopalea cochenillifera subsp. cochenillifera, Cactus cochenilifer, Cactus cochenilliferus, Nopalea coccinellifera, Nopalea nuda, Opuntia cochenillifera, Opuntia nuda
Nopalea cochenillifera is a shrubby or treelike cactus with thornless light green stems. It grows up to 13.1 feet (4 m) tall. The stems are composed of paddle-shaped cladodes (joints), which are up to 20 inches (50 cm) long, up to 6 inches (15 cm) wide, and linked together in a branched pattern. Flowers appear at the top of the joints, usually in great abundance. They are erect, narrow, bright red to rose in color, up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) long, and up to 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) in diameter.
USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).
How to Grow and Care
Though the large variety of species within the Opuntia genus means different Prickly Pears may need slightly different care. All are desert cacti that need lots of sun, lots of light, and very little water. If you live in a hot, arid area, these plants can generally be planted outside, left alone, and enjoyed.
These cacti will grow just fine in a garden, but they can also be grown in pots. To repot, ensure the soil is dry, remove the pot and knock away the old soil. After treating any cuts with fungicide, place the cactus in a new pot and backfill it with potting soil. As with a new cutting, make sure not to water a newly repotting Prickly Pear for a brief period to avoid rotting its roots.
Opuntia can propagate either by cuttings or by seed. To propagate by cuttings, sever pads from a plant and let them dry so that the wounds heal. Then place the plants in dry soil and refrain from watering them until they begin to grow to avoid rotting them.
See more at How to Grow and Care for Opuntia.
This species is endemic to Mexico.
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