Opuntia engelmannii Salm-Dyck
Cactus Apple, Desert Prickly Pear, Discus Prickly Pear, Engelmann's Pricklypear
Opuntia engelmanni (a common lapsus), Opuntia engelmannii subsp. engelmannii
Opuntia engelmannii is a shrubby or tree-like cactus with a short or usually absent trunk and yellow-green to blue-green, segmented stems with areoles in diagonal rows, bearing tufts of glochids and usually 1 to 3 spines. The flattened stem segments are circular to obovate and rhombic, up to 16 inches (40 cm) long and 12 inches (30 cm) wide. Spines are chalky white or yellow, become gray to black with age, and usually have red-brown extreme bases. They are up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) long and sometimes absent from lower areoles. The glochids are yellow to red-brown, becoming gray to blackish with age.
Flowers are yellow, sometimes orange to pink and red, and appear in spring. They are up to 3.2 inches (8 cm) long and 1.6 inches (4 cm) in diameter. Fruits are egg- to barrel-shaped, up to 3.6 inches (9 cm) long and 1.6 inches (4 cm) in diameter. They are purple or red, almost spineless, with reddish-purple pulp and tan to grayish seeds.
How to Grow and Care for Opuntia engelmannii
Light: Opuntia engelmannii thrives in full sun. Indoors, a window with access to sunlight for 6 hours a day works best. Some shade during midday and afternoon can prevent sunburn in very hot climates.
Soil: This cactus requires a soil mix that drains well. It prefers sandy or gravelly soil, but it can tolerate other soil types as long as there is good drainage. Use a commercial cactus potting mix, or create your own.
Temperature: Extremely tolerant of high temperatures, Opuntia engelmannii prefers cooler temperatures in winter. It grows best in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8a to 10b, with average minimum winter temperatures ranging from 10 to 40 °F (-12.2 to 4.4 °C).
Watering: From spring to fall, water moderately and let the soil dry out completely before watering again. In most areas, rainfall will be enough for established plants. For a potted plant, never let the container sit in water. Suspend watering in winter.
Fertilizing: Opuntia engelmannii does not need fertilizer when planted in the ground. However, in a container, the plant will benefit from fertilization during the growing season. Apply a water-soluble fertilizer. Suspend feeding during the winter when the plant goes dormant.
Repotting: Repot only when your Opuntia engelmannii becomes potbound or is too large and unstable in its container. Choose a slightly larger container with drainage holes at the bottom. The best time for repotting is late winter or early spring.
Propagation: You can propagate Opuntia engelmannii by stem cuttings (pads) or seeds. Starting this cactus from seeds is a slow process, and it may take 3 to 4 years before you have a substantial plant. Propagation by pads is the easiest method and yields faster results. The best time to take cuttings is early summer. Sow the seeds in late spring.
Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Opuntia.
Toxicity of Opuntia engelmannii
Opuntia engelmannii is not toxic to humans or pets. However, keep it away from pets and children as it has glochids that may cause moderate skin irritation.
Varieties of Opuntia engelmannii
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