Opuntia vulgaris


Cactus compressus
Cactus humifusus
Cactus italicus
Cactus opuntia
Opuntia allairei
Opuntia arkansana
Opuntia calcicola
Opuntia carolina
Opuntia compressa
Opuntia fuscoatra
Opuntia humifusa f. jeollaensis
Opuntia humifusa var. parva


O. vulgaris is native to Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mexico Northeast, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia


O. vulgaris is a succulent belonging to the Cactaceae botanical family. The plant has an arboreal habit in its original habitat, in continental climates it has a shrubby habit. The stem of the plant is smooth, flat and flashy, dark green, formed of segments. The surface of the segments is covered with barbed bristles and rarely by long spines. Blooming occurs in late spring and early summer and blossom are borne along the margin of mature segments. Flowers are waxy, yellow to orange sometimes with red centers. Fruits are edible, red, up to 5 cm long. Fruits at the beginning are green, then when ripe are red and fall on the ground the following spring.


This is a slow growing succulent but quite easy to cultivate. For this succulent the best sun-exposure is direct sun-light, the plant can withstand very high level of radiation and drought so it can be placed outdoors in warm climates otherwise it should be placed indoors. The soil should be mixed with pumice, clay and loam to allow the drainage and prevent the root rot, the plant is prone to it indeed. Remember to use perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering can be done regularly from March to November: during the vegetative period you can water the plant (every 10 days), checking that the soil is completely dry before watering again; in winter you should stop the watering to allow to the plant to enter dormancy. If you want a very fast and lush growth you can fertilize the plant once a month during the growing season with the specifics fertilizers for cacti; stop fertilizing throughout the winter. The pot should be quite large and deep because the root is large and tuberose. If the pot starts to be too small for the plant you can repot the plant in a pot 2 cm wider. Repotting should be done usually every 3 years, early in the growing season with fresh new potting soil.


Propagation can be done by seed or by cutting. By seed is very simple to propagate the plant, it is enough to sow the seed in a sandy loam soil and keep it with high level of humidity; temperatures of germination are between 20 and 28 °C. By cutting you can use steam cuttings during the spring. Cut a segment and then let it dry; after a few days the cut surface will dry and a callus will form, then place the cutting in a mixture of sand, soil and pumice. To increase success of propagation you can cut two or more segments at the same time. For cuttings is recommended temperatures around 20 °C.


Opuntia was named after “Opunte”, the capital of Locride region in ancient Greece.

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