Opuntia humifusa is a prostrate spreading cactus with fibrous roots native from Massachusetts to Montana, south to Florida and west to Texas. The joints are 2-6 inches long and up to 0.50 inches (1.3 cm) thick. They are mostly spineless or may have 1-2 whitish-brown spines along the edges. If spines are present they are needle shaped to 0.75 inches (2 cm) long. It is very easy to grow in the landscape or in containers.
Blooming: In late spring to early summer, the cactus is adorned with 3-4 inch (7.8-10 cm) yellow flowers. Purple fruit 2 inches (5 cm) long follow the flowers. They are very showy in bloom.
Culture: Opuntia humifusa need full sun to light shade and a well drained soil mix. I have seen this cactus grow in almost every soil type imaginable, from heavy clays to pure sand. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of equal parts of loam and sand. The plants are well watered and allowed to dry thoroughly before watering again. We fertilize them only once during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer. During the winter months, they are placed in the cold room and nighttime temperatures are dropped to 48°F (9°C). During this period, the cacti are only watered enough to keep the joints from shriveling.
Propagation: Opuntia humifusa is very easily propagated from cuttings.
Opuntia humifusa was featured as Plant of the Week May 12-18, 2006.
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week:
Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.