Opuntia bigelovii, or Teddy Bear Cholla, is an upright cactus native to Arizona, Southern California, Southern Nevada and Northern Mexico. The trunks are erect to 3-8 feet (1-2 m) in height and 2 inches (5 cm) in girth. Terminal joints are 2-8 inches (5-20 cm) long and are easily detached. Pale yellow spines up to 1.5 (3.8 cm) long make each joint well armed, with 7-10 needle-shaped spines per areole. From a distance, the spines look very soft, which gives them a cuddly appearance of hair, hence their name. Be aware as the spines are very sharp. Chollas in general are very easy to grow and make a wonderful addition to the landscape if used in low traffic areas. They are hardy in USDA zones 8-11.
Blooming: Plants bloom in mid to late spring in the greenhouse, with large 1.5 inch (3.8 cm) yellow flowers with a small tint of red.
Culture: Opuntia bigelovii plants need full sun with a well drained soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 2 parts loam to 2 parts sand to 1 part small gravel. Plants are well watered and allowed to dry thoroughly before watering again. We fertilize the plants only once during the growing season and this is done in early spring before flowering. During the winter months, we move the plants to the cool room where the nighttime temperatures fall to 45°F (7°C) and restrict water to just the amount needed to keep the stems from shriveling.
Propagation: Opuntia bigelovii is propagated effortlessly by cuttings.
Opuntia bigelovii was featured as Plant of the Week September 1-7, 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.