Mexican cactus goes by the common name Prickly pear cactus and it is a famous plant among the succulent enthusiasts.
Mexican cacti have their own beauty which is unique to themselves.
The segmented flat and oval stems which grow in pairs have earned them the common name called Mexican cactus.
Even though their name sounds very soothing, you need to beware when dealing with the plants as they contain large round spines.
This cacti are endemic plants to the USA and they adapted to grow in dry weather conditions. Mexican cactus can also conserve water just like the rest of other cacti and succulents.
This characteristic makes them thrive well in drought conditions. In addition to that their low maintenance make them great choices for the newbies in gardening.
So, brace yourself and get ready to discover these amazing plants.
How do I identify Mexican cactus?
They comprise segmented stems which tend to take flat and oval shape as aforesaid. Further you could spot those stems emerging with dots on both sides of the stems.
Mexican cactus consists of large round spines too. Besides, they may carry tiny hairs too. Mexican cactus leaves are somewhat modified and they would form out from the tubercles which are small and look like wart-like projections.
Mexican cacti produce flowers in summer. Further those blooms will form along the ridge of the stems. You could spot most of these flowers emerging in yellow, red and in purple colors.
They may grow in different heights. It could be from one foot to 6-7 feet in height. Mexican cactus pads may also vary in terms of the sizes, colors and in the shapes as well.
Mexican cactus produces fruits in different colors as well. In fact, they would form with shades of red, green and yellow orange.
One look care guide
|Botanical Name||Opuntia sp|
|Common Name||Mexican cactus|
|Mature Size||Maximum height from one feet – 6-7 feet|
|Sun Exposure||Full sunlight|
|Soil pH||Alkaline to neutral|
|Bloom Time||Spring summer|
|Flower Color||Yellow, red and in purple colors|
|Hardiness Zones||USDA hardiness zones 9-11 mainly|
|Average price||7 USD|
How do you take care of Mexican cactus?
Mexican cactus has strong sunlight requirements which is more like the rest of other succulents and cactus.
Literally you need to expose the plants for full sunlight in the morning and partial shade in the intense hours of summer.
On the other hand, when you grow them outdoors, a bright sunny windowsill would work well with them.
Temperature and humidity
Mexican cactus adapted to grow in hot dry drought weather conditions. Thus, when you cultivate them, you need to mimic the same conditions which they get in their natural habitats.
In a few words, you need to expose them for warmer temperatures right throughout. They would not tolerate temperatures which go beyond 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you have grown them in pots and if you have kept them outdoors, you may consider bringing them indoors to protect them from frost and extreme winter conditions.
Is it cold hardy?
Mexican cactus are cold hardy to some extent.
Mexican cactus preferred USDA hardiness zones are 9-11. Having said that there are certain Mexican cactus which are hardy in hardiness zones 4 as well.
Mexican cactus used to grow in hot and dry weather conditions. They can survive in drought conditions for extended periods as well.
You can consider watering them once every two to four weeks when they are actively growing in summer. On the other hand, they can thrive with just once a month watering in winter and fall.
If you have grown them somewhere where they get rainfall consistently, you can skip watering them. However, if you spot the soil is bone dry, you need to commence watering them immediately.
Soil Requirement Type / pH
First of all, a soil mix which had an alkaline to neutral pH level would be beneficial for the healthy growth of the Mexican cactus.
With that being said, what is more crucial in the soil mix is to check whether they have excellent drainage.
If the moisture is retained in the soil mix, it will lead to root rot and make the plants more vulnerable for bacterial and fungal infections.
Besides the excellent drainage, a good aeration is also a factor which you need to consider when selecting a right soil mix.
Considering all these, what I would recommend you do is to go ahead with a commercially made succulents / cactus soil mix to grow them.
Pot size Potting and Repotting
Ideally, you need to choose a pot which is made out of a porous material so that it would evaporate the excess moisture faster from the pots.
In addition to that it needs to have one or two draining holes too. when it comes to repotting the plants, you need to do it with so much care as if you repot them without caution chances are that it would affect them badly.
Further keep in mind that you need to wear thick gloves as well as long sleeves so that the spines of the plants will not injure you.
Apart from that when you repot the plants, you need to replant them in the same depth in the new pot as well.
Where to Plant
Mexican cactus will grow healthily if you grow them in a warm bright spot. Further make sure that you protect the plants from strong direct sunlight as well.
Moreover, you need to relocate the plants to a cooler place during winter so that it would encourage the flower blossoming.
Fertilizer and time of year
When it comes to feeding your Mexican cactus, you may consider choosing a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer to feed them.
If you have a well-established Mexican cactus, a 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 water soluble fertilizer would be ideal. That would help the plants to produce new flowers as well as fruits.
However, if you grow the Mexican cactus mainly for the pads, I recommend going ahead with a fertilizer which has a low percentage of nitrogen.
These cactus produce flowers in yellow, red and in purple colors and you could spot those flowers emerging in spring summer.
Mexican cactus is dormant in winter.
Mexican cactus could be toxic and result in side effects. In fact, you may suffer from diarrhea, nausea, bating and even heartburn.
Common bugs and illnesses
Mexican cactus may suffer from shriveled leaves if you make them deprived of sufficient watering. Despite the fact that they are drought tolerant plants, they need to have sufficient water to thrive well.
On the other hand, if you supply them with excess water it would lead to rot in the plants. If rots get severe, you may want to repot the plants.
Having said that if the rot has spread on a massive level, chances are that it may kill your plants as well.
In addition to that if you spot your Mexican cactus had developed sunburns you need to immediately shift the plants to a shady place which would help them to recover.
Further overwatering may make the Mexican cactus split as well. in that circumstance you need to minimize watering them so that it would allow the scars to recover.
When it comes to bugs attacks, Mexican cactus may experience scale insects more often. If you spot any brown lumps on the plants, it could be due to scale infestations.
If you ever come across any, you need to wipe them off with a brush. Alternatively, you may wash them with a cloth soaked in organic insecticide too.
Besides, scale Mealybugs could also be troublesome for the Mexican cactus. If you come across any white fluffy spots they could most probably be the mealybugs.
Special Care tips
You do not need to bother pruning Mexican cactus. However, if you wish to maintain the pad sizes, you could consider giving them a small trim.
Use the tongs and hold the pad when you trim them. Next take a sharp disinfected knife and cut it off at the joint.
In addition to that it is very important that you expose them to sufficient sunlight and grow them in a well-draining soil mix too.
There is some Mexican cactus where you can consume the fruits and the pads of them. In addition to that they would make great outdoor plants as well.
How to propagate Mexican cactus?
You could propagate the Mexican cactus by either using their seeds or the cuttings. However, I recommend going ahead with the cutting method as it is very simple to do.
So, to do that, you need to first select a healthy stem piece which is about 10 cm in length. After that leave them in a windowsill which will allow them to callous over.
Next fill a pot with the cactus compost and place the cutting bases in the pots. When you plant them ensure that they are planted in a depth of about 2 cm.
Next you can water them as appropriate and leave them exposed to bright indirect sunlight. Avoid covering them with plastic bags or keep them in propagators. If the soil is dry, you need to commune with watering them.
Mexican cactus are such versatile soothing plants to have. So, I hope this article made you excited to have a Mexican cactus and now that you are well equipped with the knowledge in handling them. So happy gardening with Mexican cactus !
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