18 Sep

Striking Landscape Plant: Opuntia Ficus Indica, Prickly Pear

Opuntia Ficus Indica or Prickly Pear is an excellent plant for beginners, master gardeners and professionals alike. It makes a striking accent plant and adds dramatic effects in gardens, landscapes and plantation schemes. The plant is known for typical wide, succulent, pad-like leaves that bear needle-like spines. Large spines have tufts of tiny bristles at their base that are usually known as glochids.

Opuntia Ficus Indica

Opuntia Ficus Indica, Image by Catalina Gracia

Opuntia Ficus Indica can be grown as ornamental plant in containers, landscapes or rock gardens where it grows as unusual shrub up to 6 meters. Cup shaped flowers of yellow, red or purple colors appear at edges of succulent pads. Flowering is followed by fruition. The fruit is called ‘tuna’ and is covered in a thick, spiny skin which is why the plant is called prickly pear. Fruits are edible and taste like watermelon. Opuntia Ficus Indica is grown in many parts of Mexico as a crop as both leaves and fruits are used in many traditional recipes (leaves serve as vegetable and are also used in preparation of jams and jellies) and medicines (for diabetic patients). In fact, Mexico is the largest producer of Opuntia Ficus Indica.

How to Grow Opuntia Ficus Indica ‘Prickly Pear’

Opuntia Ficus Indica has been acclimatized in almost all parts of the world where it grows without requiring any special care. Opuntia Ficus Indica grows in a well drained soil under bright sunlight. The plant can withstand long spells of drought and cold. Water only when the soil is completely dry. When growing on containers or garden, handle Prickly Pear plant with care for its spines and bristles.

Opuntia, Prickly Pear Fruit

Prickly Pear, Image by Tomás Castelazo