Spineless opuntia that can survive cold winters

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Michael Bird

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My Jordanian Greek, Gracie, practically inhales opuntia fruit and pads whenever I can get my hands on them but it's somewhat expensive to order them online just as food and no stores here sell cactus of any kind (even the Mexican markets) so I'd like to start growing some of my own.

I live in northern Utah where we sometimes get summers over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and winters well below freezing. The problem is that most opuntia varieties I have come across either have lots of spines or can't handle the winter temperatures. I know I could just cut/burn the spines off of normal varieties but I have several curious cats and small children and I don't want to have to deal with cactus "slivers" on a regular basis so I'd really like to get a spineless plant that I can grow here.

The Utah Department of Agriculture has a web site that lists drought tolerant low water usage plants that they recommend for the area and there is a "Beavertail Cactus" on that list. A quick Google search says that this is a large pad spineless variety of prickly pear that can handle temperatures as low as 20 below zero, which would be ideal although it apparently grows fairly slowly.

The problem is that I called all plant nurseries in the state, even ones that are hours away, and none of them had even heard of the plant or any other spineless cactus, and didn't have any idea where I could get it. I can't find it available for purchase online either so I'm hoping someone can give me some help finding it or another similar cactus variety that will work for me.
 

Yvonne G

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Be careful buying a cactus labelled as "beaver tail." Some of them do have glochids (stickers). Each little brown dot on the plant has millions of fine glochids in it.

Our winters here in Clovis sometimes get down into the 20's at night and my opuntia never get frost bite. They supposedly ARE the non-glochid type, however, they really do have a few little spines that are heck to get out.

If you send me a PM with your name and address, I'll be happy to send you some pads to grow.

Looking over Dudley's fence, you can see the tops of two of my opuntia plants:
03-05-12a.jpg



I actually have 4 plants, but this is one of the biggest:
03-05-12b.jpg



I tried to get a close-up of the spines, but they're too tiny to show up. Each little spot on the pad had tiny little glochids in it...almost like hairs:
03-05-12c.jpg
 

Michael Bird

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That would be wonderful, emysemys! I'll gladly pay whatever it costs to ship them. I'll send you a PM right now so we can work out the details.

I know that the "spineless" cactus aren't truly 100% spineless because of the glochids, but avoiding the big spikes is my main goal and it sounds like you have a variety that will do well in my neighborhood.
 

Michael Bird

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So, I ended up waiting a while for the weather to warm up a bit before planting the cactus pads that I got from emysemys. I let Gracie eat some, and buried two of the healthiest looking pads in a large pot outside where it gets direct sunlight a good part of the day.

They have been in the dirt for roughly a month now and I didn't see much change except that some of the shriveling/wilting that the pads developed while sitting in a box in a cool room for 6 weeks disappeared.

However, I went outside today and discovered something strange growing on them. I guess this means they are happy? :)

Thanks again for the start to my future cactus "orchard", emysemys!

7338026706_474d781b90_b_d.jpg

7338026394_15cb365a18_b_d.jpg

7338026810_05fd02f355_b_d.jpg
 

JoesMum

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The two hardy Opuntias I grow in the UK are

Spineless O. Englemanii and

Hardly any spines O. Robusta
 

wellington

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A lot of cactus can actually grow in the northern colder states. The opuntia is one of them. I have several spinless planted and they are growing. A few years ago I had a bunch of them with spines grow. Didn't like them so got rid of them. Didn't have torts then. Now I wish I had kept them.
 

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dmmj

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Is Hardly any spines O. Robusta The official name? LOL
 

Jacqui

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Yippies, they are growing!!!

I agree, Yvonne has some of the neatest cactus at her place.
 

Michael Bird

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I'm surprised at how fast these things are growing once they got started.
This photo is one week after the first ones that I posted:
7390824774_92ef57d553_b_d.jpg


And this one is just one week later: :)
7390826050_bf16874d5e_b_d.jpg


Now that the first pad is growing really fast and the second one has started developing buds, would it be better to move the second one to its own pot or should I just leave it where it is so I don't risk damaging the new root system? And should I trim off a few of the pads to make room for the others to grow (and a snack for my tortoise), or just leave them all alone and let them go crazy?
 

dmmj

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I would consider planting in the ground if possible, cacti are very resistant to transplanting so no shock should set in.
 

Michael Bird

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I'd definitely prefer to plant them in the ground, but I can't do that where I live. There is very little exposed ground, and it's absolutely horrid, extremely acidic clay where there is any dirt at all, and no new permanent plants are allowed larger than garden flowers (i.e. no new trees, bushes, or large cactus). I'll definitely put them in a permanent spot in the ground when I manage to move out of this place, but I don't know when that will be so I just want to keep the cacti as happy as possible until I can do something better. I think I'll go ahead and move the second pad to its own pot so they both have a bit more room but that's pretty much all of the extra space I can give them for now.
 

Terry Allan Hall

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Michael Bird said:
I'd definitely prefer to plant them in the ground, but I can't do that where I live. There is very little exposed ground, and it's absolutely horrid, extremely acidic clay where there is any dirt at all, and no new permanent plants are allowed larger than garden flowers (i.e. no new trees, bushes, or large cactus). I'll definitely put them in a permanent spot in the ground when I manage to move out of this place, but I don't know when that will be so I just want to keep the cacti as happy as possible until I can do something better. I think I'll go ahead and move the second pad to its own pot so they both have a bit more room but that's pretty much all of the extra space I can give them for now.

Invest in a large (2-3') ceramic or clay pot...they grow great in those and look nice on the porch or deck.

Less expensive and just as good are the 5-gallon buckets hardware stores, like Lowes, sell for a few $$$.
 

Itort

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I looked at the site provided and they say a far north as USDA plant zone 7a. I'm looking for a spineless hardy in Zone 4 or 5.
 

Michael Bird

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Terry Allan Hall said:
Invest in a large (2-3') ceramic or clay pot...they grow great in those and look nice on the porch or deck.

Less expensive and just as good are the 5-gallon buckets hardware stores, like Lowes, sell for a few $$$.

Clay pots would certainly look nice if I can find some that aren't too expensive. I might even get two for the right price. :)
 

Terry Allan Hall

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Michael Bird said:
Terry Allan Hall said:
Invest in a large (2-3') ceramic or clay pot...they grow great in those and look nice on the porch or deck.

Less expensive and just as good are the 5-gallon buckets hardware stores, like Lowes, sell for a few $$$.

Clay pots would certainly look nice if I can find some that aren't too expensive. I might even get two for the right price. :)

Is there a WalMart or a Kmart nearby? Their prices are usually fairly reasonable.
 

TylerStewart

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Bigger pots will have much better growth than smaller ones.... I have 30-40 cactus growing in pots (knowing that I was going to be moving when I planted them, I didn't want them all in the ground). I also planted some in the ground at the same time, and the in-ground ones are growing significantly faster. I assume it's just much more room to expand the root systems. The bigger pots I used are also growing faster than the smaller ones, so go as big as you can.

As far as getting pots, at least around here, most landscape companies save up the cheap black pots and can trade them in to the nurseries for a credit. A friend of mine runs a landscape company, and has huge piles of the black buckets, and he said the nursery gives him something like a 40 cent credit towards more plants, so he'll happily sell them to me for 40 cents each cash. If you know a landscaper, check with them. They're ugly, but if the intent is to produce cactus, it makes no difference.

I really doubt the soil conditions would matter.... We have bad soil here from a plant growth standpoint, but they do just fine. In pots, I use a 50-50 manure and "reject sand" mix (basically crushed leftover rocks and soil that they turn into a generic sand) that has zero fertility value and it grows well in this mix.
 

Edna

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TylerStewart said:
Bigger pots will have much better growth than smaller ones.... I have 30-40 cactus growing in pots (knowing that I was going to be moving when I planted them, I didn't want them all in the ground). I also planted some in the ground at the same time, and the in-ground ones are growing significantly faster. I assume it's just much more room to expand the root systems. The bigger pots I used are also growing faster than the smaller ones, so go as big as you can.

As far as getting pots, at least around here, most landscape companies save up the cheap black pots and can trade them in to the nurseries for a credit. A friend of mine runs a landscape company, and has huge piles of the black buckets, and he said the nursery gives him something like a 40 cent credit towards more plants, so he'll happily sell them to me for 40 cents each cash. If you know a landscaper, check with them. They're ugly, but if the intent is to produce cactus, it makes no difference.

I really doubt the soil conditions would matter.... We have bad soil here from a plant growth standpoint, but they do just fine. In pots, I use a 50-50 manure and "reject sand" mix (basically crushed leftover rocks and soil that they turn into a generic sand) that has zero fertility value and it grows well in this mix.

I just want to say that I am thrilled to hear that those black pots are being recycled! I have a whole pile of them in my garden shed so now I just have to find a way to reunite them with a nursery somewhere.
 
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