At a recent community yard sale, I picked up this Mojave Prickly Pear (Opuntia phaeacantha) for a bargain (at least compared to nursery prices). I saw several pots of it near his front door that looked very attractive, so I thought I needed yet another species of Opuntia in my garden.
The guy who sold it to me casually mentioned that it probably had not fully rooted as he had placed it in a container only a month ago. When I moved it to a decorative pot, it was obvious that he had just stuck it in the potting soil, probably a day before the sale! No matter—it will eventually root, with no harm done. Sometimes it takes up to six months before roots form on planted pads, and as long as the potting soil remains relatively dry, the pad will not rot.
This slow growing species is common throughout the Southwest. It forms clumps, sprawling up to 15 feet wide. It grows to about four feet high. In the wild, it hybridizes with other Opuntia species, so true identification is difficult. The one pictured displays all the characteristics of the O. phaeacantha so I don't believe this is a hybrid.
One of the reasons I wanted this species is for its long and profusely spined pads. In spring, it will have golden-yellow flowers, followed by fruit that eventually turns wine red. The fruits are very sweet and juicy, and often used to make candies and jellies.