In the almost three years this Opuntia engelmannii (Engelmann’s Prickly Pear) has been in my garden, it’s never received supplemental water. A southwest desert native, it can survive with only a few inches of rainfall a year, and continue to grow and thrive.
In the desert, it can become very large, up to a 20-foot spread and about three feet high. In a landscape setting, pruning controls size. I have not yet pruned this cactus as it is on a slope and has plenty of room to spread another six feet. I have landscape lighting, and one spot highlights this cactus, casting a large shadow. This provides sculptural interest to the garden at night as you can see from this very poor photo—taken without a tripod.
In May, yellow flowers (or sometimes orange-red) appear, followed by purple-red fruit that makes a good jelly. The pears are also eaten raw or cooked, as they are in Mexico. The pears also provide food for several forms of wildlife.
The only problem I’ve had with this cactus has been an infestation of Cochineal scale, described in a previous post.