The Q&A Archives: Hardy Cactus

Question: I live in central NJ (zone 7). Our soil is very sandy. A friend gave me cacti which I believe to be "Plains Prickly Pear". I was told they are native to the area. What I would like to know is, since these do so well around here. Are there any others I might try to grow? I noticed in my "North America Wildlife" book, There are several that grow in the north as well as the south. I have them planted in full sun, under the eaves to my house where they get very little if any water.

Answer: Prickly pear cactus (opuntia polyacantha) is certainly hardy in your area, as would others such as pincushion or ball cactus (mamillaria vivipara,) Coryphantha, Echinocereus, Pediocactus and Neobesseya. These plants do best in full sun and well drained soil as would be found on a slope or perhaps in a raised bed. The drainage is probably most important during the winter as excess moisture then will cause them to rot. Another caution in siting these types of plants is safety -- children, pets and just as important in my experience, absent minded gardeners are all at risk from the spines.

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