Hardy Cactus Opuntia: Hardy Cactus Opuntia

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Hardy Cactus Opuntia

By Cinta
October 10, 2014

If you live with snow a few months a year and yearn to have a desert garden but think it is not possible, think again: It is possible. There are many cacti that are cold hardy down to -30 degrees, but I will discuss mainly Opuntia cactus planting, designs, and companion plants that will give the appearance of a desert garden. There are numerous hardy Opuntia cacti that are hardy to -30 degrees and will survive under a foot of snow. When spring arrives for us northern gardeners, the opuntias usually are lying flat and may look dead, but they will plump up and reward you with 4" - 6" peony-form flowers in colors of yellow, pink, peach, and red in June-July.

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Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Oct 9, 2014 6:31 PM CST
Cinta, you made me want to give this a try after reading your article. And the photos of blooms sure didn't hurt any. How beautiful they are. I had no idea that the blooms would get that big.
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Cinta
Oct 9, 2014 6:58 PM CST
If you want to give them a try let me know next summer and you can give it a try. I have it in the area that my deliveries are dropped off and the mail man, FedEx, guys are amazed it is quite the conversation garden.

I will give you some more temptation pics. Rolling on the floor laughing

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Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
Rabbit Keeper Critters Allowed Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Herbs Region: Georgia Region: United States of America Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Composter
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greene
Oct 9, 2014 7:08 PM CST
Beautiful. I like the way your instructions are complete from start to finish, right down the the 'jewelry'. Perfect. Thank You!
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Oct 9, 2014 8:57 PM CST
Would the work in a cement walled planter that runs along the road out front of our place?
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Cinta
Oct 9, 2014 9:03 PM CST
Yes Lynn that would work good. A home owner in the area have their cactus garden in the front of their property planted in cinder block edging.
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Oct 9, 2014 9:08 PM CST
Now I have more to think about. Smiling
Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
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needrain
Oct 10, 2014 8:10 AM CST
Free. Come and get all you want! Please! Rolling on the floor laughing






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Donald
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Oct 10, 2014 8:57 AM CST
Our next-door neighbor in Salt Lake City had a whole border of them. In spring a nice show of tulips would pop up between the flattened cacti, then they'd grow up nicely to cover the tulip foliage. She even used to get a harvest of prickly pears some years, and would make little jars of jelly to give out for the holidays. It's very good.

Coolest thing to me was when I asked her how the heck she weeded that prickly border, and she said "oh, Roundup. It kills the weeds but not the cacti."

(this was 15 years ago. I'm sure she doesn't use Roundup any more.)
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
Image
valleylynn
Oct 10, 2014 11:46 AM CST
Roundup won't kill the cactus?

Donald, those are gorgeous. What time of the year do they bloom?

Each bit of information on growing these makes it more interesting for me to grow in the hot dry bed along the road.
Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
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needrain
Oct 10, 2014 11:55 AM CST
All of my photos were taken May 25, 2014.
Donald
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
Image
valleylynn
Oct 10, 2014 12:06 PM CST
So they are spring blooming.
Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
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needrain
Oct 10, 2014 1:17 PM CST
Yes, spring bloom. Now they have made fruit which has been getting ripe for some time. It's that fruit which folks use to make prickly pear jelly. It's quite good. My nephew took a load off last year to make mead. I haven't heard how that turned out. The plant is wicked to handle. Covered in big sharp strong thorns which have a kajillion tiny hair like thorns at the base of each thorn. Sort of double duty protection I guess. It's impossible to handle them without getting some of the tiny ones embedded and they are extremely difficult to find and remove. The big ones make soft shoes like sneakers a bad choice to wear around them unless you are really watchful of your foot movement. But the fruit especially, and to a lesser extent the leaves, are food to a lot of wildlife. That scatters the seeds and they thrive in drought conditions taking advantage of other plant growth being diminished. A few would be okay, but they are aggressive on range land when conditions are right. When they are growing thickly with numerous large growing plants, they provide cover for many animals. That includes feral hogs which is also not a good thing. In my area, the balance has shifted and they are a bad plant. The blooms are really beautiful, though.
Donald
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Cinta
Oct 10, 2014 2:31 PM CST
They bloom June-July in my climate. My first day of no frost is suppose to be May 14th. After the snow and cold they are not usually standing until the middle of June.

You talking Texas heat. Do you get any snow Donald?
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Cinta
Oct 10, 2014 2:35 PM CST
I never had a need to use round up or even pull weeds because of the sedum ground cover and it is so hot and dry in that area they dry up and die.

If you want to use them to make jelly I would not use any type of weed killer.
Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
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needrain
Oct 10, 2014 4:42 PM CST
Where I am we usually get at least one snow/sleet spell in the winter. Sometimes we get more. I think I can remember we had snow 4 times one winter. It usually doesn't last but a day or two. When it sticks around longer than that, this area isn't prepared. Usually those spells have a short duration.
Donald
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Cinta
Oct 11, 2014 10:31 AM CST
Well Donald I have snow from Nov until March maybe another big one 6 - one foot of snow in April. That is why you are getting blooms so early. I have mine planted next to the mud room and I shovel the snow on them so they usually are not fully un-snow covered until May. Rolling on the floor laughing
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Oct 11, 2014 11:39 AM CST
Wow, those are some tough plants. But how would they hold up to relatively cold winters with almost no snow, but lots of rain for approximately 5 months?
So cold and very wet?
Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
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needrain
Oct 11, 2014 1:54 PM CST
Probably would hold up better than you think. Normally I'd think the rain would be more detrimental than the cold, but look at this photo. It's clearly an Opuntia, though probably ssp. This was the last photo I took on a trip to Costa Rica. It was growing, and obviously thriving, at Zoo Ave in Alejuela. This was in the rainy season there. Dang thing was probably 15' tall Blinking .
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Donald
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
Image
valleylynn
Oct 11, 2014 2:52 PM CST
That is impressive. But all that rain isn't accompanied by cold temps. That is what I would worry about.
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Cinta
Oct 11, 2014 6:13 PM CST
My winters start out rain and cold then we go to ice, and freezing rain. Some winters we get very little snow. I think since you grow Sempervivum I think you could grow these easy. I think the key is have more gravel than soil that is why I gave the large ratio of gravel for people growing them in cold weather.

This garden is almost pure gravel which is why there are no weeds to pull.

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