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Scientific: Opuntia engelmannii
Common: Texas pricklypear, desert pricklypear, nopal. Other common names are usually specific to the varietal selection.
Family: Cactaceae
Origin: Variously located at elevations below 4,500 feet in the northern Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts from California to Texas south into Mexico.

Pronounciation: O-PUN-tee-a en-gel-MAN-nee-i

Hardiness zones:
Sunset 8, 9, 12-24

Landscape Use: Cactus rock garden, barrier, screen, textural accent for large desert landscape areas only

Form & Character: Much branched; this is a cactus species with much phenotypic variation ranging from strongly upright and arborescent to spreading.

Growth Habit: Suculent perennial, moderate growth rate with great variation in its mature size. Most cultured plants have unique varietal growth habits.

Foliage/Texture: Stems are jointed into fleshy pads (clades) that are sometimes oblong to elongate. Only immature and developing clades have short, fleshy conical green leaves, otherwise pads are leafless. Instead, all clades do have areoles with dense and tufted yellow-brown (sometimes reddish) glochids and variable spines, 1 to 8 per areole, white or yellow, 1 to 2 inches long with longer spines oriented downward; coarse texture.

Flowers & Fruits: Yellow (dominant flower color), pink, magenta to red flowers, 3 to 4 inches across, are borne on upper terminal margins of clades; copious fruits along clade edges, oblong, 2 to 3 inches long, reddish to purple, edible.

Seasonal Color: Flowers in mid to later spring, fruit in late summer and fall.

Temperature: Tolerant

Light: Full sun

Soil: Tolerant

Watering: None after established.

Pruning: Prune by removing pad segments of any length to control spread.

Propagation: Cutting and dispersal of clades....."just cut 'em off and stick 'em in the ground, right side up".

Disease and Pests: Root rot and cochineal scale which can colonize in protected clades (stem segments) in areas with poor air circulation.

Additional comments: This cactus has numerous named varietal selections upon which selection and use in the Phoenix landscape is determined.

Some important varietal selections include:

  • O. engelmannii var. cuija
  • O. engelmannii var. engelmannii
  • O. engelmannii var. flavispina
  • O. engelmannii var. flexospina
  • O. engelmannii var. lindheimeri
  • O. engelmannii var. linguiformis
  • Fun Phoenix landscape art: Check out this novel Opuntia engelmannii Christmas tree.