Opuntia cacanapa 'Ellisiana'
Botanical Name — Opuntia cacanapa 'Ellisiana'
Common Name — Spineless Prickly Pear, Tiger Tongue
Plant Family — Cactaceae
The Opuntia cacanapa 'Ellisiana' is native to the US (South Texas) and Mexico. This Opuntia is a hybrid cultivated for its lack of thorns or shorter tufts of prickles. This cacti is fast growing and produces grey green pads that are held vertically on spreading mostly horizontal stems. They are also known for their edible parts which includes the pads (nopal) which is prepared like a vegetable, the flower petals can be used in salads and the pear (tunas), can be eaten as a fruit.
- Opuntia cacanapa 'Ellisiana' requires plenty of full sun. Eight hours of direct sunlight a day is ideal but at a minimum these plants should be provided with at least five hours.
- These cacti thrive in warm temperatures and low humidity. They will thrive in temperatures above 70 ºF.
- They are cold tolerant, planted in the ground they can handle temperatures down to zero, though it is advisable to bring containers indoors once night time temperatures consistently fall below 50 ºF.
- Spineless Prickly Pear are extremely drought tolerant, but enjoy a good amount of water during the summer growing season. Let the soil dry out between watering, but when you do water, water them thoroughly, fully saturating the soil.
- If you are unsure whether or not the soil is dry, wait a few days before watering. It is much better to underwater than to overwater. Excessive moisture can quickly lead to root rot.
- These plants prefer a gritty, sharply draining mix. Use cactus soil or amend regular potting mix with sand and fine pumice up to 50% to improve texture and drainage.
- In desert climates these plants can be potted directly in the earth and grown outdoors year round.
- During the mid-summer months, the flowers are a yellow with apricot color overtones. If pollinated, red fruits will appear.
- These plants do not require much fertilization. To give them a boost during the growing season fertilize once monthly with a fertilizer formulated specifically for cacti and succulents.
- Only fertilize during the spring and summer. Cut back on fertilizing entirely during the winter months.
- Opuntia plants are easily propagated by stem cuttings. This plant produces many branching pads that can be separated and potted to grow new plants. Let pad dry for a week so the end can callus before placing a gritty/sandy soil.
- These plants can also be grown from seed. Sow seeds just below the surface, using a well-drained soil mix. Provide a humid microclimate to encourage germination and keep soil evenly moist during the first few months to encourage seedling growth.
- Ellisiana are not especially prone to disease but they can fall susceptible to certain bacterial and fungal infections. Among the most common are prickly pear leaf spot caused by the Phyllosticta fungus, or root rot which can be bacterial or fungal. These diseases are often triggered by excessive moisture, so avoid overwatering and excessive humidity. These diseases are very difficult to treat. Remove infected limbs. Fully affected plants should be destroyed to prevent the spread of the disease.
- Pests are not particularly common for this plant. Still, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for common pests such as scale and mealybugs.
Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
- These hardy plants require very little maintenance. Container grown cacti prefer to be rootbound, so repotting should be necessary only once every two years. Repot into a planter 2” larger in diameter to give the plant plenty of room to continue growing.
- Pads can fall off easily so take care when repotting. They can always be propagated if they fall off.
- Opuntia cacanapa 'Ellisiana' are non-toxic to humans and pets.