Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Santa Rita Prickly Pear
Opuntia santa-rita

Family: Cactaceae (kak-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Opuntia (op-UN-shee-a) (Info)
Species: santa-rita (san-ta REE-ta) (Info)

Synonym:Opuntia gosseliniana var. santa-rita
Synonym:Opuntia chlorotica var. santa-rita
Synonym:Opuntia violacea var. santa-rita

2 vendors have this plant for sale.

14 members have or want this plant for trade.

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Cactus and Succulents

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring


Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From woody stem cuttings
Allow cut surface to callous over before planting
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds
Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds

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There are a total of 11 photos.
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5 positives
2 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive bepah On Oct 22, 2014, bepah from Brentwood, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

Menk, you are not exactly correct. the name Opuntia santarita is an accepted name with Kew Gardens. Reference the following link:

Positive texusgirl On Aug 2, 2012, texusgirl from Austin, TX wrote:

I live in Austin also and I have not had any problems with my gosseliniana, santa rita, or macrocenta. Maybe it is because I have built a mound of granite gravel under the roots for drainage because my native soil is clay.

Positive Menk On Oct 29, 2009, Menk from Darling Downs
Australia wrote:

There seems to be a lot of confusion as to the true identity of the 'Santa Rita' clone. And it is important to note that it is just a selected clone of a species (a cultivar), not a species in its own right. I have seen plants with the 'Santa Rita' label attached to purplish specimens of O. gosseliniana, O. macrocentra, O. chlorotica, and O. violaceae. From a botanists viewpoint, all of the above are probably synoymous taxa, just variable. Even some forms of engelmannii, and a plant of suspect rank called Opuntia "azureus", have purplish segments at times, particularly when grown in full sun. Moreover I have seen miniature plants as well as giant tree pears given the name 'Santa Rita', just because they have very purple pads. My first introduction to Santa Rita was in the old Sunset Book publication "Cactus and Succulents - House Plants & Landscaping Ideas in Color", edited by Linda Brandt, Lane Publishing, 1978, which has a fantastic photo of a very large, shining purple bush called 'Santa Rita' on page 10. This is the image I have always carried in my mind as the "true" Santa Rita type. I would be interested to know exactly where this photo was taken, if the original photographer is still alive and can recall the location.

Neutral kdaustin On Sep 25, 2008, kdaustin from Austin, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Purple color is stunning in the garden BUT tends to rot out easier than most opuntias in my experiance. We have wet winters here and I've had these just topple over going into spring. Also I have had the experiance of heavy winter damage to the pads, which was unsightly in my wildflower garden that spring. Still, I have several beautiful containerized specimens that have always done well, and have replanted more out in my yard. The flowers are stunning on the purple pads in spring, definately an eyecatcher.

Neutral nevadagdn On Mar 31, 2005, nevadagdn from Sparks, NV (Zone 7a) wrote:

I'm not sure if I managed to kill this or not. It certainly looks awful after the winter, and shows no signs of recovery--my other opuntias look awful, too, but they do show signs of recovery. It certainly wasn't poor drainage that did it in at any rate--I live in a desert and the yuccas on either side of this plant look fine.

Positive Xenomorf On Dec 1, 2004, Xenomorf from Valley of the Sun, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

Often confused with Opuntia gosseliniana.
O. gosseliniana has plain yellow flowers, O. santa-rita has yellow flowers with a bright red base.
O. gosseliniana gets to about 3.3 feet high, while Opuntia santa-rita gets to about 6.6 feet high and has larger pads.
O. gosseliniana's pads are proportionately thicker but smaller in diameter.

Positive palmbob On Feb 27, 2004, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Very attractive but a little slow growing for me. Has great color, but still the same old viscious spines. Small plants seem to be the most colorful


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Anniston, Alabama
Chandler Heights, Arizona
Green Valley, Arizona
Maricopa, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona (2 reports)
Tucson, Arizona
Willcox, Arizona
Brentwood, California
Canoga Park, California
North Hills, California
San Marino, California
Thousand Oaks, California
Chicago, Illinois
Trout, Louisiana
Easton, Maryland
Las Vegas, Nevada
Elephant Butte, New Mexico
Roswell, New Mexico
Durham, North Carolina
Portland, Oregon
Rock Hill, South Carolina
Arlington, Texas
Austin, Texas (2 reports)
Bend, Texas
Irving, Texas
Red Oak, Texas
Seadrift, Texas

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