Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Mojave Prickly Pear, Tulip Prickly Pear, New Mexico Prickly Pear
Opuntia phaeacantha

Family: Cactaceae (kak-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Opuntia (op-UN-shee-a) (Info)
Species: phaeacantha (fay-uh-KANTH-uh) (Info)

Synonym:Opuntia phaeacantha var. phaeacantha
Synonym:Opuntia arizonica
Synonym:Opuntia canada
Synonym:Opuntia engelmannii var. cycloides
Synonym:Opuntia phaeacantha var. brunnea

6 members have or want this plant for trade.

Edible Fruits and Nuts
Cactus and Succulents

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)
4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
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)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

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

Bloom Color:
Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

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

Seed Collecting:
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds
Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

Click thumbnail
to view:

By palmbob
Thumbnail #1 of Opuntia phaeacantha by palmbob

By kennedyh
Thumbnail #2 of Opuntia phaeacantha by kennedyh

By kennedyh
Thumbnail #3 of Opuntia phaeacantha by kennedyh

By Xenomorf
Thumbnail #4 of Opuntia phaeacantha by Xenomorf

By Xenomorf
Thumbnail #5 of Opuntia phaeacantha by Xenomorf

By mgarr
Thumbnail #6 of Opuntia phaeacantha by mgarr

By palmbob
Thumbnail #7 of Opuntia phaeacantha by palmbob

There are a total of 19 photos.
Click here to view them all!


5 positives
No neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Peterthecactusguy On Apr 28, 2012, Peterthecactusguy from Black Canyon City, AZ wrote:

Dunno where you guys get your common names from but this cactus is known BY none of those names and a search for the Binomal name comes up with nothing.

These are found around the BCC and hybridize easily with O. engelmannii. It's hard to tell all the hybrids apart but generally O, engelmannii has pale yellow to bright yellow flowers. O. phaeacantha has yellow flowers with bright red...
Orange flowered ones are usually O. engelmannii AND should not be considered a hybrid between O. engelmannii and O. phaeacantha

Positive dave12122 On Dec 27, 2010, dave12122 from East Haddam, CT wrote:

This is the staple of any hardy Opuntia garden. Tolerates some winter wet, but leaves will spot if moisture collects on them for a prolonged period of time. The plant is rather "clunky" and dumpy, but the large flowers (in plum, brilliant red, etc.) are attractive. Unfortunately, each only lasts one day.

Positive peejay12 On Apr 5, 2010, peejay12 from Porthleven, Helston, Cornwall
United Kingdom (Zone 9b) wrote:

I live in Cornwall, UK, zone 9b. Opuntia phaeacantha and some other Opuntia species are perhaps the most surprisingly successful of all the unusual succulents we can grow in our gloomy cool wet climate.

I have grown these plants in zone 8b too, and they have never suffered any damage at all -- even in the wettest, coldest winters. They do not even seem to need special soil, as long as it is reasonably well-drained.

'Experts' still insist that Opuntia humifusa is the only species which can be grown in the UK, but this is just not true. I have grown four large species (unidentified) for twenty years now, and they have been highly successful -- even in really bad winters. Their only enemies are snails which leave greyish brown scars, but the species with closely spaced spines are almost immune from attack.

Definitely worth growing alongside Aloe striatula, Sedum confusum, Delosperma cooperi and Yuccas for a hardy desert garden.

The larger species cannot be relied upon to flower, but O humifusa flowers very profusely.

Positive shindagger On Jun 8, 2009, shindagger from Oklahoma City, OK wrote:

I love this cactus. A friend dug it up for me from his son's yard in Albuquerque as it was being run over with the lawnmower and he hated it and thought of it as a pest. It has creamy light yellow flowers and gets pretty pink pears. I think of it as a rescue cactus. It's got great spines.

Positive Xenomorf On Oct 5, 2004, Xenomorf from Valley of the Sun, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

The flowers are fairly attractive, and the fruit (tuna) are one of the popular species for making jams & jellies.
There are about 10 semi-accepted varieties in the U.S. & about 7 in Mexico, much research needs to be done to determine which ones will become official. I have not a guide to any of the varieties, if any one has one, let me know.
One of the common names for the varieties is "Yellow-spined prickly pear" which could possibly be the ones I have posted picts of.

Negative palmbob On Mar 9, 2004, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

This is a child hood nightmare cactus... all over the southwest (very cold hardy- often lives in climates where it snows 1/3 of the year). Can't recall the number of times I've had to pull spines out from this plant. Not that attractive, either.


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

Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Black Canyon City, Arizona
Cave Creek, Arizona
Concho, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona
Prescott, Arizona
Livermore, California
Grand Junction, Colorado (2 reports)
Pueblo, Colorado
East Haddam, Connecticut
Pensacola, Florida
Parsons, Kansas
Cleveland, Ohio
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
Magna, Utah

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