Opuntia Species, Santa Rita Prickly Pear

Opuntia santarita

Family: Cactaceae (kak-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Opuntia (op-UN-shee-a) (Info)
Species: santarita
Additional cultivar information:(aka Opuntia santa-rita)
Synonym:Opuntia gosseliniana var. santarita
Synonym:Opuntia chlorotica var. santarita
Synonym:Opuntia violacea var. santarita
View this plant in a garden


Cactus and Succulents

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade


Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


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)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


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

Bloom Color:


Bright Yellow

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

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


This plant is said to grow outdoors 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

Garden Grove, California

North Hills, California

Pittsburg, California

Placentia, California

San Marino, California

Thousand Oaks, California

Savannah, Georgia

Chicago, Illinois

Trout, Louisiana

Easton, Maryland

Las Vegas, Nevada(2 reports)

Elephant Butte, New Mexico

Las Cruces, 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

Orem, Utah

Springville, Utah

Buchanan, Virginia

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Feb 9, 2022, Lachlann from Cortez, CO (Zone 7a) wrote:

Doesn't seem like the one's I planted will quite make it through my four corners Zone 7a. Can't say for certain what got to em with only one winter's data, but I'm leaning on root rot as I did not amend the soil, I just planted them in the sandy clay we have.

Given some better draining soil, and maybe some moderate shelter (don't plant too far from a building) these might do well in Zone 6/7.


On Jul 4, 2016, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

As with many succulents, the color will vary with environmental conditions, and is often exceptionally strong when the plant is stressed.

Don't be deceived by the lack of large spines. Many sources say the glochids (tiny hooked spines) are particularly nasty on this species. They embed themselves in any gloves that come into contact with the cactus and then embed themselves in your skin when you next pick them up. Discard any gloves after one use.


On Jul 3, 2016, CountrysideHerb from Buchanan, VA wrote:

This opuntia is surviving here in southwest Virginia(zone 7A). I bought 3 cuttings of this off of ebay in March of 2015. I had one plant die during the winter, but I believe it is because I accidentally clipped it with the weed wacker last July and made a big cut through the center. The other plant survived with minimum scarring. I had it surrounded with a rock barrier to absorb heat to keep the roots warm, unlike the one that died. It has grown 4 new pads so far this year. The 3rd cutting, I kept inside as a control. It grew one pad last year and two so far this year. I have now planted it in a new flower bed with high hopes that it will survive the winter. I will keep you updated and will post pictures soon.


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:


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.


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 ... read more


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.


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.


On Dec 1, 2004, Xenomorf from Phoenix, 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.


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

This plant is ALSO confused with Opuntia macrocentra, another nice turquoise species with very similar flowers. A few differences are in the spines: Opuntia macrocentra usually is a fairly spiny plant, often with long, solitary black spines (not always black though) and not purple as often as O santa rita (though it can be); usually this plant has only glochids for spines. Not ever seen any with with long spines. Also, this plant gets fairly tall (as mentioned above) while O macrocentra is usually a shrubbier species that grows more horizontally rather than tall, upright.