Opuntia engelmannii

Opuntia engelmannii or Prickly Pear Cactus is from southwestern North America and northern Mexico.

It is a fast grower, especially when watered regularly, and quite hardy.

The fruit is edible and seeds can be used for propagation.


Opuntia engelmannii grows as a shrub in dense clumps to 3.5 m high, usually without a trunk.
The pads are green and sometimes blue-green, obovate, 15-30 cm long and 12-20 cm wide. These pads are covered with glochids where the spines emerge from in groups of 1 to 8. The glochids are first yellow, later brown. The spines vary from 1 to 6 cm, are slightly flattened and white to yellow.

The flowers are funnel-shaped, usually yellow, sometimes red, 5-8 cm in diameter and about as long.

The fruits are fleshy and purple, 3-7 cm long.

The fruits are edible as well as young pads. The plant is often used as a hedge because of its rapid growth and the spines that act as barbed wire.

Opuntia engelmannii is a fairly fast grower, especially when watered regularly during the growing season.


Common names:

Cactus apple, Cactus-apple, Cow-tongue cactus, Cow-tongue prickly-pear, Desert prickly-pear, Discus prickly-pear, Engelmann´s prickly-pear, Few-spine marble-fruit prickly-pear, Texas prickly pear, Tuna


Opuntia: from the Greek Opus, a city in ancient Greece
Engelmannii: after George Engelmann (1809-1884), an american botanist

Opuntia engelmannii flower

Source: Mike Keeling

Opuntia engelmannii flower


Mexico, North America


Sandy and gravelly soils, semi-arid areas and savanna


USDA zone 8-10, -12 °C



Dry, sandy and well drained




Regular but not excessive watering promotes growth


Fertilize sparingly with specialized cactus fertilizer


If it gets too big, you may prune. Cut pads me be used as cuttings


  • always use gloves when handling a cactus
  • for repotting fold up a few sheets of newspaper into a thick flat band. Surround the cactus with this band handle him
  • remove the spines from the skin by applying a patch of adhesive tape and removing it

Opuntia engelmannii fruit


Seed, Cutting

Sowing instructions:

  • use a mix of topsoil, sand and gravel (1:1:1) and sterilize that (eg in the microwave)
  • fill a pot with it and wet the substrate by placing it 2 hours in a bowl with water so the water is sucked up
  • sow the seeds on the surface and press very lightly
  • place the pot with seeds in a plastic bag and close it
  • place the pot in a bright location out of direct sunlight
  • 20-25°C
  • regularly check that no fungi develop
  • when the seeds begin to germinate make a few holes in the plastic bag and then every week 2-4 additional holes for the seedlings to get used gradually to drier air
  • germination: 14 days

Cutting instructions:

  • cut a pad as close as you can to where it is attached
  • dry the pad for at least a week
  • plant it in cactus mix at about 5-8 cm depth
  • rooting takes 30 days
  • dry or lightly moist: this cactus roots so easily that even pads who fell in the dirt and were not digged in will root