Opuntia vulgaris is a paddle cactus with flat, round leaf-stems.
Opuntia vulgaris facts
Latin name: Opuntia vulgaris Mill.
Common name: Paddle cactus, Mickey Mouse
Type: Succulent plant
Height: 18 feet (6 m)
Indoor use: pot
Exposure: full sun
Soil: limestone, sand, well-drained
Planting : year-round in containers – Flowering : June to July
Opuntia Vulgaris is a succulent plant that’s part of the Cactaceae family. It’s native to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.
The paddle cactus has a regular tree-like bearing that can get quite bushy. Its width increases as it grows tallerl, like an upside-down pyramid. It can reach 18 feet (6 m) in its native environment. Its evergreen leaves are called s, they’re shaped like ping-pong rackets. They’re flat and a shiny green color, with lots of golden brown spikes.
In spring, the blooming appears along the rim of the paddles. These flowers are a magnificent yellow color with streaks of red. The blooming continues all year round when the plant grows in suitable conditions.
Opuntia Vulgaris Mill. produces oval or pear-shaped fruits that are 2 or 3 inches long (5-6 cm). They have tiny prickly burrs and their flesh can be yellow, green or red. Many tiny black seeds are sprinkled throughout the fruit.
Planting Opuntia Vulgaris
Since it isn’t hardy at all, the paddle cactus needs to be grown in a container in most temperate climates.
- Make sure to select a wide container with a drainage hole at the bottom.
- Stack a layer of clay gravel or clay pebbles along the bottom of the pot.
- Fill the rest of the pot with a blend of soil mix and coarse sand or grit. Any good Cactus soil mix will also do fine.
- Plant your Opuntia Vulgaris and then press the soil down delicately.
- Position the pot in a warm, full sun location.
Multiplying and propagating Opuntia Vulgaris
Opuntia Vulgaris Mill. is often propagated through cladode cuttings. It’s a very easy procedure. It’s most successful when performed at the end of spring or at the beginning of summer.
- Slice off a cladode that’s at least six months old with a sharp knife.
- Let it dry out (cure) in a dry spot for at least 2 or 3 days.
- Prepare a pot with well-draining substrate, any cactus soil mix will do fine.
- Plant the cladode upright in the pot, making sure the base is about an inch deep into the soil (2 to 3 cm).
- It’s also possible to simply lay the paddle down on its side on the substrate.
- Press it down to ensure proper contact with the soil mix, and water just a little bit.
- Settle the pot in a bright spot, but without any direct light at this stage.
- Moisten the soil mix often, but not too much, to trigger root growth.
Growing and care for opuntia vulgaris
Opuntia Vulgaris is a drought-resistant plant. However, in pots, the substrate tends to dry out really fast. During hot, dry summers, go ahead and drench the pot with abundant water at least 2 or 3 times over the summer. Make sure to empty the saucer underneath the pot every time. Also during summer, give the plant liquid plant fertilizer about once a month: this will support blooming.
In fall, provide a few handfuls of organic manure to your container-grown Opuntia. It’s also the right time to do some pruning: remove any cladodes that are touching the ground, and those that are growing inwards and start creating a tangled mess in the center of the plant.
Bring the pot indoors in a lean-in or a bright greenhouse as soon as the temperatures start dropping. Stop watering altogether in winter. Repot your Opuntia Vulgaris in spring.
Diseases and pests
Opuntia Vulgaris is very vulnerable to excess moisture which leads to the appearance of a type of rust called Phillostica opuntiae and the following strains of mildew: Phytophthora cactorum and Phytophtora omnivera.
As for critters and pests, this species of Opuntia is a favorite host of scale insects. In some parts of the world (around the Mediterranean), it may become infected by a sap-sucker fly called Ceratitis capitata.