In South and North America, Opuntia cactus is widespread, which are considered one of the largest representatives of their family. They also grow in Mexico, where they can be seen not only in nature but also on the coat of arms of the country. The genus Opuntia includes about three hundred species – there are both climbing plants and shrubs, and trees of great height. Some of these cactus grow in cold areas, where the thermometers in winter drop to -10 degrees. They bloom from mid-spring to autumn, and the fruits can be used in cooking, which is done in many countries.
From berries, which contain a large amount of vitamins, jams and preservesare prepared, and the juice is suitable for the production of molasses, and even wine.
Description of Opuntia
This cactus is considered a perennial. There are species of the most bizarre forms, and they are easily confused with completely different plants. Opuntias have spines of various sizes, which are combined with thin bristles collected in bundles and called glochidia. The thick leaves have an awl shape, the flowers, which can be colored in a red, yellow or orange tint, appear singly. Cactus produce fruit in the form of edible berries.
Flower growers living in countries with cold climates grow Opuntia in their homes, where the plant, with proper care, begins to bloom. But, in fairness, let’s say that the cactus did not receive much distribution. The thing is that it is covered with very thin and sharp spines, almost invisible to the eye and having serrations. With careless touch, they easily dig into the skin, remain on clothes, which are extremely difficult to clean. If there are small children or curious pets in your home, refuse to grow this flower.
Opuntia has another drawback. It is very vividly gaining in growth, and its decorativeness is lost over the years. However, this flower is ideal for large rooms. Designers have adopted it and use it in those projects in which it is necessary to put emphasis on a certain part of the exterior or interior.
Opuntia, as a completely non-capricious plant, is quite suitable for these purposes.
Care for Opuntia at home
Throughout the year, Opuntia needs bright light, but it is necessary to expose it to direct sunlight gradually so that the plant does not wither. In winter, it is better to keep such a flower at low temperatures – from +5 to +7 degrees. Staying warm in the cold season, the cactus will stretch out, lose its attractiveness and may begin to hurt.
The main thing for a florist is to water, feed and replant his prickly pet in a timely manner.
Like most members of the Cactus family, Opuntia needs moderate hydration. Take a watering can in your hands should be when the soil in the pot finally dries. Water the plant not in the way that is usually done. The pot with the cactus is placed in another, flat, container filled with water, which must be settled and acidified with several crystals of citric acid. In no case do not pour water under the root, as the liquid will clog the pores of the stem, because of which the access of oxygen to the flower will be blocked, and, in addition, cork growths will appear on the stems, unattractive in appearance.
In the winter months, when the flower is dormant, it does not require watering at all. The cactus is completely unpretentious to the humidity of the air, so you can keep it in a dry room.
You can not bother spraying the cactus either in the summer heat or in the winter cold, when the air in the room is dried out due to the operation of the heating devices.
During the period of active growth, Opuntia requires increased attention, or rather, fertilizing. Apply them directly to the ground once a month, in the period from the beginning of spring to autumn. Give preference to fertilizers, which include a small amount of nitrogen.
How often should Opuntia be transplanted?
This cactus does not tolerate any interference from its owner. It is necessary to transplant an adult Opuntia every three years. It is advisable to do this in the spring, but only if buds have not yet appeared on the plant. Until the cactus reaches three years of age, pots should be changed annually. For these purposes, choose shallow, but wide containers, since the roots of Opuntia are weak. When compiling the soil, maintain a strict proportion: one part sand, two parts clay and turf earth, four parts leafy earth. Add a small amount of charcoal or claydite to the mixture. Please note: Opuntia humus is strictly contraindicated.
If you have neither the time nor the desire to make a substrate yourself, you can purchase a special mixture for cactus at a flower shop. Immerse the plant in the ground should be with a lump, it is not necessary to water after transplanting for seven days.
How to care during flowering
Perhaps we will upset you, but with home keeping, Opuntia rarely pleases its owners with flowers. Experts say that there are two reasons for this. Firstly, this cactus grows too slowly, and secondly, it is very difficult to create conditions in the apartment that are close to natural. Nevertheless, some flower growers managed to achieve flowering. If you are lucky, admire the flowers from the side. Do not turn the pot, do not rearrange it in a new place, and, moreover, do not transplant the flower. In the care of flowering Opuntia, nothing needs to be changed.
Adhere to the standard mode, as in case of violation of the rules, the cactus will drop the buds.
Care after flowering
After flowering, reduce the watering of Opuntia and stop fertilizing and transfer the cactus to a cool room: on the balcony or veranda. It is possible to resume the application of fertilizers and soil moisture with the beginning of the vegetative period. The cactus will tolerate winter well if the temperature in the room does not exceed +7 degrees and drops below +5 degrees.
Opuntia can be propagated both by seeds and cuttings. The easiest way is to separate the segment from the parent plant and dry it for four days. A film should form at the site of the cut. Cuttings are buried in moist sand for three centimeters, after which they are covered with a glass jar or plastic bag. From time to time, the soil should be moistened, and cuttings should be ventilated. At a temperature of +20 degrees, the “kids” will quickly take root. They can then be determined to a permanent location in a suitable substrate.
If you, nevertheless, want to propagate Opuntia seeds, then you will have to act according to the following scenario. Stock up on sandpaper or file and use them to cut off the seed shell that prevents the sprouts from breaking through. Proceed very carefully so as not to damage the seed. This procedure is called scarification. After performing it, dip the seeds in a weak solution of potassium permanganate for ten minutes. After this time, the seeds are ready for sowing. The substrate should be sterile and consist of one part charcoal, two parts river sand and two parts leafy earth. Under the substrate, put a layer of claydite.
Seeds germinate at a temperature of +20 degrees and under a transparent coating. Do not forget to ventilate the seeds and water them as the soil dries completely. Seedlings don’t need too bright sunlight. Germination time under the right conditions is about two months.
Diseases and pests of Opuntia
cactus have enough pests, however, like many other plants. Opuntia can be affected by spider mites, nematode, whitefly, shield. You can destroy them by spraying the flower twice with an acaricide. The time interval between sprays is about ten days. Make sure that the solution does not get into the soil.
Opuntia is often affected by diseases such as late blight and various kinds of rot provoked by fungi. They make themselves felt in cases of too much waterlogging of the soil and the introduction of fertilizers with a high nitrogen content. Remove the damaged areas of the cactus, and treat the remaining ones with fungicides.