A first for me, cactus surprise

I've had minimal gardening experience with cactus. I inherited what was once a 2" (5cm) tall potted cactus at least a decade ago and have watched it grow to over 2' (60cm) tall over the years, and have seen a patch of prickly pears in a nearby neighbor's front garden, and I grew some cactus from seed last year... and there was also the small cactus that I was quite allergic to -- if it touched me I would break out in a very itchy rash almost immediately -- but I let that one die outside one winter. That's the extent of my dealings with cactus though. Compared to some people like this, and this, I know nothing.

So a few months ago when I got some Optunia pads as part of a plant trade, I didn't know what to expect. I stored two of the three pads on a shelf in the garage for planting in the spring, but potted the third up and brought it inside under my grow lights. I wanted to see how long it would take before it rooted and showed signs of growing.


Well, the wait hasn't been too bad, compared to some plants (like the plumeria cuttings). I potted this up about a month ago, and in the last few days have noticed that it appears to be flowering!

I was told by the gardener who sent them to me that they might flower in the spring before growing new pads, or might just start growing the pads and skip the blooming. I think that's what he said.

Since I've never seen an Opuntia bloom before, I'll assume that's what I've got going on. (I'm not going to Google it either, as I don't want to ruin the surprise of what's happening here.)

There's one on the back too:

As well as this little one which appears to just be waking up:

It must be warm and "sunny" enough under the lights to make this plant think that spring is here -- which is fine by me!

These are Opuntia ellisiana (or more correctly Opuntia cacanapa 'Ellisiana') -- the spineless prickly pear, and should probably be cold-hardy enough to survive our winters if I provide good drainage for them. I'll keep it under the lights and actively growing all winter though, and will find a place for it outside next year.

The only drawback to this arrangement is the large clay pot I used takes up a lot of room on the grow table:

But as I've never had a cactus flower before, this is pretty exciting for me, so I'll gladly spare the room!


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (December 23, 2011 at 10:10 AM)  

I'm not going to say much except that I'm as excited as you are! My 'Elliana' pads are sitting outside in the cold and aren't doing much of any anything. Heat and light is definitely a big motivation to get growing!

Alan  – (December 23, 2011 at 10:20 AM)  

I sometimes spell "Opuntia" as "Optunia". I don't know why exactly I do this, but it's a hard habit to break. I did it in this post too, and instead of going back and editing the post I'm leaving the mistake in. Please chide or ridicule me -- maybe that will force me to get it right. Opuntia. Opuntia. Opuntia.

M  – (December 23, 2011 at 12:58 PM)  

Ants love the flowers so expect some visitors if ants can get to the cactus.

Alan  – (December 23, 2011 at 2:02 PM)  

M: thanks for the warning. I seems to get ants on the table every winter, so I'll be ready.

Also, I couldn't resist and had to Google to see how these grow. I'm still excited!

Christine @ The Gardening Blog  – (December 23, 2011 at 2:09 PM)  

I can totally understand your excitement about this! I'm excited to see this and its not mine! A lovely Christmas Surprise :)

Matthew –   – (December 23, 2011 at 7:54 PM)  

Wow, to have 3 of anything, whether pads or flowers, growing so soon from a single-pad cutting like that is awesome, that plant must really love your grow table :) Such an exciting winter surprise!

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