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Opuntia rufida (Blind Prickly Pear)

Blind Pricklypear, Blind Prickly Pear, Cow Blinder, Opuntia microdasys subs. rufida

Opuntia rufida, Blind Prickly Pear

Opuntia rufida, commonly known as the Blind Prickly Pear, is notable for its attractive blue-green pads that lack spines but are studded with reddish-brown, glochid-filled areoles.

Opuntia rufida: An In-depth Look

Native: Native to the Chihuahuan Desert, particularly in parts of West Texas and northern Mexico, where it grows on rocky slopes.

Plant Type and Habit: It’s a perennial succulent, branching both from the base and upper portions of older pads, giving it a sprawling and clumping habit.

Size: Typically, it grows to a height of about 4-6 feet (120-180 cm), with a spread of 4-8 feet (120-240 cm), depending on its growing conditions.

Flowers: The flowers, 3-4 inches across (7-10 cm), are a stunning shade of yellow, often with red centers. These blooms are vibrant and can be quite showy during peak flowering time. Flowering usually occurs in the spring, from March to August, depending on local climate conditions.

Fruits: It produces reddish-purple fruits, which are spineless and roughly 1.5 inches (3.5 cm) long. These fruits, though not as popular as those of Opuntia ficus-indica, can be eaten.

Foliage: The pads are flat, broad, and have a blue-green hue, which contrasts beautifully with its reddish-brown glochids. The glochids are loosely attached and can become airborne when the plant is disturbed. These glochids can enter animals’ eyes, potentially leading to blindness, which gives the plant its common name.

Hardiness: It’s a hardy plant, suited for USDA zones 8-11. With proper protection or placement, it can tolerate occasional frost.

Uses: Often utilized in xeriscaping due to its drought resistance. Its distinctive appearance also makes it a popular ornamental plant in rock gardens, as a ground cover, or as a stand-alone specimen.

Wildlife: The flowers attract pollinators like bees, and its fruit can be a food source for various desert wildlife, including birds.

Deer and Rabbits: Both deer and rabbits tend to avoid this Prickly Pear cactus.

Drought: Exceptionally drought-tolerant. As a native to the Chihuahuan Desert, it thrives in conditions with infrequent water.

Toxicity: No known toxicity to humans or pets. However, care should be taken when handling to avoid the irritating glochids.

Invasiveness: Opuntia rufida has been planted as an ornamental in Queensland, Australia but has since been recognized as Prohibited invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

How to Grow and Care for Blind Prickly Pear

Light: Prefers full sun for optimal growth and flower production.

Soil: Requires well-draining soil, preferably sandy or gritty.

Water: Drought-tolerant once established. Water sparingly, allowing the soil to dry out completely between waterings. Reduce watering during winter.

Fertilizer: Use a cactus-specific fertilizer in the growing season, spring to early summer, but avoid over-fertilizing.

Pruning: Remove dead or damaged pads to maintain its appearance and health. Use tongs or wear gloves to handle.

Propagation: Easily propagated by detaching pads and planting them in appropriate soil. Ensure the pad has dried or “calloused” for a day or two before planting.

Pests and Diseases: Watch out for scale insects and root rot. Root rot often results from overwatering or poor drainage. Proper planting and watering techniques can prevent most issues.

Requirements

Hardiness 8 - 11
Climate Zones 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Plant Type Cactus & Succulents
Plant Family Cactaceae
Genus Opuntia
Common names Cactus, Prickly Pear
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 4' - 5'
(120cm - 150cm)
Spread 4' - 8'
(120cm - 240cm)
Spacing 48" - 96"
(120cm - 240cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Native Plants United States, Southwest, Texas
Tolerance Drought, Deer, Rabbit, Dry Soil, Rocky Soil
Attracts Birds, Bees
Garden Uses Beds And Borders, Ground Covers
Garden Styles Mediterranean Garden, Gravel and Rock Garden
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Alternative Plants to Consider

Opuntia fragilis (Brittle Prickly Pear)
Opuntia santa-rita Tubac™ (Santa Rita Prickly Pear)
Austrocylindropuntia subulata (Eve’s Needle Cactus)
Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla)
Cylindropuntia echinocarpa (Silver Cholla)
Cylindropuntia bigelovii (Teddybear Cholla)

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While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 8 - 11
Climate Zones 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Plant Type Cactus & Succulents
Plant Family Cactaceae
Genus Opuntia
Common names Cactus, Prickly Pear
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 4' - 5'
(120cm - 150cm)
Spread 4' - 8'
(120cm - 240cm)
Spacing 48" - 96"
(120cm - 240cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Native Plants United States, Southwest, Texas
Tolerance Drought, Deer, Rabbit, Dry Soil, Rocky Soil
Attracts Birds, Bees
Garden Uses Beds And Borders, Ground Covers
Garden Styles Mediterranean Garden, Gravel and Rock Garden
How Many Plants
Do I Need?
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Opuntia (Prickly Pear)
Not sure which Opuntia (Prickly Pear) to pick?
Compare Now

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