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Desert Prickly Pear

Opuntia phaecantha

Out of stock

5 gallon

Plant Care

Native region:

California; Sonoran Desert

Water needs:



Mature size:

Growth rate:

Full Sun



Flower color:

Flower season:



Spring - Summer





Nectar pollinators:


Nighttime pollinators:


Rabbit resistant:


The desert prickly pear (Opuntia phaeacantha) is a species of prickly pear cactus. It is also known as the brown-spine prickly pear and the tulip prickly pear. The desert prickly pear is found in the southwestern United States, lower Great Plains, and northern Mexico. One of the most widespread prickly pears and known to hybridize, we find it locally up Hwy 74 above 3500 feet and in the Mojave Desert area.
The desert prickly pear forms dense thickets and low, irregular clumps. It has large, blue-green pads with dark brown spines. The flowers are bright yellow with red centers and appear in spring and early summer.
It produces juicy, thumb-sized fruits that are harvested in late spring and early summer and can persist into winter. At low elevations, the fruit can ripen and turn red-purple as early as May.
The desert prickly pear is well adapted to desert ecosystems and prefers sandy, well-drained soil. It requires warmth and plenty of sun. In the winter, the plant should be kept fairly dry, but it likes a reasonable supply of water in the growing season. It can tolerate considerable neglect.

Growing Plants in the Desert — Important Information

The information presented here is, to the best of my knowledge, accurate and based on my research from reliable sources, observations I have made of plants growing in my, and other gardens I have visited, and observations of the plants in their native habitats. I would appreciate your feedback and experience to help me educate others! 


Cacti: In my experience, cacti are much happier in the filtered shade here in the low desert of the Coachella Valley. Colors are more vibrant and they bloom more profusely, especially the non-native varieties. If you pay attention to how our native barrel and beavertail opuntia grow in the wild, it is frequently tucked in the rocks under creosote or another shrub.


Light Requirements: I have found that in our desert (Sonoran/Colorado) “full sun” plants can take and appreciate the late afternoon filtered sun, especially in the hot summer months.

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