1 gallon; 5 gallon
Desert Adapted - South America
Opuntia elata is a fast growing more or less erect, much-branched shrubby succulent plant and in time can reach 9-10 feet tall with an equal spread, although 3-4 feet is more common. The flower is an absolutely gorgeous deep orange appearing in late spring. The fruit is club shaped and purple-red when ripe. It has relatively few spines, but those that are present are white, straight, and can be up to 3 inches long! They are not to be messed with. I dropped a pad on my very thick rubber hose and it pierced that hose!
Requires supplemental irrigation in our low desert. It does best in filtered shade. but will tolerate more shade and full sun. In shade it is going to be a darker green with more oblong pads and bloom less. The more sun it receives the lighter green and the rounder the pads and again bloom less. Tolerates sandy, rocky soil and even clay if you allow it to dry out between watering.
Opuntia elata is native to Bolivia, Paraguay, southern Brazil, northern Argentina, and Uruguay.
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.