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The Purple prickly pear cactus is a colorful species with rich plum-purple coloring on young pads. Over time it can grow 4-5 ft. tall, 4-5 ft. wide. Short bristle-like spines cover pads and fruit; bright yellow flowers contrast boldly against its purple pads from later winter into spring.

Purple prickly pear provides more foliage color than most species of Opuntia and is commonly planted as a color accent plant in Southwestern style plantings and for display in containers. It is well adapted to sun, heat, aridity and summer drought.

Water Needs

Purple prickly pear is well adapted to all parts of the Inland Empire in sunny exposures with normal winter rains and low amounts of summer irrigation. The chart shown below provides a recommended baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth throughout the average year. It should be noted there are several months indicated by an asterisk (*) when winter rains often provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates Purple prickly pear can grow with varying amounts of water; little supplemental water is needed during summer following the flowering cycle.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Low Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 1

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
Inches per Month 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 0" to 2" 0" to 2"

Range of supplemental summer water: 7"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-10"

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Cacti
Foliage Character: Succulent
Habit: Upright, Spreading, Clumping
Growth Rate: Slow
Height: 3 ft. - 4 ft.
Width: 4 ft. - 5 ft.
Water Needs: Low 1
Foliage Color: Pale green, Purple
Flower Color: Yellow
Flower Season: Spring
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil
Exposure Adaptations: Heat, Drought, Aridity, All day sun
Function: Wildlife value, Specimen, Slopes, Rock gardens, Flowering accent plant, Container plant


Can be pruned, if needed, for cuttings or size control any time of year, but ideally in spring (D). If pruning, always cut at pad "joints" (S).



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