Opuntia humifusa, Eastern Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear pads in our gardens

When people think of cactus, they don't imagine them in Minnesota, they think of the desert. Yet, there are cactus in Minnesota! Just like you and me, they live here but don't appreciate the cold, wet spells of October through November and again in March into May. 

How do these plants get around that in Minnesota? They grow in sand or gravel -well draining substrates that easily drain the cold moisture that would rot them. Prickly Pear "deflates" as winter approaches and then, in spring, they rise once again! Prickly pear offers brilliant translucent yellow blooms and red fruits. 

I'd love cactus, but what can grow with them? Good question! Shorter companions: Prairie Violet, Pasque Flower, Prairie Smoke and Prairie Blue-eyed Grass. For medium-sized companions consider: Leadplant, Prairie Dropseed, June Grass, Blue Grama, Side Oats Grama, Purple Prairie Clover, Butterflyweed, and Large-flowered Penstemon.

Blooms: bright yellow, late June through July

Height: 6 to 16 inches

Conditions: sun, well-draining sand and gravel, dry

Prickly Pear's large yellow flowers.