Opuntia ficus indica belongs to the Cactaceae family and is native to Mexico, although it is widespread throughout the world, particularly along the Mediterranean basin and in Australia. It has a stem that can reach a maximum size of about 5 meters high, which is divided into oval segments, flat, green, thorny and with a diameter of between 30 and 70 centimeters. From the end of the spring to the summer season, the prickly pear produces cup-shaped flowers of yellow or orange colour.
As a result of their pollination, they originate oval fruits, between 10 and 15 centimeters in size, covered with thorns that, when they ripen, take on a typically orange color. All parts of the plant can be eaten: fruits from raw and shovels from cooked.
As you can already understand, the Opuntia ficus indica prefers places affected by direct sunlight, although it can withstand temperatures up to 10 ° C. If it is found in climates where the winters are very cold, the plant must be sheltered, near walls, under the canopies or alternatively, be protected with “non-woven fabric”, until the arrival of the first hot spring.
The Opuntia ficus indica can also be planted in pots; this facilitates the movements in warm places during the winter cold, however, it is necessary to know that it may not produce fruits. From March to October it should be watered at least once a month, especially if you are experiencing a strong period of drought. Alternatively, the plant uses rainwater.
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Multiplication and soil
The Opuntia ficus indica is a plant that adapts or any type of soil, although it prefers a well drained soil, rich in sand, not too rich and definitely not very moist. This is due to the fact that, thanks to the conformation of the leaves, the plant keeps the water absorbed during the rains, channelling it in the leaves, utilizing it in case of necessity. As for the multiplication, it usually takes place by cutting.
It is necessary to detach a pallet from the mother plant, to leave it to dry up for a period between the twelve and the fifteen hours and then to proceed with placing it in pot or in full soil. Conclude the multiplication operation with a watering, in such a way as to facilitate the formation of the roots. The rooting times of Opuntia ficus indica are very short.
Diseases and pests
The plant of Opuntia ficus indica can be subject to the attack of countless parasites and the onset of certain diseases that sometimes lead to the death of the prickly pear. The main aggressors are: the cochineals, the butterfly of the cactus, the Mediterranean fruit fly and wasps. Cochineal is removed by using cotton soaked in water and alcohol; the larvae of the cactus butterfly penetrate into the leaves, causing them to turn yellow.
The Mediterranean fly attacks the fruit from within (because of the larvae). The Botryosphaeria ribis is a fungus that attacks the stem; be very careful of radical rottenness, as it leads to the proliferation of Fasarium and Phytophora. The cure consists in the use of insecticides, fungicides and to keep under control the humidity of the soil.
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- Evergreen cactuses originating in Mexico, widespread in most of the world, especially in Astralia and in the meditating basin.
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