Quick Look: Myrtillocactus, Opuntia, Cereus
Famous residents of the deserts of the Americas, Myrtillocactus, Opuntia, and Cereus make some of the most stunning, easy-care plants for arid lovers – so long as you provide plenty of sunlight.
American Cacti at a glance:
- Myrtillocactus is famous in the houseplant world for its cultivars and mutations that are bred in greenhouses and rarely occur in the wild. The Boob Cactus (Myrtillocactus geometrizans 'Fukurokuryuzinboku') and the Crested Myrtillocactus are two examples.
- Opuntia, commonly referred to as Prickly Pear, has evolved to drop its iconic paddle-shaped leaves in order to propagate in the wild. Among cacti and succulents, Opuntia are some of the easiest to propagate.
- Cereus forbesii 'spiralis' was originally believed to be a greenhouse cultivar (meaning it was bred to spiral and does not occur in the wild), until a live, spiraling specimen was found in the wild in Brazil.
- Beware of spikes on all of these plants. Opuntia in particular carries tiny spikes that will detach from the plant and stick in skin like splinters. But remove the spikes and this plant is fully edible.
American Cacti Care:
- Provide many hours of direct sunlight. This plant typically thrives in sunny windows that face south or west. Supplemental light can also be provided with a grow light.
- Water only when the soil is completely dry. In the summer, this could be once every two weeks, and in the winter it could be once a month (or even less frequently).
- Keep in a pot with drainage for several years. These plants love to be rootbound in a small pot. If the plant gets top heavy, prune it back (and propagate!) or support it with a bamboo stake.
American Cacti Favorites: