A Gardening Journal

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Klein's Cholla

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Prickly-pear cactus as supermodel: No big-and-juicy padding on this beauty!

 

The stems of Klein's cholla are slender fingers. They have so much rigid internal structure that they remain erect despite getting rid of all possible water weight to become freeze-proof. Instead of deflating into prostrate floppiness like a typical prickly pear, these stems just suck in their cheekbones. Skinny even in Summer, they are positively wraith-like in Winter.

 

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In its native New Mexico, Opuntia kleiniae can grow into a large shrub six feet tall or taller. Probably two or three feet tops in the East even, as here, when growing with perfect drainage: sandy gravel in a deep trough. Pink flowers in Spring lead to small but showy red fruits.

 

Here's how to grow a somewhat less hardy form of prickly pear; all forms of Opuntia can be handled the same way. Opuntia kleiniae is hardy to Zone 5 when provided with sharp drainage and a soil surface of sand or gravel instead of a wood- or planted-based mulch.

 

 
 
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