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Common Name:

Engelman's Prickly Pear

Scientific Name:

Opuntia engelmannii

Family Name:



Engelman's Prickly Pear is the most commonly encountered of the larger prickly pear taxa in Texas. Prickly Pear Cacti are mostly shrubs or small trees with pad-like stem segments that function as the photosynthetic organs and eventually become woody forming a trunk on taller growing species. Beautiful yellow cup-shaped flowers and interesting red-purple fruit are assets. The larger spines and smaller spines (glochids) at the aureoles are formidable maintenance problems and serve the plant well when used as a barrier. A staple of cultivated and non-cultivated West Texas landscapes. Classic xeriscape plants.

Plant Habit or Use:

Small shrub, medium shrub, large shrub, small tree



Flower Color:

Yellow, very attractive

Blooming Period:

Spring, summer

Fruit Characteristics:

Tuna, swollen urn-shaped structure


6 ft to 10 ft


indefinite, sprawling mass rooting where it touches the ground

Earth–Kind® Index:

  • Heat Tolerance: High Heat Tolerance
  • Water Requirements: Low Water Use
  • Soil Requirements: Low Soil Requirements
  • Pest Tolerance: Medium Pest Resistance
  • Fertility Requirements: Low Fertility Requirements
Explanation of the Earth–Kind® Index breakdown

Firewise Index

Explanation of the Firewise Index numerical value

USDA Hardiness Zones:

5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Regions that intersect these hardiness zones:
Region A - Panhandle and High Plains Region B - North and Central Texas Region C - Northeast and East Texas Region D - West Texas Region E - Upper Rio Grande Region F - Hill Country and Central Coast Region G - Southeast Texas Region H - Rio Grande Valley
Click image for enlarged map of USDA Hardiness Zones

Additional Comments:

Incredible heat and drought tolerance; good salt tolerance; avoid poorly drained soils; cochineal scale and squash bugs can mar the appearance of this and many other Cacti.
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A Special Note about Cool Season Annuals

Cool season annuals typically are planted in the fall or early winter and flower in early spring under moderate temperatures. This group of plant materials includes: pansies, snapdragons, violas, dianthus, flowering cabbage/kale, etc. Because cool season annuals flower in the spring when conditions are mild, most have limited heat tolerance.

As a result cool season annuals do not receive a high Earth–Kind® index despite their outstanding landscape qualities.