Opuntia macrocentra

purple prickly pear
Shrubby blue cactus becomes stunning neon-purple with stress. Yellow flowers spring through summer. Edible fruit.
synonyms Opuntia violacea var. macrocentra
height 2–4
width 3–5
tolerates Drought, Heat, Pots, Wind
Opuntia are extremely drought-tolerant, which means that no additional water should be needed once the plant is established. Newer plants might show that they are thirsty when their leaves begin to shrivel. If this happens, give them a bit of water; otherwise they might start to drop their paddles. Often these shed paddles will root and grow once rain comes.

To keep your opuntia plump and lush-looking, water it every two or three weeks during the summer.

Opuntias prefer good drainage, but they are tolerant of a wide range of soils.
exposure Full Sun
drainage In Ground: Cactus Mix, In Pots: Cactus Mix, Tolerates Sandy Soil
fertilizing All Purpose
origin SW USA

Outdoor Exposure Guide


Full Sun
Six or more hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Shade
Three to five hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Sun
One to two hours of sun beams directly landing on the plants leaves.

Full Shade
The plant is never fully lit by sun beams, but is in a bright spot or has dappled sunbeams playing over the leaves throughout the day.

Deep Shade
The plant never has dappled light on the leaves, and is in a place that feels dim, even on a nice sunny day.

Growing Notes

Opuntias (prickly pear or paddle cactus) are iconic and have a myriad of uses. Many, including this one, have edible fruit, or even edible paddles called nopales and edible fruit called tunas. These cactus can be pruned by selectively removing paddles to accentuate a more upright, open, or bushy form. Opuntias are delicate and arms snap off easily, so be sure to keep them away from high traffic areas. These arms can easily be propagated by laying them on their sides on cactus mix.
When planting cactus it’s often best to avoid the spines entirely. This can be done by cutting down each side of the nursery can and then peeling it open to expose the roots. This way you can hold the root ball while planting and you never need to touch the cactus. If the plant is tall and top-heavy, this often isn’t an option. Wrapping such cactus in cardboard makes them more manageable.
While your cactus is out of the nursery can, but before it is planted, is the easiest time to weed right up near the lowest spines. Be sure to pull weeds early with heavily spined cactus, as once they are established they can be difficult to remove. Forceps can be helpful for this task.
You may find your cactus develops hard brown scabs that eventually cover the cactus, especially on older growth. This is called corking, and is the natural process of the cactus ‘branch’ becoming a cactus ‘stump’ and getting bark, just like trees do. Corking is totally natural and adds to the beauty of your cactus over time.
Given a completely dry winter this cactus will be significantly more hardy, as they survive temps down to 10F in habitat.

Special Interest

This opuntia also has edible fruit, commonly called the prickly pear. Your friends will love a frosted prickly pear margarita! The fruit will be ripe when its colorful, though you’ll want to be sure not to end up with a mouthful of glochids (spines). Ways of removing the glochids from the fruit include rubbing them down or burning them off.