Spineless Prickly Pear Info – Tips For Growing Ellisiana Prickly Pears

By: Teo Spengler

If you are among the many gardeners who like cactus but don’t like spines, it may be time to consider installing Ellisiana cactus in your backyard. Its scientific name is Opuntia cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’ but it is better known as spineless prickly pear. What is a spineless prickly pear? Read on for spineless prickly pear information including tips on growing Ellisiana prickly pear.

What is a Spineless Prickly Pear?

The spineless prickly pear is a type of evergreen cactus that, unlike other types of prickly pear cacti, isn’t armed and dangerous. If you are looking for a succulent that looks like a cactus but doesn’t have long, pointed spines, an Ellisiana cactus might be the plant for you.

According to spineless prickly pear information, the plant offers many attractive features in addition to not having spines. During the summer, it grows large bright yellow blossoms that attract hummingbirds. It also produces bright red fruits called tunas.

Growing Ellisiana Prickly Pears

If you are interested in growing Ellisiana prickly pears, you’ll want to check your hardiness zones. According to prickly pear information, this cactus is quite cold hardy for a succulent. The Ellisiana cactus is also tolerant of heat. You can start growing Ellisiana prickly pears in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 10.

Spineless Prickly Pear Care

Ellisiana cactus is a very easy-care plant for your backyard. The most important part of spineless prickly pear care is planting the cactus in appropriate soil. Pick a soil that is both well-drained and rich. Gritty or sandy soil is just fine.

Irrigation is a part of spineless prickly pear care, but you don’t have to invest much water here. The cactus prefers evenly moist soil in summer, but it is drought tolerant. It requires little, if any, irrigation in winter.

One of the primary attributes of the Ellisiana cactus is its lack of sharp spines, but it isn’t entirely risk free. You can get tiny slivers from the pads, so when you touch them, do so between the glochid dots or wear gloves just to be safe.

Those growing Ellisiana prickly pears should note that three parts of the cactus are edible. You can eat the cactus pad as a vegetable, add blossom petals to salads and eat the fruit like any other fruit.

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Hvis du er blandt de mange gartnere, der kan lide kaktus men ikke kan lide rygsøjler, kan det være på tide at overveje at installere Ellisiana kaktus i din baggård. Dens videnskabelige navn er Opuntia cacanapa 'Ellisiana', men det er bedre kendt som spineless prickly pear. Hvad er en spineless stikkende pære? Læs videre for spineless prickly pear information, herunder tips om dyrkning af Ellisiana prickly pære.

Opuntia, Prickly Pear Cactus, Tiger Tongue 'Ellisiana'

Family: Cactaceae (kak-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Opuntia (op-UN-shee-a) (Info)
Species: cacanapa
Cultivar: Ellisiana
Synonym:Opuntia lindheimeri var. ellisiana
Synonym:Opuntia x ellisiana
Synonym:Opuntia engelmannii x ficus-indica
Synonym:Opuntia ellisiana


Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater

Sun Exposure:


Foliage Color:




USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

Where to Grow:


Plant has spines or sharp edges use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

From seed direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen clean and dry seeds

Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed clean and dry seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Albuquerque, New Mexico(2 reports)

Simpsonville, South Carolina

North Richland Hills, Texas

Gardeners' Notes:

On Sep 21, 2019, 2QandLearn from Menifee, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

I think I have two plants started from cuttings I got from neighbors, which are in post but have rooted into the ground below them. I've noticed that mine grow some spines when our hot desert sun beats down on them . . . then they seem to be re-assimilated or drop off again until next summer. Mine have yet to flower, as they aren't very big yet, but are growing faster since rooting into the ground.

On Jun 20, 2017, puzzellus from Raleigh, NC wrote:

My experience falls in line with other posts. I planted a row of mixed opuntia along a downward slope. Near the top, where the drainage was better, they all thrived. Near the bottom where it was usually soggy, they died in the winter. I love these plants, and have purchased many varieties of opuntia. My strategy is to buy some from northern and southern climes. I am in zone 8, but have some off-the-grid rural accreage in zone 7. I plan to try both Elisiana and more cold resistant varieties in both places.

On Apr 25, 2017, longjonsilverz from Centreville, MD wrote:

This a great cactus for anyone who wants a prickly pear but doesn't like the spines. With the exception of a very rare random glochid(tiny spines that irritate the skin and are hard to remove), these are almost touchable without any worries. I have occasionally touched my cacti by accident and 99% of the time there was no problem. In addition to being spineless, they are also tolerant of the wet and cold here in Eastern Maryland (zone 7) with good drainage and lots of sun.

On Feb 29, 2016, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This is one of the few opuntias lacking both spines and those pesky glochids (the tiny hooked things that get under your skin).

On Nov 28, 2015, siege2055 from Stilwell, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Easily survived here so far in a low of 1 F degrees BUT, dont let leaves in the fall accumulate around the base of the plant, it does not act as mulch, it acts to retain water and causes rot. Good drainage is very important with this Cactus in my zone 7a. It had more damage from rot than from freezing.

On Dec 13, 2014, Nomadct from Old Lyme, CT wrote:

I've ad better luck than dave122, though I'm along the coast of Connecticut (zone 7a) on Long Island Sound. Planted O.Ellisiana 3 years ago on south side of house under eave, in a mix of beach sand/loamy soil and it's doing great! Already about 3 feet tall with 10 huge pads! I had a low last winter of 3 F and my Ellisiana was unfazed. I love the look of cactus near the beach.

I first saw this Opuntia further down the East Coast in Cape Fear, North Carolina and thought I would give it a try. I think key is DRY winter soil and a fast draining soil like we have near the beach. Should also do well on Long Island, and the coast of New Jersey nearby.

On Dec 5, 2011, whyteboy_9 from Pueblo, CO (Zone 6a) wrote:

dave12122's comment is very true! I garden in Pueblo, CO about 120 miles south of Denver in a VERY dry winter climate (heavy snowfall is rare, what little moisture we get is during the summer monsoons) and I am very happy with the performance of O. ellisiana. It survived a 10 year freeze with no problem at all (minor tip burn), and actually grew 31 new cladodes this season. I have yet to see flowers, but my plant is still relatively young.

I have found that USDA hardiness zones can be misleading, especially in the case of cacti and succulents. It seems that many varieties can be grown one or even two zones colder in our dry western climates than in the damp eastern zones. I know of many species of Opuntia and Yucca that thrive here that the USDA says do n. read more ot. I will, when I get a chance, post some photographs of a place I used to visit that has sadly been sacrificed to the bulldozer.

update: On 12/5 and 12/6 2011 we had official overnight lows of -1F and -4F. My large plant was completely unaffected . I had planted a very small immature cladode ( about 3in. by 2in. in size in mid April, the deciduous "leaves" were still present). The cladode was planted in a in a "frost pocket" in my yard as a test of hardiness, as the mother plant is planted in a sheltered location against a south facing wall.
As of today ( 12-09-11) the is no evidence of freeze damage , although the plant is obviously stressed due to its purplish coloration.
O. Ellisiana was listed as hardy zone 7 according to the catalog I bought it from, but in my very dry zone 6a climate it seems to be hardy to at least 5 below, perhaps even 10 below. Other prickly pears that I have heard of success with in my area are chlorotica, some varieties of engelmanii, basilaris, and violacae. As far as I know, O. Chlorotica ( see panayoti kelaidis' picasa page at [ [email protected] ] ) is the only trunk forming prickly pear hardy in my area.

On Dec 27, 2010, dave12122 from East Haddam, CT wrote:

This plant did not do well in my zone 6b Connecticut garden. Pads shriveled up and ultimately rotted, even with winter wet protection. I think this plant is not acclimated to regions with slushy, wet, winters. It should be fine in the dry cold of Denver, for example.

On Apr 14, 2008, hothaus from Seattle, WA (Zone 8b) wrote:

My covered, West facing front porch, combined with my neglectful watering habits, kills just about everything. except for this wonderful plant! It survives the winter cold outside in Seattle without a problem. Uncovered, the rain will surely kill it. The back splash from my gutter-less eaves for one season nearly did too! (See picture.)

On Mar 31, 2005, nevadagdn from Sparks, NV (Zone 7a) wrote:

This plant overwintered. in a small pot no less!

On Nov 21, 2004, Xenomorf from Phoenix, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

Flowers start out as deep yellow then turns pale orange or reddish later in the day.
It blooms in Late Spring early Summer in May in zone 9b.

On Jul 22, 2004, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Planting and Care

Growing prickly pear from seed is slow going, and can take up to a few years before fruits and flowers start regularly appearing. Propagation from pads is simpler and quicker this is done by cutting a pad that is at least six months old. Allow the pad to sit upright and for the cut to form a callus — this should take a week or two. Plant the pad in a sunny spot by placing it upright in a mixture of soil and sand only about an inch deep. Leave the pad unwatered for about a month after planting. Water it once the soil dries out generally you will need to water it once a week.

Opuntia spp. are well adapted to poor, sandy soils. In fact, when grown in moist, rich soils, plant growth is rapid and soft which can lead to pest and disease issues. Root and stem rot, scale, mealy bug, and cochineal insects that disfigure the plant and likely reduce its edible qualities can occur when these plants are overwatered. Additionally, the pest cactus moth, introduced from the Caribbean, has spread into the southeastern U.S. where it has been known to attack native and nonnative Opuntias.

Get to the Point

All pointy plant parts are not the same.

  • Glochids are the barbed, hair-like bristles on cacti
  • Spines are sharp, pointed, rigid structures which are generally modified leaves
  • Thorns are short, stiff, pointed structures which are generally modified stems

Fruits should be harvested when they are ripe, as they won’t continue to ripen once picked. Keep in mind, these plants don’t give up to being eaten easily, so take care to avoid their defenses. Collecting should be done with thick gloves and tongs. Pads may or may not have spines, but both fruits and pads do have tiny, hair-like barbed spines called glochids that easily can stick you. You should remove all spines before you rinse your fruits or pads off.

There are different techniques for preparing fruit and pads once they have been picked. Put the fruits in a bag or container to prevent the glochids from becoming a problem. One way to prepare the fruits is to burn them VERY CAREFULLY with an open flame. Fruits can be peeled without burning first but it can be best to err on the side of caution. Be warned that fruits can become slippery once they are heated so be sure to have a firm grip with your tongs.

In Conclusion

There are many different types of Prickly pear cacti available on the market. Some have sharp thorns, some have fuzzy glochids, and others are spineless, but all of them have beautiful flowers and delicious fruits.

These amazing cacti are easy to grow and don’t need much attention. They love dry environments and can withstand extreme heat and drought. To grow a happy and healthy Prickly pear, make sure it gets plenty of sunlight, well-draining soil, and just a little water once every two or three weeks.

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