Friday, August 20, 2021

My Yellow Rose Of Colorado

By Ed Powers, Colorado Master Gardener

I have written two previous blogs about my love of cactus in which I included information about Colorado Cactus identification and information on the cactus garden I tried to complete.  I am still working on that garden.  In one of those previous blogs, I called our prickly Pear Cactus the Yellow Rose of Colorado because it has one of the most beautiful yellow flowers I have ever seen.  

Potted Prickly Pear Cactus early in summer.  Middle of plant is a columbine that is two years old and grown from seed.

The scientific name is Opuntia macrorhiza.  They are usually yellow but sometimes purple.  The pads and fruit (spent flowers) are edible. The pads are modified branches. And of course anyone who has dealt with the cactus is aware of their spines. 

Five years ago I found two pads joined on my deck, at the same time I was fighting varmints in my flower gardens on my deck.  So I decided to do a test.  I planted the pads in an urn pot that had flowers. It grew very slowly for the first four years and never flowered.  However the varmints left the pot alone.  I grew many different annuals in that pot, including a columbine I started from seed. 

This year something changed.  Where before two to three new pads were added each this year, this year we added 10 new pads.  Before we had no flowers, this year we had 28 flowers. Something else occurred, the first flowers bloomed for one day, the later flowers lasted 2-3 days and again they were a bright yellow.

I compared the cactus in the urn to wild ones in the yard that were about the same age as my urn flower.  It was 3-4 times the size of wild ones.

So I must have converted my wild two pads to a large beautiful potted plant.  My family really enjoys our Yellow Rose of Colorado.

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