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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - February 11, 2009

From: Warren, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Yuccas and prickly pears for Warren MI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What type of yuccas and prickly pears will survive in the Detroit, Michigan area? Also, can I grow Santa Rita prickly pear in a pot?

ANSWER:

Last question first: Opuntia santa-rita (Santa Rita pricklypear) can grow to 7 ft. tall, in a large clump, and needs full sun. It is cold tolerant to the mid to low teens. Warren appears to be in USDA Hardiness Zones 5a to 6b, which means the average minimum temperature can range from -20 deg. to 0 deg. So, it would have to be in a BIG pot, indoors, in full sun to survive. For further information, see this Master Gardeners of the University of Arizona Pima County Cooperative Extension website Santa Rita Prickly Pear. One thing we learned from that is that the glochids of this plant are very loosely attached and fly off when the plant is handled. The loose glochids are an irritant, can get into clothes and even be a breathing hazard. Frankly, we wouldn't want to be anywhere around that, indoors or out. It is native to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

We searched our Native Plant Database for species in the Opuntia genus, and found 23 species, of which two, Opuntia fragilis (brittle pricklypear) and Opuntia humifusa (devil's-tongue) are considered to be native to Michigan. Follow the links to each plant's page in our Native Plant Database to learn more about each one. At the bottom of the page, there will be a Google link to that plant, and you can search for more information.  

Yucca filamentosa (Adam's needle) is the only yucca we are aware of that is considered to be native to Michigan. It is hardy from USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9, so you're safe there. See this Ohio State University website Yucca filamentosa for more culture information.

 

From the Image Gallery


Santa rita prickly pear
Opuntia santa-rita

Brittle prickly pear
Opuntia fragilis

Low prickly pear
Opuntia humifusa

Adam's needle
Yucca filamentosa

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