Why Are Some Prickly Pear Cactus Purple

Cool, dry weather is what gives cacti their purple hue. The plant’s response to environmental stress is to turn purple. When under duress, some types of succulents, agave, and aloe also turn scarlet, burgundy, or purple.

How come my prickly pears are purple?

Even today, when the fruit, or tunas, are turning red-purple and falling off, prickly pear cactuses in Southern California are so abundant that they blend into the background.

The ornamental appeal of the Santa Rita variety (Opuntia violaceae var. santa rita) is more important than the fruit. The palm-sized paddles turn a vibrant red-purple under duress from cold or drought, offering a bright dash of color to the monotones of a dry garden.

If you want the color, this accent plant requires almost no maintenance. When a plethora of blooms appear in the spring, it’s like icing on the cake.

“According to Roy Dowell, they first produce a peach blossom, which then turns marble yellow. In a three-quarter-acre garden in the Verdugo Hills, he and his partner, the artist Lari Pittman, have planted Santa Rita trees. “They receive tunas, but unlike the other opuntias, they are very little. Surprisingly, the deer don’t worry them.

The reason, according to Molly Thongthiraj of the California Cactus Center, is the tiny clusters of sharp spines that can shoot off the paddle with the slightest movement.

“Deer will test the young ones, but she claimed that after that, they will grow back even more spiky. ” Small but painful and challenging to remove, the spines are small. They just fly all over you, landing on your lungs and clothes. We don’t move them around much as a result.

She advises putting on leather gloves and loose-fitting clothing. You’ll probably need to discard the spines because they are so small and fly about the air so easily. Her suggestion was to cover up completely by donning an old painter’s jumpsuit. Applying an adhesive, such as duct tape or Elmer’s glue, to the affected area will help eliminate skin spines.

Thongthiraj instructed people to disregard them once the Santa Ritas were put in place. Just during the hottest summer days should you think about watering, and even then, only once a week. These cactuses will remain green if provided with water (or shade). Thongthiraj places plants next to a wall or another source of radiant heat to intensify the hue.

Prickly pears from Santa Rita can tolerate poor soils, including clay, but they struggle in a commercial cactus mix. Most combinations contain peat moss that is overly acidic. Allow the paddle to harden off for two weeks before planting it if it was recently cut. To help the roots develop, add mycorrhizal fungi, and water lightly for the first month. then take no action.

They turn more purple as they receive less water. When compared to other opuntias, they grow slowly, rarely rising above 6 feet. Worldwide Exotics and the California Cactus Center are two sources.

Every Tuesday, The Global Garden, our series that examines Los Angeles’ cultures through the prism of the landscape, is posted here.

Are there any prickly pear cactus in purple?

The purple prickly pear, a native of the Sonoran Desert, grows in clumps that are typically 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide. This cactus resembles a shrub in many ways. In the chilly, dry winter months, the huge leaf pads take on a purple tint. The pads have broad, brown spines all over them. Late April brings about the appearance of golden flowers with red centers. The deep purple pads are quite interesting. The pads have a lighter blue-grey hue in the summer. Bright yellow fruit is produced by blossoms that are up to 3 inches in diameter.

Why is my cactus purple now?

Stress is sometimes indicated by cacti and succulents turning purple or brown. This may be brought on by extremely high temperatures, excessive sun exposure, inadequate watering, excessive repotting (which, as Kakteen said, may indicate discomfort or issues with the root structure), or a combination of these factors.

Even in their natural habitat, several species (such as Aloes, Haworthia, and Gasteria) exhibit this phenomenon; photographs of wild plants occasionally show them to be substantially different from those of cultivated plants.

Many of my cacti and succulents experience this, especially during the winter months when they are kept completely dry with at least a few hours of direct sunlight exposure. This is especially true of my aloes, ferocactus pilosus, gymnocalycium marsoneri (which is turning almost entirely purple-brown), chamaecereus, and cleistocactus winteri (which is turning yellow), among other species. Even in the middle of summer, the edges of my Echeveria rubromarginata’s leaves become purple.

I played around with an aloe last year and after leaving it in the sun all day without any water (as ondy did with his stenocereus), it turned entirely brown after two to three weeks. It turned emerald green in less than a month after I gave it shade and started giving it regular water. After that, I shifted once again, and my chameleonic behavior persisted.

Nothing goes wrong if you don’t push it over its breaking point. The plant simply needs something, and this is just a signal. They occasionally appear even better.

How can a purple cactus be fixed?

When the majority of the leaves on your cactus are visibly purple, there is cause for concern due to the color change.

Additionally, wilting, stunted growth, or wet foliage are warning indicators of a problem. To ascertain whether your plant is in any immediate danger, it’s critical to identify the reason for the color change.

When cacti are under duress, their colors shift. Betalain, a purple pigment found in cacti, is one that they create more of when stressed.

Too Much Sunlight

Cacti have adapted to thrive in direct sunshine, but the one you have at home may be struggling.

Cacti found in stores have often been produced in greenhouses with shade. They are therefore not accustomed to such intense sunshine.

Bright light is necessary for cacti, but indirect, diffused light is preferable. An abrupt exposure to harsh light can scorch a cactus’s skin, turning it purplish-red in hue.

Your cactus is probably sunburned if it is fresh or if you recently moved it to a sunnier location.

How to Treat Sun Scorched Cactus

Fortunately, treating a sunburn is not too difficult. Your cactus should be moved to a location that receives less direct sunlight.

Cacti still require a ton of sunlight, so don’t move it to your basement just yet!

Direct sunlight is light that shines directly on a plant, such as via a south-facing window.

The indirect sunlight from the other windows in your home will be more evenly distributed and kinder to the plant.

To avoid sun burning, move your plant to a window facing any other way.

Make a DIY sun filter if all of your windows are on the south side. To provide your cactus with some much-needed shade, simply place a paper towel over it.

Temperature Issues

Purple leaves may indicate stress brought on by high temperatures. When cacti’s roots get too hot, they sometimes turn reddish-purple.

Additionally, cacti can become purple under extreme cold. The plant can no longer contain fluids if it has frost damage because its cells burst.

How to Fix Temperature Stress

Since the ideal temperature is somewhere in the middle, it’s crucial to keep your plant away from environments with significant temperature fluctuations.

Keep your cactus away from drafty areas like open doors and windows to avoid it from getting too cold. Avoid areas with excessive heat and dryness as well, such as around fireplaces and heating vents.

Keep your cactus in a cold planter because its roots are particularly susceptible to overheating. Avoid using black plastic planters and get ones made of clay instead.

Root Rot

Purple leaves may also indicate root rot, which is brought on by over watering and inadequate drainage.

Your plant’s roots will dry out and become unable to absorb any more water or nutrients like magnesium if the soil is left wet for an extended period of time. Your cactus might consequently turn purple.

How to Fix Root Rot

With sterile scissors, begin cutting off the injured roots and leaves while removing as much of the moist dirt as you can.

Place the plant in a clean pot filled with new potting soil. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings and wait a few days before watering the cactus after transplanting it.

Overwatering is frequently the cause of root rot. I have a piece on how to keep your overwatered cactus alive. You will also learn the proper way to hydrate them.

Nutritional Issues

Your cactus may be turning purple because it lacks the nutrients it needs to survive, which is one potential explanation. Your plant may be suffering from a magnesium deficit if it is withering and turning purple.

Magnesium deficits are more likely to occur in Christmas cacti. Nevertheless, all varieties of cacti are vulnerable.

How to Treat Nutritional Issues

Fertilizer is the remedy for a magnesium deficit in your cactus. You can apply an Epsom salt treatment yourself or purchase a fertilizer that has been supplemented with magnesium.

In a spray bottle, combine the following items to create a magnesium treatment:

  • Epsom salts, eight tablespoons
  • A total of 2.5 gallons of water
  • A couple of drops of dishwashing liquid

Spray the cactus’s leaves with water using a spray bottle, being sure to reach the undersides as well. Use the spray mixture consistently every two weeks until the color of your cactus returns to normal.

Crowded Roots

Another possible explanation for your cactus’ color change is congested roots. A plant’s roots may get excessively crowded, or “rootbound,” if they are planted in a container that is too tiny.

Plants that are root-bound are unable to adequately absorb soil nutrients and water. The leaves may turn purple as a stress response in response to nutrient insufficiency.

How to Fix Overcrowded Roots

Your cactus’s root system may enlarge over time and may eventually become too large to fit inside the pot it was originally in.

It’s time to repot your cactus to a larger container if you see that some of the roots are attempting to escape through the drainage hole. Normally, every 3 to 4 years, think about repotting your cactus.

Your cactus needs to be relocated to a larger location if its roots have grown crowded. Cacti should often be repotted once the roots are visible through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.

This normally takes two to three years for cactus kinds with a quicker growth rate. Repotting slower-growing cactus should only be done every three to four years.

Researching the perfect settings for your cactus is vital because not all cactus species have the same requirements.

For instance, some cacti, including Christmas cacti, thrive when their roots are packed.

So, until it has lived in the same pot for at least a few years, a Christmas cactus shouldn’t be repotted.

The steps to repot your cactus are as follows:

  • Make sure you are using thick gloves to protect your skin from the plant’s sharp spines before repotting your cactus.
  • Look for pests and disease symptoms in the plant and the soil.
  • Choose a new container that is one size bigger than the old one.
  • To aid with drainage, add gravel to the bottom of the pot and sprinkle a thin coating of it on the soil’s surface.

Purple cacti, what kind are they?


  • One of the few species of purple cactus that produces purple pigment in the pads is the Purple Prickly Pear (Opuntia macrocentra), a distinctive, clumping cactus. When the weather is dry, the eye-catching hue gets even deeper. This prickly pear’s late spring flowers include yellow petals with scarlet cores. Other names for this cactus include black-spined prickly pear and redeye prickly pear.
  • Opuntia violacea, sometimes known as the Santa Rita Prickly Pear Cactus, is one of the most attractive purple cacti. The Santa Rita prickly pear, often called the violet prickly pear, has purple or reddish pink pads on its stems. Be on the lookout for springtime red or yellow blossoms, followed by summertime red fruit.
  • The paddle-shaped leaves of the beaver tail prickly pear (Opuntia basilaris) are bluish gray, frequently with a faint purple undertone. The fruit is yellow, while the blossoms might be purple, red, or pink.
  • Strawberry hedgehog (Echinocereus engelmannii): This lovely cluster-forming cactus with funnel-shaped blooms that are purple or vivid magenta in color. The strawberry hedgehog’s spiky fruit starts out green and progressively turns pink as it ripens.
  • Ancistrocactus uncinatus, also known as Turk’s head, Texas hedgehog, or brown-flowered hedgehog, produces blooms that are either dark reddish-pink or deep brownish-purple.
  • Old Man Opuntia (Austrocylindropuntia vestita): This plant was given its unusual, beard-like “fur” as its moniker. Beautiful deep crimson or pinkish purple blossoms can be seen at the top of the stalks when the circumstances are just right.
  • Old Lady Cactus (Mammillaria hahniana): In the spring and summer, this intriguing little Mammillaria cactus grows a crown of tiny purple or pink blooms. Old lady cactus gets its unique name from the white, hair-like spines that adorn its stems.

Can prickly pears in purple withstand winter?

Given that the Brittle Prickly Pear cactus can survive temperatures as low as -35 degrees Fahrenheit, it is safe to infer that it could survive almost all of North America’s winters.

In the spring and summer, this lovely cactus can produce vivid, 2-inch yellow flowers. While some plants only bloom once a year (or once every other year), others don’t even bloom at all, blossoming can be unpredictable. The Brittle Prickly Pear’s spikes, which may get up to an inch long and are typically in clusters, are nothing to giggle at. These plants are appropriate for outdoor use because they can grow fairly huge, spanning many feet broad and tall.

In vast gardens that see yearly doses of sharply falling temperatures, the Brittle Prickly Pear is a lovely alternative that would thrive.

How many different types of prickly pear cacti exist?

The Cactaceae (Cactus) family includes the eastern prickly pear. There are around 1,800 species in this family, all native to the New World with the possible exception of one or two. With over 150 species in the genus Opuntia, the prickly pears are regarded as an ancient subgroup of the cactus family. It can be found from New Mexico and Montana east to Florida and Massachusetts, and it has the broadest distribution of any American cactus. Additionally, Ontario has it. Eastern prickly pears can grow in a region in big colonies or as a few lone plants. It is frequently referred to as Opuntiacompressa in older botanical manuals.

This species is a typical cactus with a stalk that performs photosynthetic leaf function. Water is also kept in this stem. It can endure the subfreezing conditions of the northern and middle states thanks to specific antifreeze compounds in its cells. The stems, or pads as they are more commonly known, can range in size from 4 to 12 centimeters (1.5 to 5 inches) in width and 5 to 17 centimeters (2 to 7 inches) in length. Pads can be joined in a branching or linear pattern.

Typically, the plants stretch out on the ground and grow little taller than 19 inches (0.5 meters). Some shrub-like plants in Florida can grow up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) tall.

Areoles, which resemble little dots, are scattered throughout the pads. Each areole has glochids (tiny barbs that hurt and irritate the skin when inserted), and the middle of the areole may or may not have a spine. At the tip of newly formed or actively expanding pads, there may occasionally be a little green structure paired with each areole. These are genuine leaves, but they will soon disappear.

Early summer sees the production of flowers at the ends of the pads. They are typically yellow, although the center of them is frequently crimson to orange east of the Appalachian Mountains and on dunes. In contrast to some other species, including the Indian Fig, Opuntia ficus-indica, the flesh of the reddish fruits is edible but typically not very sweet.

This cactus typically grows on calcareous rock or thin soil in wide-open, arid environments. It grows in or on fencerows, roadsides, prairie, rocky glades, rock outcrops, cliffs, abandoned quarries, and dunes. Well-drained grounds are essential since the roots need to remain dry during the winter to avoid decay.