Opuntias (prickly pears) are high in calcium, vitamin C and fibre and are enjoyed by many species of tortoise and iguana.
All plants are grown at the nursery and kept free from pesticides.
Opuntia pads will keep in good condition for a few weeks after being cut from the parent plant. Spines can be pulled from the pads with a pair of pliers or the pads can be cut into strips avoiding the spines.
Pads also have circular patches of thin hairs around the spines (areoles); some owners say that these do not need to be removed, others recommend that these are removed by using a kitchen scouring pad under water. A one inch paint brush with the bristles shortened with scissors is also useful for this.
Some owners suggest weighting the pads with heavy stones to present them at a convenient angle for the tortoises to feed.
If you want to root the Opuntia pads or parts of pads then they need to be potted up in DRY potting compost in a plant pot. The lower end of the pad should be buried in the compost sufficiently to keep the pad upright. DO NOT WATER AT THIS STAGE! After 2 weeks give a good watering, then during the growing season water well weekly (or when the compost has dried out). Pads root easily except in winter when up to 4 weeks may be needed for the roots to form though temperatures need to go above 15 degrees C at least some of the time for roots to develop.
Growth of Opuntias stops in winter so little or no water is needed. In spring, summer and autumn water once a week. Grow in full sun (or partial shade for softer less spiny pads).
Opuntias grow well in soil based potting compost to which sharp sand can be added (the proportion of sand is not critical but about one third sand to two thirds compost is good).
Tortoises enjoy the pads, flowers and fruit of Opuntias. Some species of Opuntias can stand quite hard frosts and all types we offer are safe down to 0 degrees C.