Cultivate opuntia

Cultivate opuntia

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Cultivate opuntia:

Opuntias are succulent plants native to South America, now naturalized in most of the Mediterranean area. They are easy to grow plants. They are grown in a sunny and warm place; if we intend to cultivate them in places in which the winter is very rigid it is advisable to grow them in pots, so that they can be moved to a sheltered place during the winter; they can survive even with temperatures below zero for prolonged periods of time, but only if the soil is perfectly dry; therefore in the regions of northern Italy we can also cultivate them on the terrace, in a place where they do not receive water during the winter months. They are grown in a soil that is not excessively rich, very well drained, consisting of universal soil, mixed with sand and pumice stone, to ensure perfect aeration of the roots. During the warm months they are watered abundantly, but always waiting for the soil to be dry for a few days before supplying water; every 15-20 days, from March to September, we provide specific fertilizer for succulent plants, rich in potassium and poor in nitrogen. Opuntias particularly fear the development of cochineal, which seems to particularly prefer this type of plant; therefore we frequently watch, checking under the large leaves or in the fissures of the stem; if we see cochineal specimens we intervene instantly removing them with the help of a stick or with cotton, and vaporize the whole plant with white oil or with another insecticide against the cochineal. The opuntias have particular thorns, gathered in tufts; it is not possible to see it with the naked eye, but these spines are not straight, but have the form of small hooks; therefore they penetrate easily into the skin, and are unlikely to be removed. If we accidentally come into contact with the opuntia plugs we can easily remove them using olive oil, which allows us to detach them more easily.