Opuntia subulata [oh-PUN-tee-uh, sub-yoo-LAY-tuh], which is a member of the family Cactaceae, is also known by its alternate scientific name, which is Austrocylindropuntia subulata [oss-troh-sil-in-droh-PUN-tee-uh, sub-yoo-LAY-tuh].
This evergreen, perennial, succulent native of the Peruvian Andes also has several common English names including:
- Eve’s Pin Prickly Pear
- Eve’s Needle Cactus
- Long Spine Cactus
- Eve’s Pin Cactus
- Cholla Cactus
- Eve’s Needle
- Cane Cholla
- Eve’s Pin
It also has several common Spanish names including:
- Opuntia de Peru
- Alfileres de Eva
In this article, we discuss the correct care of this interesting, useful plant.
Read on to learn more.
Eve’s Needle Cactus Care
Size & Growth
In the wild, Eve’s Pin can reach a height of 12’ feet and a width of 5’ feet.
When kept as a houseplant or container plant, its size is naturally limited.
This unusual and attractive cactus grows in a tree-like formation.
Its stems are deep green, un-segmented, and cylindrical.
They can grow to be 2” – 3” inches in diameter and are covered with interesting looking tubercles along the upper stems.
These protrusions explain why the plant has its common pins or needles names.
They are sharply pointed and semi-cylindrical.
Eve’s Pin Prickly Pear leaves are long-lasting and may persist for a year or more.
They present at right angles to the plant’s branches and are described as being awl-like.
These leaves are edible and are sold as vegetables in many South American locations and Mexican markets in the United States.
Flowering & Fragrance
Eve’s Needle produces pretty, red, cup-shaped flowers from mid-spring to mid-summer.
The showy blooms are as large as 3” inches across and are attractive to desert pollinators.
Flowers are unlikely to occur on plants grown in containers or indoors.
Blossoms are abundant and appear at the ends of the branches.
The petals of the blooms are bright rose-red with white at the base.
The centers of the flowers are bright yellow or orange.
When blooms are spent, edible, dark green, spineless, oblong fruits develop.
Although the fruits are spineless, they are covered with very fine, stinging hairs.
If you’d like, eat the fruits raw, and they are quite tasty; however, they are also filled with seeds which are difficult to deal with.
The best way to get the seeds out is to cut the fruit in half and then scoop the seeds from the center of the fruit.
The fruits are fermented to make a cactus wine.
The fruits of Eve’s Pin Cactus are vitamin-rich, but the flesh has fairly low nutrient content.
It is tasty and filling, but it’s not recommended as a livestock feed because it adds little in the way of nutritional content.
When preparing the fruits and the flesh of the plant to eat, you must be sure to thoroughly remove the spines and stinging hairs before handling them or processing them or eating them.
Light & Temperature
Eve’s Pin grows it’s best and fastest with full sun exposure, but it can do well in partial shade.
Less sun naturally means less growth.
Indoors, keep your plant in an area having plenty of bright filtered light.
Long Spine Cactus is extremely heat tolerant and can grow outdoors year-round in USDA hardiness zones 9 and above, where daytime temperatures are almost always above.
Eve’s Needle cannot tolerate temperatures lower than 25° degrees Fahrenheit (-4° C).
Generally speaking, you should never keep this plant in an area where the nighttime temperature falls lower than 41° degrees Fahrenheit (5° C).
Watering & Feeding
As with most cactus, it’s best to water thoroughly and then allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again.
Water well throughout the growing season making sure the plant has plenty of good drainage so it is never standing in water.
Water extremely sparingly during the late fall and winter months.
In the wintertime, it’s best to keep Eve’s Needle dry.
Furthermore, during the growing season, refrain from watering on very humid or cloudy days.
Opuntia cactus has very low fertilizer requirements.
Amend the soil with light, airy organic matter when transplanting and to top-dress at the start of the growing season.
A combination of:
- 2 parts sand
- 2 parts potting soil
- ½ part limestone, bone meal or peat moss
…makes a good, natural, slow-release amendment for your cactus.
Soil & Transplanting
When keeping this plant as a potted plant, use standard, packaged succulent or cactus mix as potting soil.
If you’re growing the plant outdoors, begin with gritty, sharply draining soil in a slightly elevated setting.
Amend the soil as described above to create a light, airy substrate which will not become soggy.
The best time to repot Cane Cholla is in the springtime.
Don’t repot to frequently, instead wait until the cactus is somewhat root-bound.
Most of the time, repotting every two years is adequate.
After you have repotted your cactus, withhold water for at least a week.
Grooming & Maintenance
Eve’s Pin Prickly Pear is a fairly maintenance-free plant.
Trim wayward stems and paddles as you wish to shape the plant and attain cuttings for propagation.
Cut off flowers as they fade if you do not wish fruits to form.
Remove fruits as they ripen.
How To Propagate Austrocylindropuntia Subulata
This cactus are propagated from cuttings, seed, or root segments.
The easiest way to propagate this plant is through stem division.
The pads of the plant will root quickly and easily when placed in or on good, well-draining cactus or succulent soil.
To grow from cuttings, choose a healthy-looking section and cut it off cleanly with a very sharp knife.
Be sure to wear protective clothing, gloves and eye protection when handling this plant as the spines are so sharp and were once used as needles in ancient Peru.
Furthermore, fine hairs on the fruits can produce a stinging sensation.
The hard seeds must be nicked and then pre-soaked at a temperature of 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C) overnight before planting.
Follow standard cactus seed planting instructions for sprouting and early growth.
Separate the plant at the roots and propagate by division.
Protect yourself well against the sharp thorns and stinging hairs during this operation, too.
Austrocylindropuntia Subulata Main Pest or Disease Problems
This cactus is subject to fungal and bacterial infections such as:
- Bacterial Soft Rot
- Zonate Leaf Spot
- Cladode Rot
- Black Spot
Careful watering and good air circulation will help keep these problems under control.
When kept as a houseplant, this succulent is also subject to all the usual houseplant culprits such as scale insects and mealybugs.
Good care and maintenance will discourage them.
Is this plant toxic or poisonous?
According to the American Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, cactus in the Opuntia species are not toxic to cats, dogs, or horses.
Is this plant invasive?
There are many types of Opuntia, and they are often grown as a food source or as a landscape plant.
For the most part, these cacti are not invasive in any part of the United States; however, they have been known to spread aggressively in Australia as described in this resource produced by the Australian government.
Suggested Eve’s Needle Cactus Uses
These rugged plants are heat and drought tolerant and withstand high winds and salt exposure.
Additionally, they are quite deer resistant.
This drought-tolerant plant is a good choice for seaside gardens, rock gardens, desert gardens, and xeriscaping in areas having a consistently warm climate.
Otherwise, Opuntia subulata is great for container gardening or as a houseplant in any climate.