Budding Prickly Pears Ahead of Their Flower Blooms

Little prickly pear cactus plant with buds.

Photography blooming cactus flowers is by far my favorite. However, this post it’s a bit of a departure by focusing on budding prickly pears rather than their flowers. Let’s just call it a “budding enterprise” and not to be ignored in the xeriscape gardens. Besides, the flowers are still a ways off in terms of blooming.

Blooming prickly pear cactus plants definitely appear to be a fan favorite. But given my observation this season of how much budding is going on among these cactus plants, I felt it worthy of its own post. Plus I LOVE photographing them.

Budding prickly pear with long white spines.
Purple buds on this prickly pear paddle.

It’s a “bumper crop” so to speak this year. Or the conditions this spring have been ideal for them to explode. And it’s not just the flower buds. There appears to be lots of little “paddles” being birthed too.

Walking through the xeric gardens I frequent to photograph them, most of the plants look to be doing quite well. Some have taken a beating from the later season cold and snow – which is to be expected.

However, along with the larger, established plants, there’s quite a few little guys that made it through the winter. And they too are covered in buds as well as new paddle growth. I’ve learned to NEVER underestimate Nature!

Budding Prickly Pears in Many Varieties

Cactus plant paddle with agave in background.
Prickly pear buds sit atop this green paddle sharing the space with an Agave plant.

In photographing these plants, I’ve observed there are countless varieties. Haven’t a clue of all their names? But they can be large or small with some more spiny than others. The flowers they bring forth can be in many different colors. There’s the classic yellow flowers to various shades of pinks. My personal favs are the peach colored ones with their translucent petals. Then there are the two toned ones with yellow flowers with orange centers. Fingers-crossed there are a few of those this season as I know of only one plant that produces them.

But back to the budding. Looking like little alien creatures, their pointy buds begin to emerge from the paddles around early to mid May. This will differ depending on the location. Say in Arizona they will emerge much sooner. My trip to AZ to photograph cactus in April gave me that intel. Photos on that adventure coming soon in another post.

In the mean time, here are some recent photos to take in…

Heart shaped prickly pear paddle with buds.
This green paddle is shaped kind of like a heart. Not this first time I’ve come across one shaped like this. Both of these plants have buds AND an emerging paddle. Can you tell which is which?
Budding prickly pear cactus.

Paddles Can Be Green or Purple Colored

Your standard prickly pear plant generally has green paddles. However, there are also the purple paddles of the Black Knight prickly pear. This particular variety has become a personal favorite. It has some crazy long white spines that look more like a medieval weapon! My thick garden pad saved me on multiple occasions as I’ve had some close calls photographing these plants.!

Black Knight cactus paddles with buds.
Black Knight prickly pear with its purple paddles and long white spines.

The cool thing with this plant is that the purple buds that sit atop the paddles give way to bright magenta flowers. While the paddles with green buds appear to give way to the yellow colored flowers. The color of the buds gives you an idea of what color the flowers may be.

This info has been deduced merely by observation over the last few seasons of photographing them. I’m definitely open to others knowledge of these plants! So if you know something otherwise, do tell!

As I patiently await for these budding prickly pears to bring forth their glorious flowers, I hope you enjoyed this spiny prelude. Fingers crossed the flowers are as plentiful as the buds 🙂


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