Cacti

Opuntia Basilaris Guide How to Grow & Care for the “Beavertail Cactus”

Read our guide to Opuntia Basilaris for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for planting & caring for the "Beavertail Cactus"
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Want to add a new specimen to your succulent and cacti collection? Whether you’re a novice gardener or a xeriscaping enthusiast, the Beavertail Cactus is a great addition.

Beavertail Cactus plants, also known by their botanical name Optunia Basilaris, are low-spreading cactus species that can make great houseplants. They are friendly, so growing and propagating them will be an easy and fun activity. If you already own a few succulents or cacti, your Beavertail Cactus will grow healthy and happy because these prickly plants have typical needs.

Read on if you want to learn more about Opuntia Basilaris a.k.a. the Beavertail Cactus.

About Beavertail Cactus

  • The botanical name of Beavertail Cactus is Opuntia Basilaris, but it is also commonly known as Beavertail Prickly Pear and Nopal Del Castor.
  • Beavertail Cactus belongs to the Cactaceae family. It is native to the deserts of northwest Mexico and southwestern regions of the US.
  • These plants are great additions to rock or cactus gardens and xeriscape landscapes in areas with a warm climate. They can also be great decorations for sunny patios or decks when grown in containers.
  • During their blooming period, they are very attractive to hummingbirds and songbirds, as well as bees and other beneficial insects.
  • Beavertail cactus plants love sunny spots and direct, bright light. They perform best in full sunlight, which isn’t surprising if you consider where they come from. So, if you are growing your Beavertail Cactus indoors, make sure you find a very sunny spot in your home to keep it.
  • Like most cactus and succulent species, Beavertail Cactus plants need well-draining soils. They are drought resistant and don’t like wet feet, meaning that you should avoid overwatering your plant.
  • We recommend only watering your Beavertail Cactus when the top few inches of the soil has dried out so that you don’t give your plant more water than it needs.
  • Beavertail Cactus plants thrive in warm temperatures but can also adapt to colder climates and sub-zero temperatures. They can survive temperatures as low as 0° F (-18° C).
  • If you are growing your Beavertail cactus indoors in a container, make sure you place the container in a spot out of your kids’ or pets’ reach. The bristly spines of the plant are extremely irritating to the skin. Also, when you handle the plant, remember to wear gloves.
  • Most common pests that might be a problem for other succulents are not a significant issue for Beavertail Cactus. However, this plant is particularly vulnerable to infestations with the cochineal scale, which produces a cottony, waxy coating to shelter the female insects and their eggs. You can help your Beavertail Cactus get rid of this infestation by using a strong stream of water. In case of a severe infestation, you may have to use insecticidal soap.
Beavertail Cactus with flower
Beavertail Cactus with flower

Beavertail Cactus Features: An Overview

  • Beavertail Cactus plants are low-spreading cacti that feature flat, grayish-green, paddle-like leaves covered with bristly spines.
  • The bristles of these plants are tiny and have a reddish-brown color. They are known as glochids and are really sharp and can easily penetrate into the skin. So, remember to wear gloves when handling the plant.
  • These plants typically grow up to 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) tall and up to 4 feet (120 cm) wide. If you want to control the size and spread of your Beavertail Cactus, you can remove some of its pads.
  • The flowers produced by the Beavertail Cactus plants are bell-shaped and have pink to rose or magenta-purple color. Typically, flowering is followed by the production of edible fruit.

Growing Beavertail Cactus

Growing Beavertail Cactus plants is extremely easy as long as you provide them with their required needs. They have pretty similar needs to most succulents and cacti, so if you already own a few of these plants, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to care for a Beavertail Cactus. Yet, even if you are a novice grower, caring for a Beavertail Cactus is really easy.

First, it’s important to consider the lighting requirements of your Beavertail Cactus. Whether you grow your plant indoors or outdoors, you should find a sunny spot for it because Beavertail Cactus plants love bright direct light. So, if you move your plant from an indoor to an outdoor location, you should choose a place where the plant will get partial shade in the afternoon because Beavertail Cactus plants are prone to sunburn.

blooming beavertail cactus
blooming beavertail cactus

Besides paying attention to its lighting requirements, you should also help your Beavertail Cactus grow healthy and happy with some feeding if you grow it into a container. For fertilizing, we recommend using a diluted water-soluble cactus fertilizer. How often should you fertilize your Beavertail Cactus? Only once a year in spring or summer should be enough to keep your plant healthy. If the plant is planted outdoors in your garden, you do not need to fertilize it.

Beavertail Cactus plants don’t necessarily need pruning to remain healthy. However, remember that you can remove some pads to control the size and spread of your plant. You can also remove dead pads to give your plant a neater and healthier appearance. Don’t forget to put on some gloves when working on or around the plant!

How to Plant Beavertail Cactus

Planting a Beavertail Cactus isn’t that complicated. All you have to do is to pay attention to a few requirements this plant has in terms of soil, temperatures, and lighting.

First, consider the type of soil Beavertail Cactus plants need. They thrive in sandy, gritty, mineral-rich, and alkaline soil that provides good drainage. These plants prefer a soil PH of 6.2-8.2.

Beavertail Cactus plants can also adapt to some variations in the soil type. You need to make sure that the soil you use to plant them doesn’t contain any organic matter because these plants can’t tolerate organically rich soil.

Next, consider the plant’s climate and temperature needs. Like most cacti, Beavertail Cactus prefers warm temperatures, so the average indoor temperatures should help your plant thrive. They can also survive sub-zero temperatures down to 0° F (-18° C). We recommend planting your Beavertail Cactus in a container and keeping it indoors during the colder seasons if you live in an area with a colder climate.

Plus, pay attention to the plant’s lighting requirements. Like we’ve mentioned above, you should plant your Beavertail Cactus in a sunny spot if you plant it outdoors or place the container in a spot of your home where it gets a lot of bright, direct sunlight if you grow it indoors.

If you are planning to plant your Beavertail Cactus plants outdoors, do not plant them close to walkways or picnic areas. Remember that the bristly spines of these plants are really irritating to the skin.

Friendly reminder! Use gloves when planting Beavertail Cactus plants to protect our hands from the bristly spines.

Beavertail Cactus Pad (Cutting), From Amazon

Watering Beavertail Cactus

Overwatering your Beavertail Cactus is an easy mistake to make because this plant requires far less water than most people might expect. Like with all plants that don’t like wet feet, Beavertail Cactus is prone to root rot and scab.

Remember that Beavertail Cactus plants are native to arid areas and rocky soils, meaning that they require very little water to stay healthy. Typically, the newly planted cacti need to be watered every two to three weeks. During winter, cut back on the water and reduce the moisture levels to a minimum.

Since the key to a healthy Beavertail Cactus is never to let it sit in wet and soggy soil, we recommend you to use the “soak and dry” method. This will make it easier for you to know when your plant needs to be watered. In other words, you should allow the soil to dry out almost completely between waterings.

If, by mistake, you pour too much water into the plant’s container, do not let it sit there. Leave the water for a few minutes so that your Beavertail Cactus takes as much water as it needs.  To avoid root rot, pour off any excess water after a few minutes.

Propagating Beavertail Cactus

Propagating Beavertail Cactus is extremely easy. Beavertail Cactus plants propagate by plant division and by seeds. It is worth mentioning that propagation by division is easier and typically more successful.

To propagate your Beavertail Cactus, simply remove a pad that is at least six months old from the mature plant and set it aside for a few days to allow it to develop a callus on the cut. After the pad develops the callus, which may take up to seven to ten days, you can plant it in a mixture of half soil and half sand, and you can start caring for it as you do with your mature Beavertail Cactus plant.

In conclusion

Beavertail Cactus plants are excellent houseplants. They are easy to grow and care for, and they can be amazing focal points in any interior environment, be it your office or your home. If grown outdoors, these plants add year-round interest to your garden and will attract many birds to your yard.

Are you growing Beavertail cacti? Share your experience in the comments!

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Miruna Secuianu

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

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