Opuntia Subulata: Growing The Awl Cactus (Austrocylindropuntia)

Opuntia Subulata (op-UN-shee-a Sub-yoo-LAH-tuh) belongs to the Cactaceae family. It is among 300 or so species that fall into the genus Opuntia which is one of the largest genus’ in the family Cactaceae.

The Opuntia genus is further divided into subcategories based on the appearance of the stems. Awl cactus belongs to the Austrocylindropuntia group.

Unlike other cacti such as Beaver Tail or Prickly Pear Opuntia with large flattened stems or pads, this plant is characterized by cylindrical, branching trunks with small thorns and awl-shaped leaves.

The plant’s botanical name comes from the Latin word ‘subulate’ which means ‘awl-like’.

This references the unique shape of this plant’s leaves.

The plant, native to Southern Peru is now found from Southern Canada to South America.

Austrocylindropuntia subulata with flowers

It’s an unusual plant that can live for many years given the proper living conditions.

This plant is not as commercially available as other cacti. It is found in mixed dish gardens or occasionally in specialty nurseries.

You may need to ask around a little to get your hands on it because it is not as common as other plants.

Because it is relatively easy to care for, as a houseplant choice it can look lovely as part of a more extensive garden or by a windowsill.

Opuntia Subulata Cactus Care

Size and Growth

In its natural habitat, the plant is capable of growing up to 12’ feet tall.

However, when cultivated, it is much smaller and reaches a height of a mere 24”-30” inches tall. It has a branching growth with a medium growth rate.

The plant grows best when it is following its natural growth cycle of growing during the spring and ‘rests’ during the winters.

Flowering and Fragrance

This plant is characterized by its stout, branched stems with oval growth and small yellowish-gray thorns in the aeriole.

The young stems produce awl-shaped leaves which give the plant its common name.

In the wild, it is possible for the plant to bloom with red flowers, but these are rare or often never produced in cultivation.

Light and Temperature

Place this light loving plant in a spot where it will receive plenty of sunlight. During the summer months, a sunny spot in the garden is perfect to keep the plants happy and healthy.

However, during its initial growth phase, plant grows best in the shade and introduced gradually to full sun.

During winter, bring the plant indoors to avoid extreme temperatures. If grown outdoors, it needs to acclimatize to the warmer temperatures gradually.

If the plant grows indoors, Awl Cactus grows well at room temperature without a lot of fuss. Just make sure to place in a window with lots of light to keep the plant looking optimal.

Watering and Feeding

The amount of water Opuntia Subulata Monstrose needs depends on the time of the season.

During the summer months, water and fed regularly. Decrease watering during the cooler months. The lower the temperature, the less water the plant requires.

Wait until the soil begins to dry out before watering again. Avoid keeping a saucer beneath the pot, you don’t want to let the roots soak in water.

Otherwise, it puts the plant at risk of rotting roots.

The base turns black, and the plant will fall over. Plants will not come back from that kind of damage.

On the contrary, underwatered plants, will shrivel up and no longer be firm.

Regular watering with a little care will rectify this condition.

Soil and Transplanting

Awl cactus requires a well-drained, loose mixture of soil. An ideal combination is a potting mix 25%-50% pumice. Alternatively, you can use commercial cactus soil.

As the plant grows, it will need repotting. Springtime is the ideal time to repot and propagate the plant.

Grooming and Maintenance

Eve’s pin cactus succulents does not require much grooming. In the case of:

  • Unwanted stems
  • Minor outbreaks of rot

… cut the stems away with a clean, sharp knife.

How to Propagate Subulata Opuntia

Opuntia Subulata Cristata is best propagated through cuttings during the spring when plants are growing. Take a cutting from the base of the plant and allow it to dry for a few days.

Once the cutting dries, place the shoots in individual pots filled with a cactus mix.

Be careful watering plants in this phase and water only sparingly until the plant takes root.

Awl Cactus Pest and Disease Problems

Austrocylindropuntia Subulata is fairly pest resistant and doesn’t typically experience issues.

However, it is sensitive to overwatering and underwatering.

When these are neglected, the appearance of the plant changes drastically.

The plant is susceptible to rot. The rot shows up as brown patches on the stem.

Easily deal with the rot by removing the stems with a clean and sharp knife.

Suggested Uses For Austrocylindropuntia Subulata

This is a decorative cactus with a unique and interesting appearance. It looks beautiful when grown as a potted specimen indoors or outdoors.

Awl Cactus can also be planted along with other cacti in a dish garden as it adds to the character of a garden.

Another option is to use its cousin plants Cane Cactus and Sea Coral – both part of the Opuntia genus and grow beautifully alongside each other.