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Cylindropuntia imbricata – Tree Cholla

by Jessica Fox

Cylindropuntia imbricata, also commonly called tree cholla, is a native plant to North America and Mexico. It is a much-maligned succulent because of its sharp spines and because it can grow in large numbers and form dense mats that make it difficult for other plants to grow in the area. However, there are many benefits to Cylindropuntia imbricata beyond becoming an invasive weed. If you live in an area where this plant may grow (such as Texas or Southern California), then knowing how to care for it will go a long way towards keeping your yard looking healthy and green.

Read on for some helpful tips on how to care for Cylindropuntia imbricata!

What is Cylindropuntia imbricata?

Cylindropuntia imbricata is a genus of succulents from the Cactaceae family, native to North and South America. There are more than 100 species of Cylindropuntia, but only about 30 grow in Texas (the state where I live). The plants have been used as landscaping for centuries.

This plant is a climber and will grow very large if not watered properly. It can grow up to 6 feet tall with a spread of 2-5 feet wide. This plant grows in wet areas like swamps, marshes and other wet areas with high water tables. It will also grow in dry areas like deserts, grasslands and meadows. These plants are the most common in Texas but there are many other species found here too.

Growing Conditions

Cylindropuntia imbricata grows best in well-drained sandy soil. The plant prefers full sun and is quite tolerant of dry conditions. It can be grown outdoors but will not survive the winter months or a prolonged period of drying. The plants are—with very few exceptions—small, only 2 to 3 feet tall. A 10 gallon aquarium is recommended when growing Cylindropuntia imbricata indoors because it is so small and will suffer if given too much room to grow.

Cylindropuntia imbricata will thrive even in a small container but they need at least 12 inches of space per plant to ensure that none of the growth takes up all the available root space. If you have a large container with limited room, consider planting more than one plant at a time to maximize your growing space.

Cylindropuntia imbricata do best when planted in fall or early spring and should be planted the same way every year. Most plants can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees F (minus 6 Celsius) and they are tolerant of partial shade and light shade, though they prefer full sun since it’s easier for them to photosynthesize from the sunlight coming through

Which plants grow well with Cylindropuntia imbricata?

Cylindropuntia imbricata grows well in a dry, sandy soil. It will grow even better if it is allowed to dry out for a few days after watering. It can be planted either as an annual or a perennial plant and will not flower until it reaches maturity (about 6 years old).

How to Care for Cylindropuntia imbricata

Cylindropuntia imbricata grows slowly, so it’s best to plant it in full-sized pots and let them grow for a few years before you transplant them. You can also plant Cylindropuntia imbricata in containers, but it does not like acidic soil.

Cylindropuntia imbricata will grow at about 3-4 feet per year if you don’t try to over-water.

If you have any trouble with your plants, such as broken stems or the leaves become discolored, then water your plants just enough to keep the soil moist but not soggy. This plant will enjoy some shade from nearby trees throughout the growing season, so if they’re very busy growing consider planting some shade cloth.

If you notice that your Cylindropuntia imbricata has started to grow into a mat (or “manticle”) that is becoming difficult for other plants to get through, then remove a piece of it every few months until all of the plant is gone (within one or two years). Once this is done, replace it with new plants and continue allowing them to grow out of control.

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