Native to the Sonoran desert, the purple prickly pear grows in clumps, usually to about 4 feet tall by 5 feet wide. This cactus appears much like a shrub. The large leaf pads develop a purple tinge in the cool, dry winter months. The pads are covered with large, tan spines. Flowers appear in late spring, and are yellow with red centers. The rich purple pads provide plenty of interest. During the summer, the pads are a softer blue-grey color. Bright yellow flowers, to 3 inches in diameter, produce red to purple fruit.
Purple Prickly Pear is very drought tolerant, needing little to no water once fully established. Plant this cactus in full sun in any well-drained soil. Purple Prickly Pear is susceptible to cochineal scale, which appears as a white, cottony tuft. Spaying the scale off with water can control it. Water young plants twice a month in summer, once a month or less in the winter. Prune diseased or damaged pads in the summer.