The front of my house faces due west, with about a 2' overhang underneath the eaves. There is a 12' section between the northwest corner and the walkway leading to my door that has proven very difficult for me to establish any plants in because it doesn't get much rain, and it can get very hot there from heat reflected off my concrete porch. Currently, I have a few volunteer Rose Campions (Silene coronaria) growing there, and some mint popping up until I pull it out.

I have been thinking of growing some prickly pears in that spot, with the hope of also getting some fruit to eat (I'm not a huge fan of the leaves). With the overhang and shade from a magnolia tree at the southwest corner of my house, they would be in shade until early afternoon, then a brief period of partial shade, followed by full sun for the remainder of afternoon and evening; perhaps six hours of direct sunlight per day near the summer solstice.

I live in Portland, Oregon (USDA zone 8b) where summers are typically warm and sunny, and the other seasons mild and wet.

Would that be enough sunlight for them? Is there a species or cultivar of prickly pear that would do well in that spot?


2 Answers 2


Off the top of my head, I'd say Portland is too wet. PP is native to areas that get under 15" precip per year.

That said: The spot you describe sounds ideal for them.

Two possible problems:

Cacti generally don't tolerate wet soils, or even soils that are moist a lot of the time. You may need to take out the top 4-6 inches of soil, and replace with a mix of gravel and sand in order to get adequate drainage.

Desert soils tend to be alkaline -- pH around 8. You may need to amend the soil to this level.

Some plants have a chilling requirement between growth seasons. They require X days below a temperature of Y before buds will grow. I don't think that desert plants generally have this feature unless they drop leaves for the winter season.

If you are a DIY sort, you should be able to get PPs just by driving over the mountain into the Oregon interior.

  • 1
    Here, with up to 60"/year of precip. and lows under 0 F. Eastern pp will live anyway, even in our heavy clay soil.
    – J. Musser
    Dec 20, 2014 at 4:14

The eastern prickly pear (opuntia humifusa) is probably more adapted to humidity (since it's from the eastern United States) and is definitely more adapted to cold (it will grow in zone 4; down to -30° F.) than most other popular prickly pears. It probably still prefers it quite dry, however, but I imagine its native climate is wetter than that of the kind you find in the supermarket. It's been found in southern Indiana. I've lived there (it's humid).

This website says the eastern prickly pear tolerates more water than other prickly pears. However, as you can see on the page, there are others that tolerate cold better, after all.

At this time, I defer to Sherwood Botsford's answer for information about your chosen location.

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