Imagine a bushy cactus that actually has leaves. That pretty much describes the pereskias.

These can be grown outdoors as garden plants in warm, subtropical and tropical climates. Elsewhere, they’re best treated as houseplants.

Considered to be among the most primitive of the cacti, these continued to retain their foliage while the other cacti found other ways to adjust to adverse growing conditions. The leaves are green to brownish-red.

Pereskias are native to the New World pretty much from Florida to South America. They like a warm spot in full sun for the winter months. During the summer, a little afternoon shade is beneficial. These plants need a well drained soil. The potting soil needs to be richer with a higher organic matter content than is the case for most cacti. They will need fertilizer on a regular basis during the growing season. Keep the soil on the moist side at all times. These can be grown in hydroponic systems.

The different species of pereskias can vary somewhat in appearance. In general, they have slender stems and are either shrubby or vine-like. Typically, the trunk will have numerous stems. If grown as a houseplant or conservatory plant, the vine-like ones will need a strong support. Pereskias are fast growing and easy to care for.

Hardiness can vary somewhat. But some can withstand temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

The pereskias are actually used as the rootstock for grafting other species of cacti, particularly the jungle ones like Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus and other epiphytic species.

This group of plants was named for Nicholas Fabre de Peiresc, a French naturalist (1580-1673).

There are several species of this plant in cultivation. This includes the following one.

Rose cactus (Pereskia grandiflora)

This is a shrubby or tree-like species that grows to about 15 to 20 feet or so in height. The trunk is particularly spiny. The deep green shiny foliage has a fleshy texture. The leaves are elliptic in outline, and up to six inches in length. The blooms open in clusters at the top of the stems. The plant is named for these pink to reddish blossoms, which look somewhat like roses.

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