The Purple Prickly Pear, aka Santa Rita Prickly Pear, is a species found throughout southern Arizona, but one named after our very own Santa Rita Mountains where it was first identified.
This lovely prickly pear has bluish-gray pads touched with green and purple. The pads become even more purple during the winter months. It is also thought to turn more on the purple side when slightly drought stressed.
A sprawling plant, allow at least 4 feet but like all prickly pears, you can control the spread by selectively pruning off pads if it gets out of bounds.
Use the Purple Prickly Pear in full sun and well drained soils wherever you want to add a touch of color. The purple pads are set off by soft yellow flowers. The Purple Prickly Pear is especially attractive planted with fine textured plants such as Beargrass or Desert Spoon. Adding a ground cover at the base is also a nice design feature. Choose Saltillo Primrose with yellow flowers, or Trailing Lantana with purple summer flowers.
Reference: Mountain States Wholesale Nursery and Gregg Starr Nursery Plant Info Sheet, 1999.