I was finally able to track down some fresh cactus soil. I found this bag at Menards for $3.44. I figured perhaps the old soil was the problem. Worth trying to save the plants anyway.
I was pleasantly surprised when I re-potted the prickly pear plant. It has some roots coming in! The top is getting thin and I thought it was dying, but my husband assures me that cactus are more resilient than I give them credit for. Perhaps it is just putting all of the energy into root development. With a bigger container and fresh soil, hopefully this one makes it. I'm very excited to have it and hope that one day it will be quite large. This variety is edible, and my kids would like to try it - but not until it's very big and I'm sure it isn't going to suffer if I harvest a pad. But alas, I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's the happy prickly pear in the new container (with the old one for upgrade comparison).
Not to be left out, I replanted the aloe vera plant too. It didn't need a bigger container, but it had the same old soil the prickly pear was in, so it got a new home as well. This is a one gallon milk jug that I removed the top and front portion from, leaving the handle for convenience (and holes in the bottom for drainage). I noticed that despite the indented arms and the farthest outside parts wilting, it appears to be growing a couple new roots. They're very small right now, about 1/8-inch, but they're bright white in comparison to the darker roots that were on it when it arrived. Again, I hope that it thrives in the upgraded soil.
Amanda's blog about everything, important and trivial.