How To Remove Prickly Pear Cactus

Spraying or mechanical removal using a grubbing hoe (for isolated plants) or a skid-loader are the two methods that are typically advised for getting rid of prickly pear (large stands). Occasionally, controlled burns can be employed, but fire is not selective and burning needs a lot of supplementary dry brush (cactus don’t burn well). Burn prohibitions that are in effect across a large portion of the Southwest United States also rule out most people using this technique.

Depending on the scale of the cactus growth and the surrounding vegetation, spraying and grubbing each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Rainfall and temperature can also affect how well your strategy works. Cost might also be a significant factor.

Grubbing or the top-removal method

The most efficient, speediest, and environmentally responsible method of removing substantial stands of pricklypear is generally thought to involve digging up cactus with a skid-loader. However, it can be expensive, with charges for the operator and equipment ranging from $80 to $100 per hour. For tackling substantial cactus stands, Michael Dalrymple, a Mills County, Texas, contractor who specialized in brush removal, advises using a skid-loader fitted with a rock rake. The rock rake’s tines allow dirt to fall back to the ground, decreasing top soil loss and disposal weight in the process. Using this method, the operator is able to cut out several inches of the root, which is sufficient to kill the plant.

In order to bury the uprooted cactus, Dalrymple advises trenching a pit and adding 18 to 24 inches of earth. Cactus that has been heaped up will re-root and develop into an impenetrable mound, unlike cedar that can be stacked up and burned.

It’s crucial to gather as many of the dropped pads as you can. Every pad that is left on the ground has the capacity to take root and grow into a new cactus.

Although mechanical removal can be done at any time of the year, the best times are fall and early winter to allow for reseeding in time for the growing season.


Spraying works well on single plants and lean pricklypear growths. With ground-level spraying, it is practically impossible to completely remove a large, thick stand because pads and stems must be thoroughly coated. Additionally, it’s crucial to avoid spraying close to mature trees and vegetation because those plants’ roots can absorb the toxin.

Large stands of cactus that are far enough away from trees and other valuable flora that the herbicide drift won’t harm or kill are occasionally advised to be sprayed from the air.

Although cacti can be sprayed at any time of the year, most experts advise spraying herbicides in warm weather when rain is forecast since moisture makes the poison easier to absorb.

Results can take six to eight months to appear, and many applications are frequently needed to completely eradicate the cactus.

Although the Dow AgroSciences subsidiary of Dow Chemicals produces a number of efficient herbicides, two of the best-known, Tordon 22K and Surmount, are limited by the federal government and need a license to be used. For spot maintenance, several ranchers advise Dow’s PastureGard HL herbicide because it can be applied without a license. Employing a licensed applicator can cost upwards of $35 per hour plus the herbicide depending on where you live.

How is a prickly pear cactus dug up?

Pear cacti (Opuntia spp.) give ornamental and edible value to landscaping in USDA hardiness zones 9b through 11 with their sweet, scarlet fruit and stunning appearance. Many mature pear cacti outgrow their bed and need to be transplanted into a larger place because of their rapid growth pace. The majority of pear cacti adapt well to transplantation and quickly form a new root system. To genuinely prosper, they must be moved at the proper time of year and positioned properly.

Plant pear cactus between late March and early September, when they are actively growing. Avoid moving and digging up pear cacti when it’s chilly outside since the cactus will take longer to establish itself and its roots will grow more slowly.

Place pear cactus in a bed with poor, gravelly soil that receives full light. A loam or clay-based soil should not be used for transplanting since it will retain too much water around the roots of the cacti, encouraging rot and disease.

In advance, clear the transplant site of any weeds, decaying plants, or other debris. Add a 4-inch-thick coating of pea gravel, washed sand, or crushed granite to the entire bed to improve it. Utilizing a cultivating fork, work the amendment into the top 12 inches of soil.

The pear cactus should be ready for transfer. Mark the cactus’ north-facing side with colorful chalk or tape. After you’ve dug out the cactus, trim about a quarter of the pads to prevent water loss. Put on leather gloves to protect your hands, then use a sharp gardening knife to cut the pads off.

Around the pear cactus’ base, take a measurement of 6 inches. Use a sharp shovel to create an 8 to 10-inch-deep ring around the cactus at the 6-inch mark. Place the shovel’s blade at a 45-degree angle underneath the root ball. To pry the cactus from the ground, use the shovel’s handle.

Take hold of the pear cactus’ base and gently lift it off the ground. Place it somewhere with some light shade and open air. Examine the rootball of the cactus by turning it on its side. A pocketknife or pair of scissors should be used to remove any harmed or infected roots.

Dry out the pear cactus for seven to ten days, or until the roots start to look calloused. Before transferring the cactus into the light, make a hole there. Create a hole that is the same depth and twice as wide as the rootball of the cactus.

Transfer the pear cactus to the new location. Put it in the hole with the north-facing side pointing that direction. Use the adjusted dirt to re-fill the area surrounding the roots. To prevent the cactus from toppling over, tamp the ground with your foot.

To avoid sunburn and reduce moisture loss from the pads, cover the pear cactus with a layer of 30% shade cloth. Until the cactus pads swell and begin to grow, leave the shade cloth in place for at least three weeks.

Before watering the newly transplanted pear cactus, wait three to five days. Create a 6-inch-radius shallow dirt mound all the way around the cactus’ base. Run a hose inside the berm until the top 3 to 5 inches of soil feel moist. After allowing the water to absorb, flatten the berm.

For the first two months, water twice a week to aid in the cactus’ establishment of new roots. Run water until the top few inches of the soil feel damp at the base of the pear cactus. Between waterings, let the top inch of soil completely dry out. When it’s raining, stop watering.

What causes prickly pear cactus to die?

SurmountTM, a herbicide that combines fluroxypyr and picloram, the sole active component of Tordon 22KTM, is the one suggested in Brush Busters. Although prickly pears are notoriously slow to age, SurmountTM pads age and melt down more quickly than Tordon 22KTM pads (approximately a year) (about 2 to 3 years).


Cut off the prickly pear’s two ends:

Peel the skin back:

Peel off a small section of the prickly pear’s thick, fleshy skin. Throw away the skin. The prickly pears themselves will be all that is left.

If you prefer the seeds, feel free to simply chop the prickly pear up and eat it with the seeds and all. The flesh is covered in a ton of tiny delicious seeds.

Take the juice out:

The “husked” prickly pears should be added to a blender or food processor and pulsed until they are liquefied to extract the prickly pear juice.

Put the juice through a fine mesh strainer, then strain it into a bowl or pitcher. Throw away any leftover pulp and seeds.

Anyhow you like, use the juice. 6 to 12 prickly pears, depending on their size, can provide around 1 cup of juice. Just use equal portions of prickly pear juice and fresh lemonade when blending it in.

Do you have a favorite recipe for prickly pears? Please share the information with us in the comments.

Glochids dissolve or not?

Common prickly pear cactus (Opuntia dillenii). You need not only be concerned about the terrifying-looking long spines! Source:

Opuntias (Opuntia spp.), commonly known as prickly pears or beavertail cacti, are rare among cacti in that they generate two types of spines. This makes them ideal indoor or outdoor cacti, depending on the species and your local temperature. Long, ferocious, painful ones that rip into the skin, draw blood, yell, and are highly noticeable, together with small, hair-like, barbed spines known as glochids on the cushiony areole at the base of the venomous spines.

The long, unpleasant spines remain on the plant, but glochids easily break off and penetrate the skin, causing itchiness and irritation that, in sensitive people, can continue for days, weeks, or even months. You don’t often remember actually encountering glochids since they seem innocuous. On the other hand, if any get on your skin, the subsequent rash is something you’ll probably never forget.

Removing Glochids

If you can avoid it, only use tongs or thick, long-sleeved gloves while handling any prickly pears. If you do come into contact with glochids, get rid of them right away to prevent them from penetrating your skin.

Believe it or not, the best way to get rid of glochids has been scientifically investigated, and it involves first going over the region with eyebrow tweezers and removing the most obvious spine clusters. The next step is to apply a small layer of household glue (Elmer’s glue, for instance) to the skin in the affected area and then gently push gauze into the glue. Peel off the glue after giving it about 30 minutes to cure. This will result in the removal of 95% of the glochids, per this study.

Other well-liked techniques are less efficient. Some people apply masks to their faces and remove them that way. Some people use sticky tape (duct tape, for instance), gently pressing it over the troubled area before ripping it off. Both techniques, however, left more than half of the spines embedded in the skin.

However, after they’ve made their way under your skin, you essentially have to wait until your body responds by developing dermatitis, pustules, and eventually ejecting them.

My finest piece of advice is to stand back and admire your opuntias. You won’t want to cuddle a plant like that!

What depth do prickly pear roots reach?


Cacti have shallow roots, with the average depths for their diverse native Sonoran Desert species ranging from 7 to 11 cm and 15 cm for cultivated opuntioids; the cultivated vine cactus Hylocereus undatus has even shallower roots.

Although this shallowness makes it easier to absorb water after light rains, it also exposes the roots to high temperatures near the soil surface.

Extreme temperatures reduced the uptake of the essential stain neutral red into root cortical cells, with 50% inhibition (LT50) occurring for Nopalea cochenillifera, Opuntia ficus-indica, and O. robusta at an average of 7C for low temperatures and 57C for high temperatures, and for H. undatus growing at a moderate day/night air temperature of 25/20C, at 2C and 52C, respectively. The opuntioid LT50s showed seasonal adaptation to changing ambient temperatures, declining 1.2C as day/night air temps were lowered by 20C and rising 4.4C as they were raised by 20C.

In order to measure root growth, respiration, and layers with deadly temperatures, an equation is proposed to estimate soil temperature as a function of soil depth and time.

In this regard, the ability of most cacti to be cultivated today and in the future should not be constrained by the roots’ sensitivity to low temperatures.

Although fewer cacti roots may be found in the topmost soil levels as a result of rising air and soil temperatures brought on by global climate change, other (non-CAM) perennials should experience far larger restrictions.

How can you eradicate cacti from your property?

Removing unsightly cactus from your home is more difficult than you may imagine. In North America, cacti are highly widespread; there are already well over 2,000 kinds there. Their thick and waxy stems, which enable cactus to survive even the toughest drought conditions, are the reason they can withstand adverse weather conditions. Due to their rapid rate of reproduction and potential risk to your children or pets if they get into contact with them, many of these plants are not wanted. Even though getting rid of the cactus may appear difficult and time-consuming, if you don’t take the right action, it will grow again and spread. Here are the best methods for getting rid of cacti from your property.

When working near a cactus plant, be sure to wear thick gloves at all times. Cacti’s spiny needles will readily penetrate your skin and give you excruciating pain. Wear long sleeves, long pants, ankle-covering boots, and gloves in addition to the above. Put a big blanket or piece of fabric over the cactus to provide yourself some extra protection.

You can either use an axe or chainsaw to chop down the cactus, depending on its size, that you wish to get rid of. Make sure to cut the cactus into manageable pieces before packing each one for disposal inside a heavy-duty cardboard box. Any fragments of the cactus that are left on the ground have a good chance of eventually starting to grow anew. To stop it from growing again, as you cut a piece into small chunks, drop it into the box.

Now that most of the cactus has been removed and broken up into little bits, your attention must turn to the root. With your shovel, dig a few inches into the ground until you find the main part of the root because the root might grow in any direction. After completely removing the root with your axe, slice up the portion of the cactus that was previously rooted in the earth. Throw the pieces away once more with the others.

Try to dig up as much of that root as you can after the majority of the cactus has been removed. In order to be sure you have reached the end, carefully follow it as it may move several feet in a horizontal course. Because many of the ground’s spines have the potential to pierce your boots, you need always be mindful of your surroundings. Slice up the leftover root and throw it away in the cardboard box.

If you discover any spines while removing the cactus, remove them with a pair of tweezers and your magnifying lens and put them inside the cardboard box. Always dispose of the cactus and spines in a sturdy cardboard box since the spines can quickly rip through a plastic trash bag. Due to its tenacity, this plant will grow again if even the smallest piece is left behind. Repeat this procedure till you are successful if you see the plant return.

The experts in your town who can remove the cactus swiftly and safely the first time are recommended because of the risks associated with handling this plant. If your property has a lot of cacti, the process will be completed quickly by the experts.

American Tree Masters’ Scottsdale, Arizona-based Scottsdale Tree Trimmers subsidiary specializes in tree trimming and removal.