How To Take Care Of A Opuntia Cactus

Amendments & Fertilizer:

Young plants should be fertilized with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer. A water-soluble fertilizer with a ratio of 5-10-10 or even 0-10-10 can encourage more flowers and fruit in established plants. Use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer if you’re growing for the pads.


Prickly pears can withstand severe droughts. For the first month, don’t water newly propagated pads. After that, water during the first year every two to four weeks—twice a month in the summer and once a month throughout the other seasons. Rainfall will usually be sufficient to keep established plants alive. When there is a drought, you can supplement with the twice-monthly/once-monthly seasonal schedule.

off a pad pruning, a new prickly pear plant has grown. Selma Jacquet/Alamy Stock Photo provided the image.


Since seeds grow slowly at first, it can take your plant three to four years to begin blooming and bearing fruit. The seeds should be maintained moist until they begin to sprout since they require shade.

Pad propagation is considerably easier and produces results more quickly. This is how:

  • By according to the above pruning rules, you can take off pads that are at least six months old.
  • The cut end of the pads should create a callus if they are left to dry out in a spot with some light shade. This can take two to four weeks in warm, dry weather, but it may take longer under cool or humid conditions. It prevents the new plant from decomposing at the base.
  • Plant pads at a depth of 1 inch in a mixture of half soil and half sand once they have fully calloused over. Your plant could rot if it were buried any deeper.
  • For the first month, don’t water it because the pad already has enough moisture to survive.
  • Until roots develop during the course of the following month, support it with rocks or another type of structure. Your plant should be able to stand on its own after a month, but if it’s still a little unsteady, keep providing support.
  • You can water it at this time and follow the previous watering instructions, just make sure to let it totally dry between waterings.

Flowers and fruit normally start to appear on young plants by the second or third growing pad.

How should an opuntia be cared for?

Grow your prickly pear cactus in a warm, sunny location with winter temperatures that don’t drop below 10C. To promote flowering, protect it from intense, direct sunlight in the summer and relocate it to a colder location in the winter.

For your prickly pear plant, are you looking for a pretty pot cover? See our list of the top 10 indoor plant containers.

How to plant prickly pear cactus

Put your prickly pear into a pot that is the same size as the rootball or a little larger while wearing gloves. The pot must have a drainage hole. Use a compost made from succulents or cacti, or combine compost made from soil and perlite 3:2.

Caring for prickly pear cactus

When the compost starts to dry out, water it and let any extra water run away. From spring until early autumn, fertilize your cacti once every two months. To encourage blossoms in the winter, relocate to a colder area. Young plants should be repotted every spring, and mature plants every few years.

How to propagate prickly pear cactus

Prickly pear cactus can be grown from seeds, however cuttings are the simplest way to spread them. Use tongs or tweezers if necessary. Here is our detailed instruction on how to take cuttings from prickly pears:

  • Using a knife, trim off a healthy piece of stem that is at least 10 cm long. Once the wounded surfaces have healed, place the cuttings on a window sill and let them there.
  • Insert the base of each cutting to a depth of about 2 cm, or deep enough so that it stands up, in a 7 cm or 9 cm pot filled with cactus compost.
  • After heavily watering, set the pot on a warm ledge that’s preferable out of the sun. Cuttings of succulents or cacti shouldn’t be put in propagators or covered with plastic bags.
  • Watch the cutting and moisten the compost when it feels dry. The majority of cactus and succulent cuttings take a month or less to root, although new growth could take longer.

How should a prickly pear cactus be cared for indoors?

Opuntia species, including prickly pears, are relatively common desert cactus planted as indoor houseplants. They have wide, flat, thick, spine-covered pads on segmented stems that are exceedingly decorative.

Others contain small, hair-like barbs that detach upon contact with the plant, stick in the flesh, and can be challenging to remove, so treat with caution. Some have huge, rounded spines.

The edible, lemon- or plum-shaped prickly pear fruit of several Opuntia species, commonly referred to as “Indian figs,” is becoming into a delicacy in the UK. They are attractive and colorful as well. When fully grown, the meat inside turns orange and the outside turns bright red. When ripe, some types have a yellow outside and a green interior. These are utilized in syrups, preserves, and jellies because they aren’t quite as sweet. However, for plants to grow healthy fruit in the UK, the environment must be ideal.


Prickly pears should be cultivated inside in a conservatory or heated greenhouse with good, all-around lighting, ideally with a south or west facing aspect. In the summer, they require 4-6 hours of direct sunlight.

Although they are not cold- or frost-resistant, they can be brought outside in the summer to a warm, sunny patio. Make sure to bring them inside before the early autumn weather turns chilly.

They require minimum spring and summer temperatures of 18C (65F), however while they are dormant, they prefer colder temperatures of 7-13C (45-55F). Keep them away from radiators, direct heat, draughts, and fans, which can lead to temperature changes.

Prickly pear cactus varieties

Opuntia has more than 200 different species. From low-growing plants that grow to a height of 30 cm (1 foot) to those that can easily reach 5.4 m (18ft).

Opuntia microdasys, sometimes known as bunny ears, is likely the best kind to cultivate at home. Only reaching heights of 30-45cm (12-18in), it has oval pads covered in tufts of tiny, golden spines. But don’t let their diminutive size deceive you; if they get caught in your fingers, these tiny barbs can be just as unpleasant as much larger spines.

Planting prickly pear cacti

They require a compost that is extremely well-drained, just like all other desert cactus, so either add more grit to John Innes Compost or, even better, use a compost that is recommended for cacti and succulents.

To give the compost a natural, finished appearance and to help prevent the plant’s base from lying in wet compost, add a topdressing of gravel, pebbles, or sharp sand on top of the compost.

When working with the plants, be mindful of the spines. It is preferable to wear gloves and wrap a collar made of rolled-up newspaper around the stem when potting up or otherwise moving the plants.

How to care for prickly pear cacti

Many people mistakenly believe that desert cacti don’t require any watering. They can withstand extended droughts by storing water in their stems, but if given enough water, they develop and blossom considerably more effectively. When plants are growing (from March/April to September), water them heavily, but when they are dormant, water them less frequently—once or twice a month may be adequate. Before watering it once more, let the compost somewhat dry out. Never let the pot sit in water; always let the compost drain.

Feed with a balanced liquid feed once a month from late spring to late summer while plants are growing; do not feed in the fall and winter.

Only when it is absolutely necessary, such as when they become very potbound or outgrow their current container, can prickly pears be replanted. Repotting should only be done in late spring or early summer into a larger pot.

How can the Opuntia cactus be saved?

This article could be helpful if you’re trying to figure out How To Save a Dying Cactus. Cacti are popular among those who buy and care for them. It’s distressing when they are ill because they’ve probably been around for a while. Follow these instructions to save a cactus at your residence or place of business.


Overwatering is typically indicated by rotting. It is necessary to remove the black or brown portions of the cactus. After then, you must decide whether your soil is entirely saturated and needs to be placed in a new pot with fresh soil, or if you can wait till it dries out and then resume your new watering regimen. Use a mixture of one part peat, two parts garden soil, and two parts coarse sand if you opt to repot your cactus.


Your cactus can be receiving too much or not enough sunshine, depending on the amount of light that is available. More sunlight should be supplied to cacti that are elongating or rounded. For optimal results, either move the plant during the middle of the day or place it where it receives more daily hours of sunlight.


You should apply water to cacti that appear wilting, are shrinking, or are wrinkled. To prevent root rot, it’s crucial to let the soil completely dry up before watering. If your cactus is in a pot, make sure it can quickly drain any extra water. Depending on the season and temperature, watering should be modified. You should water indoor plants once a week throughout the hottest months of the year. You should scale back on that during the cooler months of the year and only water when the soil is fully dry. When the weather is extremely dry and there is no chance of rain, you should keep an eye on the soil and water in the outdoor area. Find out here how to water a cactus.


When the cactus’ flesh is covered in dirt or dust, it cannot properly process the light. To rinse off this residue, use a soft sponge or rag. You have two options for cleaning it: either rinse your cactus under the sink’s tap or use a sponge moistened with water and a little dish soap. To gently rinse off your cactus outside, use a house.


Pests and insects also destroy cacti. They’ll make your cactus sick and produce discoloration in certain areas. Common insects that affect cactus include mealybugs and spider mites. For spider mite remedies, visit your neighborhood nursery. To get rid of mealybugs, try rubbing alcohol. Tiny red spiders called spider mites spin sheets-like webs. Clusters of powdered white mealybugs can be seen.


Use fertilizer when the growth season first begins, which is often around March. Different ratios are used while mixing and packaging fertilizer. The nitrogen should be rated at 10, which is the ideal ratio for cactus. This indicates that a 10 (N)30 (P)20 is a typical answer (K). Avoid using too much nitrogen because it may hinder growth and give your plants a flabby texture.

Why is my opuntia acting up?

The fungus Colletotrichum (Gleosporium) spp. causes cactus anthracnose, which primarily affects Opuntia and Cereus but also affects Echinocactus, Mammillaria, and other cacti (prickly pear). Infection causes a wet, light brown rot that is covered in numerous light pink pustules. Small pustules that produce spores first cover small spots before they eventually expand and become larger. Large areas could be impacted, and sometimes entire plants could be destroyed. Other than removing and eliminating infected cladodes as soon as they are discovered, there is no effective control method. It is advisable to clean the benches in the greenhouse and remove soil from diseased plants. A copper fungicide spraying could help stop the sickness.

In Texas, the fungus Stevensea (Diplotheca) wrightii, which causes charcoal spot, is a frequent and harmful condition of opuntia. Small spots that are typically one-fourth inches in diameter or larger first develop. A ring of tiny raised dots, which are the fruiting structures, surrounds the spots. Later, the spots get larger, but they don’t merge. Infected plants have no defenses against them. Destroy and remove sick specimens.

Phyllosticta concava and Mycosphaerella species of fungi cause dry rot. The spots begin as tiny, black circles that grow larger over time until they have a diameter of one to two inches. The emergence of callus tissue prevents further advancement. Infected tissue exhibits tiny fruiting structures. The disease is partially physiological and is primarily impacted by soil moisture. Destroy and remove sick specimens.

The prickly pear cactus is frequently affected by the deadly illness Scorch or Sunscald (fungus Henrsonia opuntiae) (Opuntia). At first, spots are clearly demarcated; over time, they enlarge until the entire cladode turns a reddish brown and eventually perishes. The diseased region’s core is cracked and has a grayish-brown color. The infected area may also contain other fungi. No workable control has been created.

Several members of the cactus family are vulnerable to attack by the fungus known as cotton root rot (Phymatotrichum omnivorum). Infected plants pass away. Brown threads of the fungus can be seen growing on the root surface when the plant is taken from the soil. There isn’t a control method accessible. See the section on cotton root rot for further details.

Erwinia carotovora, the bacteria that causes soft rot, enters tissue through cuts and other natural holes. High humidity promotes the bacteria’s rapid reproduction, which allows it to spread to healthy plant sections. Diseased tissue deteriorates quickly and is fluid, soft, and dark. The progression of the disease might be stopped if the environment becomes dry. The best prevention is avoiding wounds, treating broken surfaces as soon as possible with a copper fungicide, and avoiding having plants in areas with excessive humidity.

The majority of cactus and succulent plants are susceptible to infection by root knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.). When clean, washed roots are seen, the disease can be distinguished because infected roots exhibit tiny galls that are typical of the illness. Before planting, sterilize or fumigate the soil. See the section on Root Knot for further details.

Fusarium oxysporum (Fusarium rot), Macrophomina phaseolina (Charcoal rot), Septoria spp., Helminthosporium cactivorum, and Aspergillus alliaceus are further fungi known to infect cactus (Stem and branch rot).

Physical scab: A prevalent condition on prickly pear cacti. The stems develop patches that are corky and rusty. Scab is believed to be a type of edema brought on by overwatering and inadequate ventilation. To manage, increase light and decrease humidity.

The fungus Drechslera cactivorum causes stem rot in cacti, which shrinks the plant into the shape of a mummy and coats it with brown spores. Yellow patches are the first symptoms. A plant can rot to the core in just four days. Captan, a fungicide, ought to provide some control.