Where To Plant Prickly Pear Cactus

As cacti, prickly pears require well-draining soil above anything else. Plant on a sandy or gravely mixture in full sun, and use minimal water. Additionally, if your plants seem to deflate throughout the winter, this is a normal reaction to hibernation, and they will reappear full in the spring.

The best places to grow prickly pears are?

The house landscape should include drought-tolerant plants. In USDA plant hardiness zones 9 to 11, prickly pear plants make wonderful specimens for dry gardens. In colder regions, prickly pears can be grown in containers that can be brought indoors when the weather turns chilly. The easiest way to answer the question “How to grow prickly pear?” is to provide some background information about the plant.

A prickly pear cactus needs how much sun?

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.

Can prickly pear cactus be grown in pots?

Pick a container with plenty of drainage holes at the bottom when growing prickly pears in containers. Given that these plants will sprawl as they grow, it is a good idea to select a low, broad pot to offer a nice balance. Fill it with a potting mix that drains well, such as one prepared especially for succulents and cacti.

Are prickly pears shade-tolerant?

Light. The eastern prickly pear thrives in full sun for at least eight hours a day, as do the majority of cacti. However, if it is planted in hotter temperatures, such as a more conventional desert environment, it may tolerate some partial shadow.

Are prickly pears sun-sensitive?

The prickly pear needs dry weather, soil that drains well, and lots of sunlight to thrive, just like all cacti. When planting outdoors, make sure they receive the sunniest, driest place in your garden. Make sure your pot has drainage holes in the bottom if you’re growing your plant indoors, advises Churchill. If there is any water gathering in the saucer under your pot, you’ll want to dump it to prevent it from being absorbed back into the soil and causing the roots to rot. “Allow the soil to become dry then water sparingly with lukewarm water until you see water pouring out of the bottom of your container.” Use a cactus-safe ingredient to give your prickly pear a boost. “Fertilize using an all-purpose plant fertilizer once in the spring and once in the summer (look for one that’s high in nitrogen to accelerate pad growth).”


Prickly pears don’t need to be pruned, but they can be trimmed back. To keep the pads’ size and shape, take out individual ones as necessary. Holding the pad in place with tongs, cut it off at the junction or line where it attaches to the following pad. Pads can be calloused off and shared with pals or planted somewhere else. Find out more about propagation below.

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.

On fresh plants, flowers and fruit will normally appear by the second or third pad that grows.

How far down do the roots of prickly pear cacti go?


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 frequently should a prickly pear be watered?

Too much watering of your cacti can lead to soggy conditions and even root rot, a potentially fatal illness. During the hot and dry summer, young prickly-pear cactus only require watering once every two to three weeks. Although exact watering needs vary depending on the cactus species and the quantity of rainfall they receive during the cooler months, once established, cacti can typically thrive off of rainwater.

How long does a prickly pear cactus live?

The large, flat, green pads of the Opuntia engelmannii, also known as the Engelmann prickly pear cactus, are a sure sign of its presence.

The 3″ long white spines might be straight, curled, or flat. They are also covered in glochids, which are very tiny, barbed hairs. Each pad has several areoles, which are common central locations from which groups of up to six spines might arise. The golden flowers bloom between May and June. Beginning in July, ripe fruit can be discovered; they are recognized by their vivid red hue.

Prickly pears can be found growing in sandy or gravelly places, along rocky hillsides, around boulders, and in washes.

Prickly pears of the Englemann variety can be found throughout much of the arid southwest, from central Texas through southern California’s interior. Their distribution extends into central Mexico’s Sonora state as well as northern Baja California.

Prickly pear cacti come in a number of various types, each of which has a range of sizes. The Engelmann prickly pear, which may reach a height of 5 feet and a width of 10 to 15 feet, is the most widespread species in the Sonoran Desert.

  • This cactus’ crimson fruit, which resembles a pear, is also called as “tuna.”
  • Texas’ official state cactus is the prickly pear.
  • At the foot of these plants, packrats frequently construct dens, which therefore offer refuge from some of its predators.

Prickly pears can they endure winter?

Given that the Brittle Prickly Pear cactus can survive temperatures as low as -35 degrees Fahrenheit, it is safe to infer that it could survive almost all of North America’s winters.

In the spring and summer, this lovely cactus can produce vivid, 2-inch yellow flowers. While some plants only bloom once a year (or once every other year), others don’t even bloom at all, blossoming can be unpredictable. The Brittle Prickly Pear’s spikes, which may get up to an inch long and are typically in clusters, are nothing to giggle at. These plants are appropriate for outdoor use because they can grow fairly huge, spanning many feet broad and tall.

In vast gardens that see yearly doses of sharply falling temperatures, the Brittle Prickly Pear is a lovely alternative that would thrive.

The prickly pear cactus spreads in what way?

The most typical way that prickly pears spread is through vegetative reproduction from detached pads. When stem segments (pads) fall off due to forceful rain, strong winds, or passing animals, each segment can take root and grow a new plant.

What creatures consume prickly pear cacti?

Try to picture a world without cacti. Until explorers to the New World started returning with strange plant specimens unlike anything botanists of the period had seen, that was the world that many people lived in. Cactus were common in the Americas, however it is believed that Christopher Columbus gave a prickly pear specimen to Queen Isabella of Spain, who was the first European to witness a cactus. Numerous regions of the Americas, including the Galapagos Islands and many Caribbean islands, are home to diverse prickly pear cacti. These days, you might even find these prickly jewels in parts of the Old World because some species have gotten out of cultivation and naturalized.

Critical players in animal communities include prickly pears. Tortoises, iguanas, rabbits, deer, peccaries, and numerous species of birds all eat different sections of prickly pears. Numerous rodent species, reptiles, and birds, notably cactus wrens, find shelter there.