Where To Buy Nopal Cactus Plants

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.

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

Where may nopales be grown?

A fruiting cactus called nopal is grown for its delicious pads. Cactus pads are frequently used as an ingredient in many Mexican cuisines. They taste like asparagus and green beans and are used as vegetables.

Opuntia cacti and their pads are both referred to as “nopal” in Spanish. Approximately 114 native species to the semi-arid regions of the Americas are currently known. Mexico, the Mediterranean, and other semi-arid to sub-topical climates are among the places where it grows in profusion.

Looking for a plant to line your property with that is decorative, practical, and edible? Nopal cacti are the perfect solution for a lovely hedge! It can thrive in a variety of soil types, temperatures, and moisture levels, although it prefers sunny, arid environments. Nopal cactus plants typically reach heights and widths of around 7 feet. The fruit can grow to be approximately the size of a fist, and the edible pads are typically between 4 and 10 inches long.

Moisture & Soil Sandy, dry, and permeable earth. thrives in pumice or even a cactus soil combination.

Can nopales be grown easily?

According to UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Richard Molinar, nopales are simple to cultivate and grow in most areas of California. They may add interest to any landscape and, when harvested, provide many dishes a flavor reminiscent of green beans.

In the speciality crops demonstration field at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Molinar has grown a sample of spineless and spined cactus plant kinds. He claimed that as the earth warms and the risk of freezing passes in late winter, this is the best time to prepare for planting nopales.

Nopales can be grown from seed, however the development is slow. Pads allow for easier and quicker propagation. Cut a pad that is at least six months old from a cactus that is growing; these can be found in nurseries or in the yards of friends or neighbors. Sit the pad upright while a callus grows. In warm weather, this process takes a week or two; in humid conditions, it takes longer.

Set the pad down when planting it upright and about an inch deep in a mixture of soil and sand or coarse pumice. Too much burying of the pad will promote decay. To keep the pad upright, secure it with pebbles. To avoid sunburn in locations with harsh summer sun, position the pad so that the broad side faces east and west and the small side faces north and south. Irrigate not. Roots can emerge when there is enough moisture in the pad, and too much moisture can lead to decay. Irrigate once roots have developed (in about a month) and let the soil totally dry in between irrigations. Before starting to harvest, wait a few months.

In Molinar’s field, nopal pads fell to the ground, took root, and started growing entirely on their own, demonstrating how simple nopal propagation is.

Use a high-nitrogen fertilizer to feed the nopales. Well-maintained plants can be harvested up to six times per year in warm regions, and mature plants can produce 20 to 40 half-pound pads for each harvest. Carefully cut the pads away from the supporting pads to remove them. Mid-morning to mid-afternoon is the optimal time of day to collect the pads because the acid level is at its lowest during this period.

At the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, there are nopales that have spines and those that don’t.

Cochineal scale is a significant pest of nopales. According to Molinar, numerous different species of spineless cacti failed at Kearney because of cochnieal. The nopales with spines appeared to be more pest-resistant.

The genetic composition of an individual rather than the spines themselves is what determines resistance, according to Molinar. “It was pretty clear. There were a few spineless varieties we had, but they weren’t attacked either.”

Cochineal scale has long been prized in Central America as a source of crimson dye. Cochineal scale was Mexico’s second-highest valued export during the colonial era, behind silver; but, as synthetic colors emerged, demand fell.

Fresh pads should be firm, brilliant green, and full of water. The smallest, young pads are the most succulent, delicate in flavor, and have the fewest spines. They can be harvested from the garden or bought at ethnic grocery stores and farmers markets.

Holding the pad’s base, scape both sides to remove the spines with a blunt knife. The pads should be peeled and then cut into cubes or shoestring-length strips. They can be consumed raw in salads, cooked with shellfish, pork, chilies, tomatoes, eggs, coriander, garlic, and onions, or boiled and fried like eggplant. They can also be pickled with various spices.

How are nopal leaves grown?

Native to Mexico and the American Southwest, the nopal cactus (Opuntia spp.) is often referred to as the prickly pear or paddle cactus. The plant thrives in hot desert climates but may also be grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 3b through 11. This hardy cactus, which thrives in poor soil and a range of difficult growing conditions, is simple to grow and very simple to propagate when the plant is actively growing between spring and autumn.

Slice off a nopal cactus leaf. Use a clean, sharp knife, and make the cut at the joint. Wipe the knife with rubbing alcohol or a solution of 10 parts water to 1 part bleach to sanitize it.

Place the cut end of the cactus leaf in a warm, well-ventilated area of your home or outdoor space for one to two weeks, or until a hard callus forms. The callus shields the leaf from bacterial decay. Keep the leaf away from the sun’s harsh rays.

Using a mixture of two parts commercial potting soil for cacti and succulents and one part clean, gritty sand, fill a 3- to 5-inch container two-thirds full. Use a pot with a drainage hole, please.

With the callused end facing down, bury the cactus leaf in the potting soil about one inch deep. You can grow several in one pot if the leaves are small. To be safe, space each leaf out by at least 1 inch. Add sand to the top of the potting mix, about 1/4 inch thick.

Put the pot where bright, indirect light will reach the cactus leaves. Keep the cuttings away from bright, direct sunlight. The ideal range for temperatures is 64 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Withhold water until new growth appears, which typically takes two to six weeks. After that, water the potting mix lightly, adding just enough liquid to keep it moist.

Can nopales be grown indoors?

A few criteria must be met in order for the prickly pear cactus to flourish and grow healthily when grown indoors in containers. Prickly pear cacti prefer warm, humid environments and direct, bright light indoors. It is best to have a window that faces south or west. Keep the prickly pear cactus away from radiators, fans, and other direct heat sources as well as drafts that could change the temperature.

Because prickly pear cacti enjoy warm climates, they can be cultivated both indoors and in heated greenhouses or conservatories. The plant can be carried outside to a sunny, warm patio or deck in the summer and thrives with 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight. When the autumnal weather start to dip off, be sure to bring the plants back inside because they are not frost-resistant.

Can nopal be grown from cuttings?

Although prickly pear propagation is rather simple and easy, there are a few additional considerations. Look through for more information.

How do you root a broken piece of cactus?

Good news: the procedure is essentially unchanged. I frequently propagate succulents in this manner. A leaf splits off? I’ll preserve it and spread it! Pads on prickly pears can be removed quite easily. If the plant is in a container outside, it could get knocked over by a storm and the pad could come off. You can save the cactus and pad if they are in good condition.

In fact, you can probably simply place it in the same pot as the plant from which it was broken off. This will also produce a fuller, more fascinating appearance. particularly if the pads have various heights.

Will a cactus root in water?

Absolutely, yes. Cacti can be rooted in either soil or water. Water does not provide nutrients, but it does promote the growth of a distinct type of root. I advise avoiding water rooting entirely and going straight to soil because prickly pear roots so easily there. In soil, it also takes root more quickly.

How fast do prickly pear cactus grow?

Prickly pears grow fairly slowly, based on my personal experience growing them in pots both indoors and outdoors. Every summer, each pad produced 12 new baby pads. However, your plant will probably grow more quickly if you have a longer growth season or more time with warmer temperatures.

If you have the option, prickly pears might, like many plants, thrive better planted in the ground. I have to keep mine in containers or dig them out and bring them inside because they wouldn’t survive the cold where I live. I choose pots!

Can cactus grow in shade?

Yes, but they particularly enjoy bright light. My prickly pears receive light from late morning until sunset when I keep them inside for the winter in a southeast-facing window. I expose them to full, direct sun all day long for about a week before I take them outside. They flourish there!

They would probably also thrive in the shade, as the amount of light they receive from a window with bright indirect light inside is probably roughly comparable. However, I advise giving them a warm summer vacation if you can.

How often should nopales be watered?

The most frequent reason for cacti failure is improper watering, whether it is done too much or too little. Cacti have evolved to store water for extended periods of time and can maintain moisture through droughts because they are endemic to arid regions and dry temperatures. They have a limited capacity, which is why over-watering can result in a variety of issues.

When it comes to regularity, watering your cacti will largely depend on the season but also on the variety. Checking the soil is the easiest technique to determine whether your cactus needs water: It’s time for a drink if the top inch is dry. That entails applying the “soak and dry procedure” on cactus.

What is the soak and dry method?

The soak and dry technique is thoroughly wetting the soil until part of it begins to flow out the drainage hole, then waiting until the mixture is nearly dry before wetting it once more. If done properly, this strategy will help them endure a period of under-watering should you need to travel or leave the house because it takes use of their natural tendency to store water (or if you just get busy and watering falls to the wayside, as happens to all of us now and again).

Watering during the growing season versus the inactive season

Like with many houseplants, the season affects how frequently you need water. It becomes more crucial that you get in the habit of examining the soil to determine whether your cacti are thirsty. A healthy cactus needs watering every one to two weeks during the growing season, according to general wisdom. The frequency changes to once every three to four weeks during the off-season.

Even then, it’s crucial to examine the soil. The same way that not all interior spaces and not all cacti are alike. The only way to be certain that your cactus require watering is to carefully examine the soil to determine how dry it is because there are so many different factors.