How to Grow Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly pear cactus has over 200 Opuntia species and grows in the wild even in Michigan. Potted plants grow up to 12 inches, but reach heights of 10 feet in dry southern regions. This cactus produces edible stems and its fruit tastes somewhat like kiwi, making it a good choice for jam and jelly. The purebred cactus grows bright yellow flowers three to four inches wide by mid-summer. Here is how to grow your own prickly pear cactus.

Choose a potted plant for indoors or consider growing the cactus in a rock garden. Read the label for your zone when planting outside; some species are not snow- or frost-resistant.

Provide good drainage with pre-made cactus mix or a mixture of sand and pumice. Place the prickly pear cactus in a location that receives full sun or a small amount of shade.

Water the soil lightly and only when dry.

To grow a new plant from the original one, remove a side pad from its supporting pad with a knife and place one inch in another pot or location. Wear garden gloves when handling.

Let the pad use its own moisture to sprout roots within a month. Watering makes the pad susceptible to rot.

Fertilize prickly pear with a non-nitrogen 0-10-10 fertilizer once a month for more flowers. Use high-nitrogen fertilizer for larger pads.

Grow prickly pear cactus seeds in a shady location until they sprout. Repeat Steps 1 to 3 allowing at least three years for flowers. Buy seeds at a nursery or order online through a seed company.


Handle the plant with caution. Its barbed spines and small tufts of bristles have sharp points and edges. Some people develop allergic reactions and irritations from handling cacti, so always wear garden gloves.

Things You'll Need

  • Pot
  • Cactus mix
  • Sand
  • Pumice
  • Knife
  • Garden gloves
  • Fertilizer
  • Seeds
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author