The prickly pear cactus adds a Southwest flair to any garden and needs little water. These plants are considered invasive because they propagate from pads separated from the main plant, but that also means it is easy to plant one in your garden. Trim your prickly bears to keep them in shape, or simply eat the highly nutritious and tasty young pads.
To grow your own prickly pear cactus, all you need is a pad from an established plant and some well-drained soil. The steps are outlined below.
Find an established prickly pear. They grow in a wide range of environments and in a variety of types. It is sometimes even possible to propagate a new cactus from a pad purchased in the grocery store.
If removing the pad from an established plant, come prepared with thick gloves, long tongs and covered skin. Not only are there sharp thorns, but many kinds of prickly pear also have tiny hairs called glochids. These hairs will embed themselves in your skin at the slightest contact and can only be removed with a magnifying glass and tweezers.
Use a sharp knife to remove the pad from the plant at the joint between pads.
Let the pad sit for a few days. The cut joint will dry out.
Place the cut joint into well-watered soil. Pick soil without a lot of organics and ensure that it drains well. Highly-fertilized potting soils may be good for your flowers, but not for your prickly pear.
Resist the urge to water regularly. Prickly pears are designed to handle drought and high heat. If the tips of the pads begin to wilt, add water. Otherwise, resist. A mature plant with pads swollen with water can actually lose pads due to the added weight.
Your pad will need a few weeks to 2 months to establish roots. Place it somewhere where it will get lots of sun for most of the day. If you planted your pad in its final home, then just wait and watch for new pad buds.
If you chose to pot your pad at first, transfer it to its final home once it has had time to establish itself. Whenever moving a cactus, be sure to protect your skin from the thorns and glochids.
Enjoy your new cactus. Within 5 years, a prickly pear cactus can grow to 15 feet tall and equally wide, so be prepared to trim as necessary to fit your yard.
You can grow a potted prickly pear cactus inside, but it will only grow to a few feet in size. Be sure to provide plenty of sun even for an indoor plant.