Prickly Pear Cactus Growing Guide

Opuntia ficus-indica, Opuntia humifusa

Prickly Pear Cactus

Crop Rotation Group



Fertile, well-drained soil.


Full sun.

Frost tolerant

Tropical prickly pear cannot tolerate freezing weather. Hardy prickly pear tolerates winter cold to -34°C (-30°F).


None needed.


Single Plants: 60cm (1' 11") each way (minimum)
Rows: 60cm (1' 11") with 60cm (1' 11") row gap (minimum)

Sow and Plant

Prickly pear cactus can be started from seed, but it takes three years for seedlings to reach maturity. Instead, start with a container-grown plant, or root a pad shared by a friend. Allow the cut pad to heal for at least a week before setting it in sandy, well-drained soil. Spring to early summer are the best seasons for planting prickly pear cactus. Young plants need water their first year, but after that prickly pear is very drought tolerant.
Our Garden Planner can produce a personalised calendar of when to sow, plant and harvest for your area.


Wear thick gloves when handling this plant. When transplanting, it helps to wrap the plant in paper to reduce injury to you and the cactus. Tropical prickly pear grows into a huge plant, bearing flowers that many be white, yellow, or red. Hardy prickly pear blooms yellow in summer. The young pads of all species are edible. Hardy prickly pear is a native American plant. It is an outstanding choice for dry, rocky places that bake in the sun.


Gather young pads for eating in early summer.


Prickly pear cactus is trouble-free when grown in a sunny site.

Planting and Harvesting Calendar

< Back to All Plants

Pests which Affect Prickly Pear Cactus