When to plant:Cuttings can be started at any time, but you may have better results if planted in spring or summer. Seeds should be started in late spring.
Where to plant:Prickly pears need a location that receives full sun with well-draining soil.
How to plant:Transplant at the same level as they are currently growing; deeper planting may cause them to rot. Handle carefully, not just for your own safety, but the pads can get top-heavy and break off. An extra pair of hands can be valuable because prickly pears can be heavy and awkward to lift and place in the hole.
Other:Wear thick gloves and heavy long sleeves to guard against being poked by a spine or touching the skin-irritating glochids.
See more on starting from seed or pad cuttings under Propagation.
CAREPruning:It’s not necessary to prune prickly pears, but they can be cut back. Remove individual pads as needed to maintain shape and size. Use tongs to hold the pad and a sharp knife to cut it off at the joint, or line where it connects to the next pad. Pads can be calloused off to be planted elsewhere or shared with friends. See more on propagating below.
Soil:Prickly pears prefer alkaline to neutral soil. More importantly, however, the soil needs to drain well, as residual moisture or puddling can cause the plant to rot.
Amendments & Fertilizer:Fertilize young plants with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer. For established plants, a 5-10-10 or even 0-10-10 water-soluble fertilizer will promote more flowers and fruit. If you are growing for the pads, use a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen.
Watering:Prickly pears are extremely drought tolerant. Don’t water newly propagated pads for the first month. After that, water every two to four weeks for the first year — twice a month in summer and once a month other times of the year. In most areas, rainfall will be enough to sustain established plants. Supplement in times of drought with the twice-a-month/once-a-month seasonal schedule.
Opuntia, Prickly Pear, Propagating Prickly Pear"Dream Team's" Portland GardenAlamy Stock PhotoBrooklyn, NYA new prickly pear growing from a pad cutting. Photo by: Selma Jacquet / Alamy Stock Photo.
Propagation:Initial growth from seed is slow and it may take 3 to 4 years before your plant produces flowers and fruit. The seeds need shade to germinate and should be kept moist until that time.
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