Learn more about Prickly Pear- Growth, Care and Nutritional Facts and Benefits

Learn more about Prickly Pear- Growth, Care and Nutritional Facts and Benefits

The Prickly Pear Cactus comes from the Genus Opuntia, and thus is often referred to as the Opuntia Prickly Pear Cactus. The Opuntia Prickly Pear cactus is often referred to as the Nopal plant as well.

A member of the Cactaceae plant family, the Prickly Pear Cactus is native to the region of the Western hemisphere. The Prickly Pear is also a widely popular part of the tropical and subtropical countries around the world.

A very popular identification of the Prickly Pear Cactus is that all of its varieties bear fleshly and flat pads that give off an illusion of leaves. But these leaf-like structures are branches of the plant and help in functions like flower production, photosynthesis and water storage. The plants are also covered with glochids, tiny barbed spines that can easily be detached from the plant.

Prickly Pear Cactus Flowering/ Flowers on Prickly Pear

Blooms during June or July

The Prickly Pear cactus is a flowering plant. The Prickly Pear flowering can differ in a variety of colours, even in the plants of the same species. Some of the common colours of the Prickly pear flower are purple, red, white, yellow, etc. The flowers are seen mostly in the month of June or July.

Green Prickly Pear/ Green Cactus Pear 

Known as Tuna fruits

Once pollinated, the flowers of the Prickly pear Cactus become capable of producing fruits. The Prickly pear fruit is known as tuna, while several people also refer to it as the Tuna fruit.

Prickly Pear Benefits

Offers several benefits

Several studies have established that the Prickly Pear Cactus is effective in treating Type 2 diabetes. It can help by decreasing the sugar level in the blood of people suffering from Type 2 diabetes. The plant also helps in keeping cholesterol under control, while also helping to deal with obesity.

The Prickly Pear Cactus is also bestowed with certain effective anti-inflammatory qualities. This makes the Prickly Pear Cactus an effective cure to hangovers, as it lessens the unpleasant effects of alcohol on the human body.

However, you should always talk with a resourceful person, like a doctor, nutritionist or dietician, before consuming a Prickly Pear Cactus. Mild diarrhea, nausea and abdominal fullness are some mild reactions that can be caused by this consumption.

How fast do Prickly Pear Cactus grow?

The growth of the Prickly Pear Cactus is rather slow. As compared to other general houseplants, the Prickly Pear Cactus has a rather gradual growth. However, this growth rate is different in different varieties of the plant.

Prickly Pear Cactus Indoors

The Opuntia Prickly Pear Cactus or the Nopal plant is a versatile plant. It can easily be grown in a variety of outdoor and indoor spaces.

When it comes to growing a Prickly Pear Cactus indoors, it is a very easy and efficient process. One can easily grow a potted Prickly Pear Cactus indoors, but only with proper care.

Prickly Pear Plant Soil

The ideal potting mix for the Prickly Pear Cactus is something that is rich in organic matter and is a nice mixture of sand, soil and peat moss. The soil should also be well-draining, to prevent the roots in case the plant gets over-watered.

The soil must be kept moist. The plant should be watered as and when the top layer of the soil starts to dry out. This helps to maintain moisture in the plant while also helping one to settle on an ideal time of watering the plant.

Prickly Pear Adaptations

The Prickly Pear is a Cactus and thus prefers to be brought out in the full sun. For best growth, the plant must be exposed to around 8 hours of bright sunlight every day. In hotter regions, the plant can grow quite well even when placed in partially shaded areas. Exposure to bright sunlight boosts the growth of the plant and also ensures blooms.

Although the Prickly Pear is a kind of Cactus, the water requirement of the plant is usually a little higher than other general Cacti. The plant can also survive long periods of drought as it has water stored in the pads. However, it is essential to stick to an adequate watering schedule to keep the plant thriving and in good health.

As a Cactus, the Prickly Pear does best in warm temperatures. At the least, the plant should be placed in temperatures above 14 degrees Celsius, not any less than that. But warm temperatures are necessary to facilitate faster growth in the plant.

When planted outdoors, the Prickly Pear Cactus can easily thrive with any fertilizer whatsoever. But when planted indoors, the plant should be occasionally fed with a well-balanced fertilizer. The plant should be fertilized as and when the colour of the pads seems to be fading away. Fertilization should be done during the growing season and should be completely avoided during the fall and the winter season.

Types of Prickly Pear Cactus

There are several different varieties of the Prickly Pear Cactus. Here, we have enlisted some of the most popular and also common varieties of the Prickly Pear plant.

Engelmann Prickly Pear Cactus

The Engelmann Prickly Pear Cactus is a rather popular variety of the Prickly Pear plant. Native to the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts, the Engelmann Prickly pear Cactus is marked by its deep green and broad blue-green pads. The plant is producing flowers that are yellow but turn peachy as they age.

Indian Fig

Scientifically referred to as the Ficus Indica, the Indian Fig is one of the most popular Prickly Pear varieties. The Indian Fig can grow as a bush as well as a tree. The plant grows up to measures roughly around 5.5 metres in height. The Indian Fig produces several tiny yellow blooms and white, reddish-purple, or yellow Prickly Pear fruits.

Texas Prickly Pear

Contrary to what the name suggests, the Texas Prickly Pear is native to the Chihuahuan deserts. It is scientifically known as the Opuntia Lindheimeri. It can grow around 5.5 feet in height. The plant has ovulated pads that are covered with yellow translucent spines and beautiful yellow flowers.

Spineless Prickly Pear/ Spineless Cactus Plant

The Spineless Prickly pear or the Spineless Cactus plants are called so just because they do not have any prickly spines that can be a hurdle in contact with the plant. Here are some popular varieties of the Spineless Prickly Pear Cactus.

Beavertail Cactus

The Beavertail Cactus gets its name as plant pads are shaped like a beaver’s tail. The plant is scientifically referred to as the Opuntia Basilaris is native to the Sonoran deserts. The Beavertail Cactus has grey-green leaves and exquisite rose-gold coloured flowers. The plant can easily grow up to a height of around 12 to 18 inches.

Blind Prickly Pear

Scientifically referred to as the Opuntia Rufida, the Blind Prickly Pear is native to Texas . The plant can grow up to 6 feet in height and has circular pads, growing roughly up to 6 inches, that is covered with velvety red glochids. The flowers on the Blind prickly Pear first appear yellow and turn orange as they mature.

Santa Rita Prickly Pear

Native to the deserts of Chihuahua, the Santa Rita Prickly Pear can easily grow up to 6 feet in height. Also known as Opuntia Violacea, the hairless pads of the Santa Rita Prickly Pear Cactus are of lavender or purple colour. The blooms of this Cactus are a beautiful shade of lemon yellow.

Transplanting Prickly Pear

The Prickly pear plant requires repotting or transplanting only when the plant outgrows the container. Repotting should be taken up during the spring season as it embarks the beginning of the growing season of the plant.

Prickly Pear Cactus Propagation

Prickly Pear Cactus propagation is an easy task when done through the pads of the plant. Here’s is a step-by-step breakdown on propagating a Prickly Pear Cactus.

  • Gently cut off a pad from a healthy Prickly Pear Cactus using a sterilized knife. See to it that the pad is completely healthy and also that it has aged at least 6 months.
  • Let the cutting out stay undisturbed for some days as this allows the cut end to turn dry. This waiting period can be around 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Prepare a planter that is of the right size, not too big or small. Fill the planter up with some nice good quality potting mix, that is also well-draining.
  • Place the cutting into the soil, making sure that the cut end is an inch deep inside the soil. You can also add some rocks for support.
  • Place the planter at a location that is appropriate for the plant’s growth. Wait around a month or so to begin watering.
  • In around a month or so, the cutting will become stable enough to stand on its own, without any kind of support whatsoever.
  • Once the plant is stable enough, you can shift to a normal watering routine, one that you use for the other prickly pear Cacti in the house.

Prickly Pear from Seed

Growing a Prickly Pear from its seeds is no piece of cake. The growth rate of the plant is very slow when grown from seeds. It can easily take around 3 to 4 years for the seeds to bloom and start producing tuna fruits.

Here is a step-by-step guide for anyone interested to grow Prickly Pear from seeds.

  • To begin with, take the pulp out from the seeds. Make sure that the seeds are clean. Once clean, dry the seeds out.
  • Then, take a seed container and fill it up with some good quality, well-draining potting mix,preferrably rich in organic matter.
  • Gently and carefully place the seeds deep inside the soil. Maintain a gap of atleast 5 centimeters between every two seed.

For the best results and fast growth, plant the seeds in the spring season.

Prickly Pear Yellowing

Prickly pear yellowing is an indication of the plant suffering from sunburn. The plant surely loves the full sun but excess exposure to direct sunlight can be quite harmful to the plant. As the appearance of the plant starts turning yellow, the epidermis of the plant gets affected by sunburn, causing some serious damage.


Here we have answered some FAQS to help you know more about the Prickly Pear Cactus.

Are prickly pears illegal?

Out of the several different varieties of the Pricjly Pear cactus, some varieties are considered to be illegal in certain places around the world. For example, the Blind Cactus is considered to be an illegal variety in Australia.

How fast does prickly pear cactus grow?

The Prickly Pear Cactus is a slow grower, but it also depends on the variety and care of the plant. With the proper care, a cutting of the Prickly Pear plant can grow capable of producing flowers and fruits in a while. While those grown from seeds can take around 4 years to start producing blooms and fruits.

Can you eat a prickly pear?

Yes, the prickly pear fruit is edible. Known as the tuna fruit, the Prickly pear fruit also has several health benefits attached to it. However, one must always be cautious and consult a resourceful person before consuming it.

What are the health benefits of a prickly pear?

There are several health benefits of prickly pear. It has several anti-inflammatory properties that are effective in curing hangovers. It is also effective in treating Type 2 diabetes and helps to keep Cholesterol in control.

What is the use of prickly pear and how it is made?

The leaves, flowers, fruits and stems of the Prickly Pear are edible. While the fruits can also be eaten raw, there are certain ways of preparing the parts of the plant to be eaten. Among these, boiling is a common method, so is juicing.

What are the uses of prickly pears?

The Prickly Pear Cactus is bestowed with certain effective anti-inflammatory qualities. This makes the Prickly Pear Cactus an effective cure to hangovers, as it lessens the unpleasant effects of alcohol on the human body.

What are prickly pears side effects?

Mild diarrhea, nausea and abdominal fullness are some mild reactions that can be caused by the consumption of Prickly pear Cactus.



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