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How to Grow a Nopal Cactus

By Frank Whittemore ; Updated September 21, 2017

Nopal cactus, also known as prickly pear cactus, can be grown for appearance, food and commercial value. Nopal also has uses as a source of fibers for clothing and fodder for livestock. While nopal cactus can be grown from seeds, it is more easily propagated from cuttings. Nopal grows relatively quickly and requires little attention.

Using a sharp knife, remove a cutting from the parent cactus just above a stem joint between pads. Square the end of the cutting off and dust the cut with rooting compound. Allow the cut to air dry for one to two weeks until it has completely callused.

Prepare a planting mixture by combining 20 percent top soil, 10 percent peat moss, and 70 percent pumice. Fill a 1 gallon container with the planting mixture.

Place the cut end of the cutting approximately 1 inch into the soil; just deep enough to prevent it from falling over. Do not water at this time.

Place the cutting in the sun, and position the pad to align the thin sides north/south to prevent the sun from burning the cutting during the hottest part of the day.

Watch for signs of growth within four to six weeks; these signs include the cutting plumping up and new growth tips forming.

Transplant your new nopal cactus outdoors, if it can be grown in your area. Ensure the soil drains well and has a sufficient mix of organic and inorganic material. If nopal cactus will not grow in your area, continue to grow the cactus as a house plant.

Water infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. Wait for several months to start harvesting either pads or fruit.


Things You Will Need

  • Sharp knife
  • 1 gallon container
  • Peat moss
  • Top soil
  • Pumice


About the Author


In Jacksonville, Fla., Frank Whittemore is a content strategist with over a decade of experience as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy and a licensed paramedic. He has over 15 years experience writing for several Fortune 500 companies. Whittemore writes on topics in medicine, nature, science, technology, the arts, cuisine, travel and sports.