Can I root prickly pear pads that I buy (presumably for food) in the grocery store? It seems like it would be a great way to get some thornless prickly pear cacti growing. If I were to do it, I would want to grow them as houseplants (or else overwinter them in the winters).

Edit: I wouldn't try this now, whether or not I would have when I asked the question. There's too much risk of patents and breaking crop laws when you attempt to grow stuff from grocery store produce (e.g. growing grocery store garlic in Idaho carries a potentially hefty penalty). I know prickly pears probably aren't the world's most patented vegetables, but I still like to avoid grocery store produce. I didn't actually try it. Plus, those pads probably aren't very cold hardy; I'd rather buy some from coldhardycactus.com, or some such.

  • 1
    ...and why do you think it would be thornless? I'd be somewhat surprised if the grocery store item has not simply had its thorns removed in processing.
    – Ecnerwal
    Dec 13 '14 at 12:40
  • 1
    Prickly pears pads want to propagate, so just sticking them in soil is often enough: google.com/… Of course the grocers may spray prickly pear pads with some 'never-gro' chemical or other to foil your plans, but that seems doubtful. Christmas Cactus may also be propagated like this. Dec 13 '14 at 16:07
  • @Ecnerwal I haven't actually seen thornless ones in the stores, but I have read about them. There are at least two kinds of thornless prickly pear. One of them has the thornless trait while its seeds will produce thorned cacti. This kind, they sell in grocery stores, although I'm not sure where, yet. There's at least one other kind that will produce thornless ones from seed, but it's off in the wild somewhere, as far as I know. Maybe they sell it in stores, but maybe not. Dec 13 '14 at 17:08
  • I'm in Phoenix, AZ and nopales (prickly pear pads) can be regularly found in the local grocery. They can also be found scattered quite thickly in the surrounding landscape, but that's another story. Grocery store nopales often have the glochid-bearing areoles shaved off. The only species that are mostly glochid-free are Opuntia ficus-indica. It's the glochids, not the spines that will get you with Opuntia, IMO.
    – Tim Nevins
    Dec 7 '17 at 14:52

Yes, they will root if you put them into a very sandy, free-draining mix kept slightly damp at all times, preferably with bottom heat, but if that's not possible, keep it in a warm, bright place.

Light is essential, but extremely intense light at this time may dry out the pad. You won't have this issue during winter, as the sun is low in intensity.

The pads for use as food, as found in most stores, are stored in conditions unsuitable for root growth. Because of this, if I recall correctly, they are never sprayed with growth inhibitors.

These plants are naturally large outdoor plants in warm climates, and in good conditions will quickly grow too large for use as a houseplant for most homes. These good conditions include intense sun during the growing season, so keeping it outside over the summer will be beneficial.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.