Opuntia humifusa plant with fruit

Opuntia humifusa or Prickly Pear Cactus is from eastern North America, from the northeast to Florida.

It is a striking plant with beautiful large flowers.

It is very hardy and can not be grown as a houseplant. It needs a very well draining soil and a spot in full sun.


It grows in clumps, up to 30 cm high.

The pads are green, 4-10 cm long and 4-6 cm wide. The glochids are yellow or brown, to 3 mm long.

The flowers are yellow, funnel-shaped, 4-6 cm long and flower in late spring. The harsher the winter, the more profuse the flowering.

The fruits are fleshy, purple or red, 3-5 cm long.

The fruits are edible as well as young pads.

This is the ideal cactus for beginners because of the ease with which it is grown, its frost and moisture resistance.


The stems, fruits and seeds can be eaten. The stems are usually singed to remove the spines and are then roasted and peeled or fried. The leaf disks may be dried for later use. Fruits are eaten fresh or dried and may be used for jam or syrup. Seeds can be roasted and ground into flour. Indians used the slimy stem juice as a wound dressing.


Common names:

Creeping prickly-pear, Creeping pear, Devil’s tongue, Devils tongue, Eastern prickly-pear, Eastern prickly-pear, Eastern pricklypear, Large-flower prickly-pear, Low prickly pear, Low prickly-pear, Opuntia, Prickly pear, Pricklypear, Smooth prickly-pear, Spreading pricklypear


Opuntia: there are 2 theories, Opuntes oe Oponces, an ancient Greek people from a region where prickly pears grow or in reference to opuncia, the name given by Plinius to prickly pear.
Humifusa: from the Latin humus (soil) and fusus (sticking to)

Opuntia humifusa flower

Source: Bob Peterson

Opuntia humifusa flower


East coast of North America, from the north-east to Florida


The species occurs in sandy soil and rocks (ranging from granite to sandstone or limestone) of hills, valleys, and banks.


USDA Zone 4-10, -25 °C



Dry, sandy and well drained




Water sparingly


Fertilize sparingly with specialized cactus fertilizer


If it gets too big, you may prune. Cut pads me be used as cuttings


Should be grown exclusively outdoors, does not resist heating inside during winter


  • always use gloves when handling a cactus
  • for repotting fold up a few sheets of newspaper into a thick flat band. Surround the cactus with this band handle him
  • remove the spines from the skin by applying a patch of adhesive tape and removing it


Seed, cuttings

Sowing instructions:

  • use a mix of topsoil, sand and gravel (1:1:1) and sterilize that (eg in the microwave)
  • fill a pot with it and wet the substrate by placing it 2 hours in a bowl with water so the water is sucked up
  • sow the seeds on the surface and press very lightly
  • place the pot with seeds in a plastic bag and close it
  • place the pot in a bright location out of direct sunlight
  • 20-25°C
  • regularly check that no fungi develop
  • when the seeds begin to germinate make a few holes in the plastic bag and then every week 2-4 additional holes for the seedlings to get used gradually to drier air
  • germination: 14 days

Cutting instructions:

  • cut a pad as close as you can to where it is attached
  • dry the pad for at least a week
  • plant it in cactusmix at about 5-8 cm depth
  • rooting takes 30 days
  • dry or lightly moist: this cactus roots so easily that even pads who fell in the dirt and were not digged in will root