Uses for Prickly Pear Cactus

Along with their exotic looks and drought-tolerance, cactuses provide uses not widely appreciated. Prickly pear cactuses (Opuntia spp.) , for instance, have a selection of culinary and landscaping applications. Most species do best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 to 10, but with at least 200 known species, you are very likely to find one that is suitable for your area, in addition to your particular needs. Although they are clever choices in regions of low rainfall, you don’t need a backyard desert to plant prickly pear cactus. Simply pick a sunny place with well-draining soil.

Visual Landscaping

Taller prickly pear cactuses, when planted separately, are striking specimen plantings. Used in a boundary, they offer intriguing contrasts to long-needled and broad-leaved shrubs, in addition to tall herbs and flowers. They are especially appropriate when combined with Mediterranean herbs, flowers and shrubs that also appreciate sandy or gravelly soils. Alternately, low-growing species work well in large groupings as ground cover, especially over sun-baked, rocky areas. Along with their striking shapes, prickly pear cactuses contribute vibrant colours in the kinds of the fruit and flowers. Because numerous varieties exist, you are going to discover the height, spread and colours that work best in your landscape.

Barrier Plantings

The spiny pads on prickly pear cactuses make them a good choice for living fences that discourage animals and human trespassers. For the best all-around protection, select varieties that develop at least 4 feet tall. Set them around 1 feet apart so their branching pads will eventually meet to form a prickly hedge. To get a really impressive, view-blocking and impenetrable border, use barbary fig (Opuntia ficus-indica), that grows at least 10 feet tall. Set these taller varieties 2 to 3 feet apart to adapt their spread.


Some parts of the planet, especially Mexico, believe prickly pear cactus a vegetable. However they are perennial plants, prickly pears are unsuited to get an yearly vegetable garden. Instead, set them in a perennial border, or within a plot with additional perennial vegetables, such as asparagus and rhubarb. Put shorter prickly pear cactuses in front of a garden bed or border, and taller ones in the center or rear rows. Although this type of cactus does not call for a bone-dry desert soil to prosper, it prefers gravelly or sandy well-drained soil. The taste of this plant’s apartment “pads” are like green beans. While spineless varieties exist, those with spines can be scraped until the outer flesh is smooth. The de-spined and peeled pads, also called nopales, work nicely for new eating or in cooked foods. Slice or dice the pads to get salads, omelets and stir-fries, or maintain them complete for grilling and frying.


Much like any other usage for that you develop prickly pears, placement is important when selecting where to develop them to get their fruits. A fertile, often watered orchard or berry spot isn’t the best spot to place the fruiting cactuses. Rather, establish them within their very own sandy, well-drained bed, or set them in a sunny rock garden or xeriscape setting. The fruits of prickly pear cactus are rich in vitamin C. The size, taste and colours of the fruit varies considerably, depending of this variety. Your plant’s vegetables may be tasty plucked directly from the cactus. The vast majority of prickly pear types, however, work best when cooked or maintained. Uses for cooked fruit contain jam, jelly, syrup, candy or dried as sweet pastes and flours for baking.

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