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Spineless Prickly Pear Cactus

Opuntia Humifusa Inermis Cactus Pad Cluster

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Page Contents

  • Product Description
  • Landscaping with Cactus
  • Planting Instructions

Product Description

Own a piece of the desert in your front yard!  Cactus makes an attractive presentation for a rock garden or large bolder in the yard.

Pennsylvania hybrid stock was bred to endure the colder/wetter winter-climate of Northeast / Midwest USA. (viable to minus 20F or possibly colder).

Easy-to-grow starter-pad-cluster spreads without "taking over" the flower-garden.  Dense ground-hugging growth-habit is excellent around border-areas such as walls and flower-beds.

Child and pet-friendly   This cactus is spineless with glocids (very small hair-like stickers).  Glocids irritate bare skin so the pads should be handled using dish-washing gloves.  They are harmless and do not cause serious injury (unlike other types of prickly-pear-cactus plants).  A few spines can appear under very sunny, hot, and dry conditions but this is not typical in much of the eastern USA.

The cactus blooms profusely in June into early July producing a dense yellow flower-bed accent.  Flowers produce burgundy pears (seed-podsin late summer and early fall.

In the second year the cluster spreads across the ground to produce a thick ground-cover that can grow up to 6 inches in height.

Easy planting instructions – just place side of pad on some soil and nature does the rest.  Cactus needs full-sun to partial-shade in a well-drained area with some mulch or landscaping gravel to control weeds.  It could need occasional watering in a drought.

This cactus is quite hardy through drought, wet, and extreme hot and cold temperatures.  It's hard to imagine this product failing as it is quite vigorous, but if it fails you will receive another pad cluster at no charge.

How to Landscape with Cactus

Cactus bed in its 3rd year.  Note that weeds remain under control.

Prickly pear cactus is the backbone of a rock garden. It produces a bold contrasting profile against large stones, boulders, and brick. 

The rock garden begins with a gravel bed 4 to 6 inches deep for weed control in a well-drained sunny spot.  I use washed river pea gravel to enhance the natural earth tones. The pads are planted into the gravel.   Occasional weeds can emerge and they are easily removed.  A rock or brick border enables easy mowing and weed-trimming around the lawn. 

Opuntia humifusa inermis is the perfect border specimen because it has almost no spines and it stays low to the ground. Taller, more dangerous cacti can be planted to the rear as well as other taller flowering plants.    

In the spring you can add tropical desert cacti and agave still in the pot.  Note the spiny cactus against the brick wall (right side of picture), and the removable potted cactus (left side of picture).  The pot can be buried completely invisible in the gravel where it's easy to remove for the winter.  Sedum and other succulent plants may be added as well.  With a little experimentation you can have a cactus garden that is admirable and requires almost no maintenance.


Planting and Caring for Opuntia Humifusa Cactus


Opuntia Humifusa cactus, also known as “eastern prickly pear,” grows faster than most prickly pear cacti, and it requires a little more water than the western varieties of prickly pear.  This variety is often called “Inermis” because it’s spineless.   It has pure yellow blooms in June and burgundy colored pears in the summer and fall.


Climate Considerations


The stock originally came from Pennsylvania.  It can grow where heat and drought are very persistent and it can grow where it’s cold and wet in the winter. It is hardy to minus 20 degrees F and possibly colder and quite vigorous.  It can not compete with tall weeds and grass, or tolerate soggy waterlogged soil.




This cactus has a very light defense system.  The hair-like “glocids” that grow out of the pad “dimples” can irritate bare skin.  Handle with dish gloves or heavier rubber gloves.   Don’t use cotton or leather gloves.   


Planting Instructions


Lay the pad flat on a spot of bare soil in a well-drained sunny location.  Cactus loves rich soil, and it can survive on poor soil once it is established.  Keep the scar tissue (where the pad was cut) above the ground where it will stay healthy. The roots that quickly emerge from underneath the pad can penetrate a layer of gravel.  The cactus grows faster when the roots reach organic soil .  Fertilizer can be added to poor soils once the cactus has established itself, but go light at first.  A balanced diet of10-10-10 “continuous release” granules works quite well.


Don’t use soil that contains peat moss because it stays wet too long.  The soil must dry out to eliminate mold and mildew.  Your cactus can take wet and cold conditions better than most as long as the soil drains the water and dries out frequently.




Wet the starter-pad every couple of days until it roots from under the pad.  The pad will absorb water through the skin until it is fully-rooted and will survive without roots for longer than a month.  It can use some water if it looks wrinkled.  Don't keep it wet for several days at a time.


Over-watering causes black rot – a condition where the pad gets one or more dark mushy spots.  If black rot appears this is a sure sign there is too much water present, and you should reconsider your planting location and/or watering frequency.


Watering is typically not needed for the whole summer in many areas of the eastern USA.  In very hot or dry areas it can use occasional watering and does quite well under these conditions.  The cactus can survive many weeks without water in a drought and look almost dead when most other plants in the yard can not be revived.  Some water will quickly bring it back to life.  


Weed Control


Where weeds are a problem -- a thick layer of mulch or gravel helps reduce weeds.  A sprinkle of some pre-emergent crabgrass inhibiter granules about once every couple of weeks knocks out about 90% of the weeds.  Preen lawn and garden weed inhibiter does a better job for a little more money.  Remember that pre-emergent weed control formulas kill any type of seed that emerges including flower seeds.  Design your flower bed accordingly (plant annual flower-seeds in containers and then transplant to cactus garden).


Establishing Your Cactus Garden


In the second year the pad sends out additional cluster-pads that can be removed to start additional plants. It’s best to wait until blooming season is done (usually in June) before removing pads.


Pest Control


Lastly, slugs can be a problem in some areas.  I've found diatomaceous earth is very effective with slugs, and a small bag can last several seasons.   It's a white silica-glass powder that slugs can't tolerate, but be sure to wear a dust mask when you apply it to the cactus pads.


Happy Gardening!


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