Opuntia humifusa

Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus



Un-rooted Pad
Out of Stock

Deserts aren't the only places on Earth that have cacti! Scattered around a generous portion of eastern North America grows a lovely, sun loving species of cacti known as the Eastern Prickly Pear cactus. While seemingly out of place in many temperate regions, this interesting cactus still carries with it some of the habits of its desert dwelling relatives. Preferring full sun and sandy, dry conditions, the Eastern Prickly Pear cactus is a must have for the driest parts of your garden. From June to July, the cactus puts out some of the most stunning flowers. Bathed in bright yellow, the 3" wide blooms are immediately descended upon by a myriad of different pollinator species. Beetles, bees, and butterflies, this plant attracts them all. After flowering the pads produce bright red, edible fruits that are almost as attractive as the flowers that preceded them. Typical of most cacti, the seeds in these edible fruits must ripen for a minimum of 9 months before they are ready to germinate. After harvest, we store seeds for 9 months before they are available for sale.

Establishing this species is as easy as placing a few pads in a desired location.  Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus pads can be placed into sand, literally, cutting-side down (see corresponding photo), making it a very easy transplant. Within a few years, a thick creeping mat of cactus pads will cover the ground. Be careful when handling this species though, as the pads are covered in clusters of sharp bristles. A good pair of thick gloves is a must for anyone looking to do some gardening with this plant. It grows well with many short companion plants also suited to hot, dry conditions such as those outlined in our Shortgrass Dry Sand seed mix.

*Seed of this species is kept under refrigeration (33-38 F) in our warehouse. The days in transit to you in colder or warmer conditions won’t harm the seed, but it should be put back in refrigeration until you are ready to plant or apply pre-sowing treatment.

Live Plant Shipping Table

*Spring Summer Fall Age/Size
Un-rooted Pads April-June August/September N/A 1-2 years
*Spring-shipped pads: for winter survival, pads dry up or even appear dead. Please be aware that this appearance is normal for spring-received Opuntia pads.

Opuntia humifusa - Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus

Map Key

Present in state
Present but introduced in county
Present and native in county; not rare
Not present in state
Present and native in county; rare
Species extirpated (historic)
State or county listed as noxious
Present in state; exotic

This map shows the native and introduced (adventive) range of this species. Given appropriate habitat and climate, native plants can be grown outside their range.

7 Questions asked on Opuntia humifusa

I am planning on planting Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus soon (should hopefully come today from your nursery) in a garden area in my yard. What I plan to do is - dig down about 6", fill in 2-4" with landscape rock, then about 1" pea gravel, then a mix of pea gravel/sand/dirt - about 6-8". Total depth about 12". is this deep enough to grow Prickly Pear? and is this enough drainage for it?
Your plan sounds like a good one, Patty. The Prickly Pear sand bed on the south side of our office is about four inches deep and the cacti are thriving there. Good luck with your growing!
A couple of questions, do I plant this in sand and how would they fare in pots?
Yes, you can plant this in sand, gravel, or other soil with very good drainage and low water holding capacity. As long as the pots don't hold onto too much extra moisture, you should have pretty good luck! But, pots should not be a long-term spot for the cacti as they will want to spread.
Will you still sell propagated plants into June? Or is the best time to plant in May?
Hi David. Yes, the best time to plant these unrooted cactus pads is spring and summer so stay tuned to our website to pre-order these again for summer delivery.

We've tested transplanting them in the fall without much success.

I planted my pads today in a bed along the south side of our house where nothing would grow well--too dry and hot. What would you recommend for a soil weed barrier--I usually use wood mulch, but for cactus I think that would encourage rot, would covering the soil in pea gravel be recommended?
HI Justin. Sure, I think pea gravel would work. We have ours here in raised sand beds and weeds have still crept in. Because of the spines, it's nearly impossible to weed around them once established so you are right to want to get a good weed barrier in now. Is there a block or plastic border around them? That would help with rhizomatous weeds more than mulch or gravel.
This isn't a question, but I just wanted to offer my experience with prickly pear - I planted them in 2/3 sand mixed with 1/3 coconut coir and a handful of perlite, and they have been doing very well. I water them very sparingly and have not had any issues with rot so far.
Hi Hazel, Great feedback! Thanks for letting us know!
I live in zone 5. I understand the pads can be planted as low as zone 4. My question is should I plant the pad in a container and wait until Spring to transplant it to the ground? Or is it possible to plant it outside now and keep it safe over winter?
Hi Dori, It would be best to plant it outdoors now. The pads will look shriveled during the winter months, but they should return to their happy selves in the spring. :) We always recommend planting our live plants outdoors in the ground as soon as is feasible upon receiving them.
I have a morning sun east side of house garden bed with a layer of white rock from before my time. Planning to pull the rock back to put cardboard underneath and remove old weed mat to stop weed growth that is an issue currently. Can I cut out spots in the cardboard to plant the cacti pads through or should I wait for the cardboard to breakdown in the bed to plant? Can I leave the existing rock and soil or do you advise changing the conditions of the site? Thank you
Hi Rebecca. Prickly Pear Cactus pads will establish better and faster if they do not have weed competition. Once the weeds are eliminated, putting a layer of unprinted cardboard between the soil and rock layer should not be an issue. Be sure to cut the holes in the cardboard so that the cactus pads have enough room to breathe and swell. The cactus pads must have at least half their length in the soil, so it may take a while to see the cactus pads growing above the cardboard and rock layers.


Growing your own plants from seed is the most economical way to add natives to your home. Before you get started, one of the most important things to know about the seeds of wild plants is that many have built-in dormancy mechanisms that prevent the seed from germinating. In nature, this prevents a population of plants from germinating all at once, before killing frosts, or in times of drought. To propagate native plants, a gardener must break this dormancy before seed will grow.

Each species is different, so be sure to check the GERMINATION CODE listed on the website, in the catalog, or on your seed packet. Then, follow the GERMINATION INSTRUCTIONS prior to planting. Some species don't need any pre-treatment to germinate, but some species have dormancy mechanisms that must be broken before the seed will germinate. Some dormancy can be broken in a few minutes, but some species take months or even years.

Seed dormancy can be broken artificially by prolonged refrigeration of damp seed in the process of cold/moist STRATIFICATION. A less complicated approach is to let nature handle the stratifying through a dormant seeding, sowing seeds on the surface of a weed-free site in late fall or winter. Tucked safely beneath the snow, seeds will be conditioned by weathering to make germination possible in subsequent growing seasons.

To learn more, read our BLOG: How to Germinate Native Seeds

Dormant Bare Root Plants

We dig plants when they are dormant from our outdoor beds and ship them April-May and October. Some species go dormant in the summer and we can ship them July/August. We are among the few still employing this production method, which is labor intensive but plant-friendly. They arrive to you dormant, with little to no top-growth (bare-root), packed in peat moss. They should be planted as soon as possible. Unlike greenhouse-grown plants, bare-root plants can be planted during cold weather or anytime the soil is not frozen. A root photo is included with each species to illustrate the optimal depth and orientation. Planting instructions/care are also included with each order.

Download: Installing Your Bare-Root Plants

Potted Plants

3-packs and trays of 32, 38, or 50 plants leave our Midwest greenhouses based on species readiness (being well-rooted for transit) and order date; Spring shipping is typically early May through June, and Fall shipping is mid-August through September. Potted 3-packs and trays of 38 plugs are started from seed in the winter so are typically 3-4 months old when they ship. Trays of 32/50 plugs are usually overwintered so are 1 year old. Plant tray cells are approximately 2” wide x 5” deep in the trays of 38 and 50, and 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep in the 3-packs and trays of 32; ideal for deep-rooted natives. Full-color tags and planting & care instructions are included with each order.

Download: Planting and Care of Potted Plants

*PLEASE NOTE: we are a mail order nursery and have no retail facilities, but you may pick up your order if prior arrangements are made. Pick up orders are subject to **MN Sales Tax.

Shipping & Handling Charges

SEED $100.00 and under: $5.00
Retail SEED orders over $100.00 ship free!

Custom seed mixes or discounted seed sales over $100, add 5% of the total seed cost
(for orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required)

BARE ROOT and POTTED PLANTS $50.00 and under: $9.00
over $50.00: 18% of the total plant cost. (For orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required.)

TOOLS and BOOKS have the shipping fee included in the cost of the product (within the contiguous US).

**We are required to collect state sales tax in certain states. Your state's eligibility and % will be calculated at checkout. MN State Sales Tax of 7.375% is applied for orders picked up at our MN location. Shipping & handling charges are also subject to the sales tax.

Shipping Season

SEED, TOOLS and BOOKS are sent year-round. Most orders ship within 1-3 business days.

BARE ROOT PLANTS are shipped during optimal transplanting time: Spring (April-May) and Fall (Oct). Some ephemeral species are also available for summer shipping. Since our plants are field-grown, Nature sets the schedule each year as to when our season will begin and end. We fill all orders, on a first-come, first-serve basis, to the best of our ability depending on weather conditions beyond our control.

POTTED PLANTS (Trays of 32/38/50 plugs and 3-packs) typically begin shipping early May and go into June; shipping time is heavily dependent on all the species in your order being well-rooted. If winter-spring greenhouse growing conditions are favorable and all species are well-rooted at once, then we ship by order date (first come, first serve). We are a Midwest greenhouse, and due to the challenges of getting all the species in the Mix & Match and Pre-Designed Garden Kits transit-ready at the same time, we typically can't ship before early May. Earlier shipment requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

*We are unable to ship PLANTS (bare root or potted) outside the contiguous US or to CALIFORNIA due to regulations.


We ship using USPS, UPS and Spee Dee. UPS and Spee Dee are often used for expediting plant orders; they will not deliver to Post Office Box numbers, so please also include your street address if ordering plants. We send tracking numbers to your email address so please include it when you order.



Germination Code
Life Cycle
Sun Exposure
Full, Partial
Soil Moisture
6 inches
Bloom Time
June, July
Bloom Color
Deer Resistant
Highly recommended for home landscaping
USDA Zones
Plant Spacing
Catalog Code