Opuntia humifusa

Opuntia humifusa Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus

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 about 1 year before they are ready to germinate.  We store seeds for a minum of 1 year before we sell them.  For winter survival, the pads dry up to the point of appearing dead before revival in spring.

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.

Un-rooted pads ship each year during optimal transplanting season: Spring (April/May). In some growing seasons, un-rooted pads (that are not dormant, but ready to plant) may be available for Summer (July) shipping.  
Opuntia humifusa - Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus

Map Key

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

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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 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, download: Seed Starting Basics.

Bare Roots:

We dig bare-root plants from our outdoor beds and ship them April-May and October. 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:

Trays (38 plants) leave our Midwest greenhouse based on species readiness (well-rooted for transit) and based on order date; shipping begins early-May and goes into June. Each of the 38 plant cells are 2โ€ wide at top x 5โ€ deep; ideal for deep-rooted natives. Full-color tags and planting instructions/care are included with each order.

Download: Tips on 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
over $100.00: 5% of the total seed cost

BARE ROOT and POTTED PLANTS $50.00 and under: $7.50
over $50.00: 15% of the total plant cost

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

**MN State Sales Tax of 7.375% is applied for orders shipping to Minnesota only. Shipping & Handling Charges are also subject to the sales tax.

Shipping Season:

SEED, TOOLS and BOOKS are sent year-round. Most orders ship within a day or two upon receipt.

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 38) typically begin shipping early-May, based on order date and when all the species in the tray are transit-ready. We are a Midwest greenhouse and due to the challenges of getting all the species in the Mix & Match and Garden Kits transit-ready at the same time, we typically canโ€™t ship before early-May.

*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.



Germination Code
Sun Exposure
Full, Partial
Soil Moisture
6 inches
Bloom Time
June, July
Bloom Color
USDA Zones
Plant Spacing
Catalog Number