11 How to Grow and Care Prickly Pear Cactus Barbary fig Uses 2022
prickly pear, also called nopal, any of several species of flat-stemmed spiny cacti of the genus Opuntia (family Cactaceae) and their edible fruits. … It is widely grown in warmer areas for the fruit and edible paddles and as a forage crop. The hard seeds are used to produce an oil.
Opuntia ficus-indica, the Indian fig opuntia, fig opuntia or prickly pear, is a species of cactus that has long been a domesticated crop plant grown in agricultural economies throughout arid and semiarid parts of the world. O. ficus-indica is the most widespread and most commercially important cactus.
- Scientific name: Opuntia ficus-indica
- Family: Cactaceae
- Order: Caryophyllales
- Kingdom: Plantae
Catherine Jerkky, RD, LD is also known as Pear Cactus – or Nopal, Opantia and other names – is propagated for treatment of diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and hangover. It has also been yelled for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
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Also known as Nopal cactus
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1. How To Grow Prickly Pear In Steps, Watering, Care And More
Prickly pear, which is also known as the Indian fig. Although I prefer desert climates, prickly pears will grow in a wide variety of soils, humidity levels, and temperatures. Learn how to grow prickly pear. The pads and fruit of the nopal are edible, but the cactus is also grown as an ornamental plant, as it has pretty flowers that range from orange to yellow to white. To produce a prickly pear, you can buy an established plant, germinate seeds from the fruit, or propagate a new plant from an existing one.
2. Table of Contents
- 1 Step by step prickly pear cultivation
- 2 Propagation
- 3 Prickly pear transplant
- 4 Choosing the place where you are going to grow your prickly pear
- 5 Collection of fruits once the plant is established
- 6 Varieties of prickly pear
- 6.1 Prickly pears without thorns
- 6.2 Red pears
- 6.3 Miniature prickly pears
- 7 Soil types
- 8 Light and climate
- 9 Irrigation and irrigation frequency
- 10 Compost and fertilizers
- 11 Cleaning
- 12 Pests and diseases
- 12.1 Point infections
- 12.2 Anthracnose
- 12.3 Pests
- 13 Health Benefits of Prickly Pears
- 13.1 Vitamin C
- 13.2 Calcium
- 13.3 Antioxidants
3. Step by step prickly pear cultivation
Step 1: Obtain the seeds. You can do this by shopping at a nursery or garden store, or you can extract them from the prickly pear. The nopal fruit is a red, egg-shaped fruit that grows on the prickly pear plant. To remove the seeds from a fruit:
Put on gloves to protect your hands from thorns. Cut the ends of the fruit. Place the fruit at one end.
Make a thin, vertical slice down one side of the skin and carefully place a finger underneath. Peel the skin by unwrapping the fruit like an orange.
Use your fingers to separate the meat and find the seeds studded all over the fruit.
Step 2: Prepare a garden pot. Take a small garden pot with a hole in the bottom. Cover the bottom of the pot with a layer of small rocks, which will allow the water to drain better.
Fill the pot with about half soil and half sand, rough pumice, or loam. These soils drain better than those with high clay content and are more similar to the natural desert soils that a cactus prefers.
You can also buy a pre-mixed cactus or succulent potting mix.
If you don’t have garden pots, you can use a plastic cup. Drill several holes in the bottom to allow the water to drain.
To grow multiple prickly pears, prepare multiple garden pots this way.
Step 3: Plant the seeds. Place one or two sources on the ground. Gently press the seeds into the bottom and cover them with powder.
Add a small amount of water. You want the soil to be moist but not wet.
Step 4: Keep the pots in a warm but shady place. Cactus seeds do not need direct sunlight like established plants. Keep the banks in the dark area surrounded by sunlight to allow warm weather.
As the seeds grow, keep the soil moist until they germinate. Water the ground when it begins to dry to the touch.
Pears grown from seed tend to take longer to develop than propagated plants, and the resulting cacti could take three to four years to produce flowers and fruit. However, growing plants from seed is essential to ensure genetic diversity.
Prickly pears will grow in various soils, humidity levels, and temperatures.
1.- Find a prickly pear tree to propagate. Another way to grow prickly pear is to cut from an established plant. Ask your friends and neighbours if you can cut down one of their plants if they don’t have established prickly pears.
To propagate prickly pear from existing plants, you use cuttings from the plant pads, modified stems or branches.
The pads are the flat, green, fleshy parts that make up most of the plant.
2.- Cut a pad. Select a healthy place that is medium or large and between one and three years old. Ideally, look for a free residence from damage, stains, or deformities.
To cut, hold the top of the pad with a gloved hand and cut the place above the joint where it adheres to the rest of the plant.
Do not cut the pad under the joint, as this can cause an infection, and the plant will rot.
3.- Let the pad form corn. To avoid infection and rot, you should let the cactus pad cutting from a callus where it was cut before you can plant it.
Lay the pad on a bed of dirt or sandy soil for a week or two until the cut has healed.
Leave the pad in a shaded area while you wait for the callus to form.
4.- Prepare a garden pot. Fill the bottom of a medium pot with rocks to allow for drainage. Fill the rest of the pool with sandy or loamy soil, allowing for good drainage.
The ideal soil will be a mixture of half of dirt and sand or pumice stone.
5.- Plant the pad when the cut has healed. Poke a one to the two-inch hole in the ground with your finger. Place the pad upright in the garden pot, with the cut end in the background. Bury the end. Don’t bury the future more than an inch or two deep. Otherwise, it could rot.
Surround it with a few rocks for support if the pad has trouble standing.
6.- Water the plant. Water the plant only when the soil looks dry, about once or twice a week.
5. Prickly pear transplant
The best time to transplant a prickly pear is in late spring, when the risk of frost and excessive rain is over.
Dig a hole that is the same size as the pot the cactus is in. Get the pool as close to the hole as possible. Gently tilt the pot upside down and cover the plant with a gloved hand.
Place the roots in the hole and cover it with soil. Pack the ground with your hands and saturate it with water.
For the first week, water the plant every three to four days. After that, water the cactus every three to four weeks. After the first year of establishment, you will not need any additional watering, apart from the rain it receives
6. Choosing where to grow your prickly pear
Choose a permanent location for the prickly pear. You can continue to grow your prickly pear in a pot, or you can transplant it into the ground. To transplant the cactus, choose an outdoor location that receives plenty of sun exposure.
Even if you keep the nopal in a pot, it needs to be placed somewhere that receives full sun.
If you live in a climate with colder winters where temperatures drop below 14 degrees F (-10 degrees C), keep the nopal in a pot so you can move it inside when the weather is cold.
7. Collection of fruits once the plant is established.
Allow the nopal to establish for several months before harvesting the pods or fruit. Wait for the plant to grow a second or third pad before harvesting the places, and wait until at least eight flowers are on a pillow before harvesting the fruit it produces.
Cut the pads with a sharp knife in the late morning or early afternoon. It is when the acid content is lowest. Remove the places just above the joint.
To harvest the fruit, twist the fruit and gently remove it from the pad. You know the fruit is ripe when the glochids, or spines, detach from the light or dark-coloured bumps on the fruit.
Make sure to wear gloves to protect your hands from thorns when harvesting from the prickly pear.
8. Prickly pear varieties
The pads of some species are a staple ingredient in many dishes. Plants range from small canopies to tree-sized specimens, all with bright yellow to red flowers.
Most are more tolerant of cold weather conditions than other genera of cacti.
9. Prickly pears without thorns
Thornless prickly pears (O. elysian, O. stricta, or O. robusta) are used primarily as ornamentals outside their typical growing environment. Although they don’t have spines, they still have fine, stiff hairs (called glochids), irritating the skin.
They have bright yellow flowers that are sometimes red. The pads can be green or have a bluish waxy coating used in containers or for xeriscape landscaping.
Although O. elysian and O. stricta are more like shrubs 2 to 5 feet tall, Opunite robusta can grow into a small tree 15 feet tall. They bear sweet fruit and have edible pads similar to the Indian variety.
10. Red pears
Several prickly pears have a colourful purple blush on their pads. The “Santa Rita” nopal (O. violacea) has purple pillows that deepen in colour during stress or drought.
The variety called “Baby Rita” (O. basilaris) has purple pads, grows up to 8 inches, and has pink flowers. Some prickly pears (O. Rufina) have a reddish-purple tint. All are sturdy enough to withstand frost.
11. Miniature prickly pears
Many prickly pears grow in low clumps or form miniature pads. Golden beavertail prickly pears (O. aureus) grow lozenges that reach 2 inches across and bear light yellow flowers. Rabbit-eared, or spotted, prickly pears (O. microdasys “Albata”) form tight clusters of small pads covered with snow-white spines.
The unusual Joseph’s prickly pear (O. monacantha Variegata) grows to about 18 inches and forms variegated green and cream pads and small red flowers.
Pears grown from seed tend to take longer to develop than propagated plants.
Types of soil
Considering the natural rocky habitat of prickly pear cacti, the gardener must provide soil perfectly drains.
Commercial cactus soils are generally made of small pebbles and coarse sand, sometimes mixed with small amounts of coarse organic matter.
The organic matter facilitates the aeration of the soil and ensures minimal water retention. These soils, which mimic cactus soils in nature, are nutrient-dense and have a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.
Although many prickly pear cacti bear flowers and fruits, most are grown for their colours, textures, and shapes. The spines, which discourage predators, are characteristic of most cacti that live in arid climates.
All arid cacti are leafless; they have flattened, segmented stems, called pads, that store water.
The pads are an adaptation that allows cacti to sustain themselves during drought.
Their adaptation to dry soils means that the arid cacti can shrink or die if you grow them in poorly drained or flooded soils.
Many cacti tolerate clay soil as long as it has good drainage. The plants thrive in packaged potting mixes labelled for cacti or succulents.
If you want to make your mix, the Missouri Botanical Garden recommends incorporating two parts sand to 1 part soil mix to provide the drainage that arid cacti require.
Characteristics of tropical cacti
In their native habitats, tropical cacti live in the South American jungles.
As epiphytes, they grow attached to trees without parasitizing their hosts.
Flowering plants typically available during the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter holidays are collectively called the holiday cacti.
Although arid and tropical cacti are leafless, they do not look alike. Tropical cacti have smooth, segmented stems that do not have spines.
Prickly Pear Tropical Soil
Although water is more abundant in rainforests than in the desert, tropical cacti are free-draining when suspended in trees, so their roots are not prone to rot.
Tropical cacti prefer uniformly moist soil that does not fill with water. Although all cacti require good drainage, Clemson Cooperative Extension notes that tropical cacti need more organic matter in their ground.
It is recommended to incorporate 1 part of sand in 2 parts of peat and 1 part of garden soil.
Light and weather
Many species of cacti can tolerate cold temperatures, although some cannot tolerate winter humidity.
The lowest temperature a cactus can survive depends on the species.
Unlike nopal seeds, pads need a lot of direct sunlight. However, pads can get sunburned in hot weather, so it is essential to protect them from direct sunlight between 11 am and 1 pm, when the sun is strongest.
To avoid constantly moving the nopal, you can position the plant so that the wide sides of the pad face east and west so that the thinner sides face the sun when it is hotter.
It will protect you from sunburn, so you don’t have to get out of the sun every afternoon.
Once the cutting has established the roots, it is ready for total sun exposure.
Cover the soil with mulch in winter. To avoid damage from the cold, even if you live in a warm climate, mulch the soil around your prickly pear in the fall.
If you live in a cold climate and have your cactus in a pot, introduce the nopal in the fall to prevent it from freezing.
The lowest temperature for a cactus depends on its species. Some species cannot tolerate freezing temperatures.
Others can tolerate subzero degrees Fahrenheit temperatures. Many species of cacti that can take freezing temperatures survive by expelling water at night so that the water in their flesh does not freeze.
One of the coldest tolerant cacti is the prickly pear cactus. It can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, thrives in full sun or partial shade and grows to a maximum height and width of about 8 and 3 inches, respectively.
Its small size makes it an excellent houseplant.
Irrigation and irrigation frequency
Watering your cacti too frequently causes waterlogging conditions and can even lead to root rot, a disease that can be fatal.
Young prickly pear cacti should be watered only once every two to three weeks during the hot, dry months of summer. Once established, cacti can generally survive outside of rainwater, although specific irrigation requirements vary depending on the cactus species and the amount of rain they receive during the colder months.
Too much water from a nopal is an easy mistake because cacti require much less water than most people might expect.
Overwatering can lead to root rot and scabies, which appear as rusty-coloured cork areas on the stems. Cacti must be allowed to dry completely between waterings.
In well-drained soils, the cactus only requires water every 10 to 14 days during the summer months. If you are unsure whether to water or not, check the root zone 2 to 3 inches below the soil surface. If the soil is even a little damp, don’t water until it has dried.
Compost and fertilizers
Cacti aren’t just for deserts. You can enjoy these thorny and exciting plants as indoor plants in pots regardless of your climate.
Cactus plants are divided into two main varieties: the spiny, bulbous, more associated with the desert landscape, and the segmented, tropical flowering.
These prickly plants require a bit of fertilization to replenish the nutrients they use from their soil throughout the growing season.
The right fertilizer encourages healthy growth, flowering, and colour so that a cactus can keep its attractive appearance.
1.- Inspect a prickly pear plant that begins in early spring for signs of new growth, such as mint leaves, fresh needles, or larger sizes, depending on the variety of cacti. Begin fertilization when new growth appears.
11 How to Grow and Care Prickly Pear Cactus Barbary fig Uses 2022
2.- Apply a fertilizer with low nitrogen content, such as a 5-10-10 mixture. Dissolve 1 tbsp of the fertilizer in 1 gallon of water.
Water the prickly pear until its soil is moist. Alternatively, combine 1 tsp. Give a soluble 1-7-6 cactus fertilizer to 1 gallon of water, and use that solution to water the cactus.
3. Reapply the 5-10-10 fertilizer every eight weeks through spring and summer for a total of three fertilizer applications.
If you use a 1-7-6 cactus mix, apply it every two weeks during the prickly pear growing season.
When they enter a semi-dormant state, cacti do not require additional nutrients in the fall and winter.
4.- Store the leftover fertilizer solution in a sealed and labelled container until the next fertilizer application.
Fertilizer can damage a recently staked or potted prickly pear cactus. Delay all fertilization until after the plant is established in the new pot, usually within two months.
Some varieties of cacti, such as the holiday blooming varieties, are dormant in the summer and grow and bloom in the winter. Reverse the fertilization schedule for these types of cacti so that you feed them in winter rather than summer.
The best time to transplant a prickly pear is in late spring.
Pruning the plant may be necessary to remove dead, damaged, and diseased segments and help balance cacti if heavy growth is concentrated in one area.
The end of summer is the best time to prune a cactus.
1.- Evaluate the cactus to determine which segments to eliminate. Planning what to prune helps minimize the time you handle the cactus.
2.- Hold a segment that you want to delete. Hold it steady with tweezers, or use layered newspaper to keep the stem steady.
3.- Cut the selected segment at the junction where the part connects to the main stem or branch of the plant. Cut cleanly through that joint with pruning shears or a sharp knife. Trim additional segments using the same techniques you used to cut the first segment.
Plagues and diseases
Prickly Pear Cactus Problems:
While prickly pears generally require little maintenance and survive even the harshest conditions, they are vulnerable to some problems when grown in home landscapes.
Prickly pear cactus sunburn usually occurs when a plant is transplanted from an indoor or shady to an open landscape.
The plant has not acclimatized to direct sun and will burn quickly. Sunburned prickly pears will turn yellow, and as the damage worsens, the epidermis dies, leaving the plant permanently scarred.
Placing gauze over new plants helps reduce the risk of burns. Gradually move new cacti to the sun over weeks or apply about 2 to 4 inches of mulch around the cactus to retain soil moisture and reduce light and heat. Don’t cover the base of the plant with mulch.
The Phyllosticta pad spot causes almost entirely black lesions on the pads of prickly pear cacti.
The pads on the underside of your cactus are often the most infected. Once the places dry, the fungus is no longer active, and the lesions may disappear. Charcoal spot (Stevens wrightii or Diplotheca) is another particularly troublesome disease for prickly pear cacti.
Symptoms begin with small spots surrounded by a ring of raised points, the fruiting structures. The spots later enlarge but do not merge. There is no control for the Phyllosticta pad point or the carbon point. Diseased plants must be destroyed to prevent infection to healthy plants.
Prickly pear cacti are particularly vulnerable to anthracnose, caused by the Colletotrichum species of fungi.
Signs of infection include a light brown, moist rot that contains watery pink pustules that produce spores on the surface.
There is no effective chemical control for cactus anthracnose, but spraying with a copper-based fungicide can help prevent infection.
Kill and destroy infected plants and don’t leave or plant healthy plants in the same soil.
Most insects are not a significant problem for prickly pear cacti but are vulnerable to infestations by the scale of the mealybug (Dactylopius coccus).
This mealybug becomes covered in a waxy coating that makes it look like white tufts on the pads and stems of your plant.
If you squash the waxy material and a deep red fluid comes out, then your cactus is infested with this pest.
The red body fluid of the mealybug is used as a source of red food colouring.
Easily washed off cacti using a solid stream of water. Severe infestations may require the application of insecticidal soap.
Health benefits of prickly pear
A clean medium-sized prickly pear, weighing approximately 103 grams, provides 4 grams of dietary fibre.
This amount supplies 16 per cent of the recommended daily allowance for fibre. For adult men and women. Prickly pears are a good source of soluble fibre in the form of pectin and insoluble fibres cellulose and lignin.
A diet rich in soluble fibre can help control blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of diabetes. Insoluble fibre intake can regulate bowel movements and reduce your risk of digestive disorders such as colon cancer.
Each medium-sized nopal fruit contains 25 per cent of your RDA of vitamin C.
Vitamin C aids in the growth, development, and maintenance of bones and supports immune system function by helping skin wounds heal quickly.
It has strong antioxidant properties that inhibit the ability of free radical compounds to damage cell tissue and DNA.
If you eat many foods rich in vitamin C, such as pears, you are less likely to develop cancer, heart disease, hypertension, and osteoporosis.
The longer the flesh of prickly pear is exposed to heat, light, and air, the more its vitamin C content will degrade.
Get the most vitamin C from your fruit by storing prickly pears in a cool, dark place and peeling just before eating.
Adult men and women need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day, and a medium-sized prickly pear provides about 6 per cent of this requirement.
Calcium strengthens teeth and bones and is necessary for the cardiovascular, nervous and muscular systems to function correctly. If your diet lacks calcium, you are more likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and osteoporosis.
Vegans and vegetarians who do not consume calcium-rich dairy products should take special care to eat a variety of high-calcium products, such as prickly pears, daily.
You can increase the amount of calcium you absorb from food by consuming good vitamin D and vitamin K sources.
Foods rich in vitamin D include salmon and fortified cereals. Olive oil and dark green leafy vegetables like spinach or kale are high in vitamin K.
A 2009 study published in the scientific journal “Plant Foods for Human Nutrition” reported that prickly pear juice contains several antioxidant compounds, including flavonoids, polyphenols, and betalains.
Consuming foods rich in these antioxidants regularly can help lower your risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, eye disorders such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers found that the betalains in prickly pears appear to protect the endothelial cell walls of blood vessels from oxidative damage from free radicals.
Why are prickly pears illegal?
When the plants get out into the environment, they can form impenetrable walls of vegetation that prevent animals from grazing and from accessing shade and water. These types of cacti also reduce the natural beauty of our parks and outdoor areas. That’s why it is illegal to sell or swap them in NSW.
Can humans eat prickly pear?
Prickly Pear (Opuntia) is a very flexible food source. Both the pads (nopales) and the fruit (tunas) are edible, but caution should be taken with both harvesting and preparation. … Do not rinse the cactus pads or fruit under the sink until AFTER the thorns have been removed.
Are prickly pears illegal?
Dozens of plants are prohibited from being sold in NSW, including several cactus species such as Aaron’s beard prickly pear, blind or bunny ears cactus and boxing glove cactus. … “Cacti are just one of the plants that a traded illegally,” he said.
Are prickly pears poisonous?
Most cactus fruits are not poisonous, but some of them have a terrible taste. … Cactus fruits from this species are commonly referred to as nopales, cactus pear, or simply the prickly pear. The egg-shaped fruit and even the leaves of all Opuntia species are edible and won’t cause you any problems.
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11 How to Grow and Care Prickly Pear Cactus Barbary fig Uses 2022