Germination of Opuntia Humifusa Seeds

If you can get around the spines, Opuntia humifusa, the Eastern prickly pear cactus, is a tasty treat. Common in a wide variety of regions across the United States, O. humifusa grows in deserts, prairies, grasslands and woodlands. Officially, the plant is hardy from zone 5 through 10 on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Map. The seeds may be a challenge to germinate, so don’t give up if they don’t sprout right away. Once the plants are established, plan on harvesting the fruit within one to two years. Start Opuntia humifusa seeds indoors and in the early spring.

Things You'll Need

  • Sandpaper
  • Small bowl
  • Sand
  • Sphagnum peat moss
  • Loam
  • Germination container
  • Heat mat
  • Individual planting pots
  • Cactus mix


    • 1

      Fold a piece of sandpaper so the gritty side is inside. Place the Opuntia humifusa seed inside the folded sandpaper and with one palm under the sandpaper and one on top, rub the enclosed seed to lightly abrade the outside coat. Avoid cutting into the seed. Repeat the procedure with each seed you will be germinating.

    • 2

      Soak the prickly pear cactus seeds overnight in a bowl of room temperature water.

    • 3

      Combine one part each of sand, sphagnum peat moss and water it until it is evenly moist. Pour the mixture into the germination container, to within 1 inch of the rim. Lay the O. humifusa seeds on top of the planting medium and cover with 1/8-inch layer of sand.

    • 4

      Spritz the sand lightly with water from a spray bottle.

    • 5

      Place the heat mat in an area that remains out of direct sun and set the thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the container on top of the heat mat and keep the soil slightly moist at all times.

Tips & Warnings

  • Opuntia humifusa germination may be erratic. Look for the seeds to sprout in as few as five days or up to 180 days.
  • Transplant the seedlings into individual pots filled with cactus mix when they reach 3 inches high. Allow them to grow indoors over the first winter.
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  • Photo Credit NA/ Images

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