How to Care for a Prickly Pear Cactus Houseplant


Cacti are unique and interesting plants that can brighten up any room.

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Have you ever wanted to have a Prickly Pear Cactus in your home? Cacti are unique and interesting plants that can brighten up any room. If you’re not sure if this kind of cactus is right for you or how to care for it, don’t worry! I’ve got everything covered here with this guide to caring for prickly pear cactus houseplants. So read on and get ready to learn all about these cool plants! Cacti are the perfect addition to any home because they add life and color without needing much attention. It’s easy enough for beginners but still has enough information so even experienced plant lovers

The opuntia, or prickly pear cactus, is known for its flat, oval-shaped pads and delicious fruits. What’s most surprising about the cactus is that it’s one of the few cold-hardy breeds—prickly pear cacti can survive outdoors in USDA hardiness zones as low as four. Varieties can range in height from as small as six inches to over 15-feet, so you’ll want to be sure to make sure any prickly pears you bring home will have room to sprawl.

How to Care for a Prickly Pear Houseplant

The Best Environment for Your Prickly Pear Cactus

Remember, prickly pear cacti are cold-hardy. They grow best in the following conditions:

  • Well-draining soil (about 50/50 sand and organic material)
  • Full sun: at least 6 hours a day. A south-facing or west-facing window is ideal.
  • Soil with a pH level between six and seven. Prickly pears will get yellow leaves if their roots get too acidic.
  • Keep the soil moist, but not soggy or wet. Prickly pears are drought-tolerant plants that can survive long periods of time without water—but they will look much healthier if given at least one thorough watering every other week or two
  • Keep prickly pear cactus away from sources of direct heat such as radiators as well as fans or drafts that can cause temperatures to fluctuate.

Where to Buy A Prickly Pear Cactus Houseplant

You can buy a Prickly Pear Cactus Houseplant on Amazon or on Etsy.

Opuntia santa-rita
Opuntia santa-rita Prickly Pear

Sunlight Requirements for Prickly Pear Cactus

If you provide them with enough sunshine, prickle pears can grow outside or in pots. Prickly pear cacti are the ideal complement to any home or garden that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Your prickly pears must receive at least six hours of direct sunshine each day.

Inside your home, it is best to place them near a south-facing or west-facing window. This will allow them to get the amount of direct sunlight that they like.

If you do not have ample sunlight in your home you can use a full spectrum plant light if you do not have enough light exposure. I use THIS ONE.

I have a post about how and why I use grow lights in my home for my houseplants HERE. 

haus plant light
Haus Bright Plant Light

Watering Tips for Prickly Pear Cactus

The best way to water a prickly pear is from beneath.

Prickly pears should be watered with about one inch of lukewarm, chlorine-free water in their pots once a week or two depending on the time of year.

You’ll want to make sure the pot has good drainage so that extra water can run out of the holes in the bottom.

If you’re worried about overwatering your prickly pear, add a layer of small rocks to the pot before adding soil—this will allow drainage at multiple levels and prevent root rot.

When watering from above, make sure that only the surface is moistened; this helps prevent mold and fungus.

Prickly Pear Cactus Fertilizer Requirements

Your prickly pear cacti will benefit from feeding during the Spring and Summer months of general-purpose fertilizer.

If you like to have more pads, give it fertilizer that has more nitrogen in it. However, if you want to see more flowers and fruits from your prickly pears, you should give your cactus a no-nitrogen fertilizer, such as a 0-15-0 formula.

A half-strength solution of liquid fertilizer is best for young plants, but you can move up to a full-strength feed as the plant ages.

Prickly Pear Cactus Pests & Diseases

While prickly pear cacti are tough plants that can handle a fair amount of neglect, they do have some pests and diseases you’ll want to watch for:

Cactus Mealybugs are also easy to wipe off; if you suspect an infestation, wash plants in soap and water (or alcohol).

Mealybug infestations often go hand-in-hand with scale—these tiny insects secrete honeydew that attracts ants and encourages mold growths. Treat your plant by wiping it down with rubbing alcohol; consider using insecticidal soap or neem oil as well for heavy infestations.

I have a blog post all about how to get rid of Mealybugs HERE.

Prickly Pear Cactus Pests & Diseases: Prevention Tips

You’ll want to keep your prickle pears healthy so they don’t attract pests in the first place. Make sure you’re using high-quality soil and fertilizer for your plants—pests are more attracted to weaker, nutrient-deficient plants.

You’ll also want to make sure that water drains properly from beneath your pots so excess moisture isn’t sitting around on leaves or roots all day long (and be careful not to overwater).


The Prickly Pear houseplant is an ideal addition to any home because they’re low maintenance! It’s easy to care for and will grow beautifully if you just give it the right balance of sunlight exposure, water, and fertilization that it requires. If you follow this guide closely then your plant should do well for you in the long term.


How much light do your prickly pears need when you put them indoors?

If you’re putting an opuntia inside your house, place them near a south-facing or west-facing window. This will allow them to get the amount of direct sunlight that they like.

What is the difference between a succulent and a cactus?

Succulents and cacti are two different types of plants that have similar characteristics. Both feature thick, fleshy leaves or stems to store water for times when there is little rainfall. Succulents can come from desert habitats as well as grasslands; they need a dry climate with infrequent rainfall whereas cacti prefer warm, dry climates. Cacti are generally characterized by spines while succulents tend to have either none or tiny, almost unnoticeable thorns.

Another difference is that cactus leaves grow in a spiral shape around the stem of the plant, whereas succulent leaves grow in clusters along the base/stem of the plant (whereas succulent leaves grow in clusters along the base/stem of the plant, cactus leaves grow in a spiral shape around it).

How much fertilizer should I give my prickly pear?

When you are first bringing your opuntia home from summer vacation, feed them once with half-strength general purpose liquid fertilizer. Then wait another month before feeding it again. Once you begin to see flowers or fruit growing, switch your feeding schedule for half-strength fertilizer every two weeks rather than weekly.

What does it mean if my cactus has purple flowers? Are they poisonous?

Prickly pears that have white or pink blooms usually come from areas with cold climates, whereas those with red flowers generally grow in warm climates. If you have a prickly pear in your garden that has purple flowers and is producing fruit, do not worry! The plant blooming with purple flowers may be an opuntia species from South America where the climate is hot year-round. Although it’s rare for these plants to produce fruits or flowers in colder areas such as the United States, it is not at all harmful.

What about cactus pests? What can I do to prevent them from taking over all of my plants?

Cacti will attract aphids and mealybugs just like any other plant so be sure your plant is protected by insecticidal soap or neem oil for heavy infestations. Although your prickly pear’s thorns may keep you safe for the most part, it is still helpful to treat your plant with an insecticidal soap or neem oil every so often.

When do I water my cactus?

Water cactus only after the soil has been completely dry for at least 90%. To determine when to water, keep an eye on the plant’s health and the state of the ground. Check the moisture levels with a moisture probe or your fingertips. Water your cacti in the morning before any excess moisture accumulates throughout the day. This will help prevent any bacteria or mold from growing.


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