I was going to write about how to grow the “Spineless” Nopal Cactus, my very favorite cactus, but I don’t really “grow” this plant at all. I do give it a home, and occasional water, but it grows all of its own accord. You almost can’t kill it. Actually I haven’t found a way yet. Not that I am trying to get rid of it by any means, but it certainly gets a little out of control sometimes.
This plant exudes a life force that is undeniable and unapologetic. It expands with the least of attention and may be out of your control if you aren’t careful. It was the first plant I planted at our new home, and I think of it almost as a tree now. It has to be pruned back yearly, and we often take out huge “trunks” to try to keep it under control. I don’t mulch it, or give it much water, and it continues to shock me with its unending abundance.
To grow Nopal, gather a few pads from a friend who probably has plenty to give away. Tuck one end (Usually the side that was torn from the originating plant) into the ground. Water initially and then give it water occasionally if it is a dry season. Wait and be patient, once its root system gets established it will grow faster. Try to find a spot for it that is simply dirt and doesn’t have a lot of compost or organic matter in the soil. This can
cause the pad or the roots to get soggy and rot. A good, mineral rich native soil is best.
To harvest Nopal, wait until the young spring growth starts budding out and turning into baby pads. They will be a brighter green than the rest, with little nubs where the Glochids (spiny hairs) will eventually grow in.