My teenage daughter has an interest in cactus. In early spring, she decided to try something she had seen on YouTube. Using basic instructions, she removed one pad off a prickly pear and let it dry out for a few days. Then she stuck the cut side down a few inches into the dirt, so it was firmly entrenched. It got watered occasionally. Basically, it sat there for a good while. Neither of us expected much to happen. We were surprised one day to find that a small pad had sprouted out of the top. Cool. Then another.
This experiment was a success, but it was about to get better.
One day in early May, a yellow flower bloomed on top. She had created a lovely thriving plant.
This is not uncommon, it turns out, according to Jeff Pavlat of the Austin Cactus and Succulent Society, who identified my daughter’s plant as an Opuntia cacanapa "Ellisiana," or spineless prickly pear.
"It’s pretty easy to root most any prickly pear from a pad," Pavlat wrote, via email. "They will pretty much root in Texas any time of the year, but the best time would be early spring through early fall. If you take a cutting from a plant, it’s usually best to let the cut dry for several days before you plant it."
Similar instructions can also be found at places such as www.gardeningknowhow.com. That site says: "Propagation from pads is quick and quite simple. The pads are actually specialized flattened stems. Six-month-old pads are removed from the plant and set out in a dry area to form a callus on the cut end for several weeks." In addition, that site recommends planting it in a mix of soil and sand.