Our cactus are shipped as unrooted pads. The size of pads varies a great deal. Some species, such as Opuntia fragilis, have small to very small pads, while Opuntia phaeacantha pads are very large. Pads are individually packed in paper bags with a label inside.
Handling and Planting Pads
Kitchen tongs are ideal for holding and planting cactus. We don’t suggest using gloves, because spines will pierce even thick leather gloves, and if spines break off inside the glove, will render them useless.
Pads root easily. Simply lay the pad flat onto your prepared soil, either in the ground or in a container, and press in lightly. You may also place the pad upright, with the cut end in the soil, but do not water for at least one month in that case, to avoid rot.
Do NOT water the soil for the first few weeks. Allow roots to grow before watering occasionally.
Pads left exposed to direct, hot sunshine for an extended period before they are rooted can develop sunburn.
Pads do not need to be planted immediately, you can easily hold them for a week or two. Keep them out of direct, hot sun while holding.
The first and most important rule is to ensure your planting area is weed free. Weeding a cactus patch is not an enjoyable task.
Excellent drainage is essential. Soil that is wet and saturated over winter is deadly for cactus.
The soil preparation you need depends greatly on where you are located. In low rainfall areas, such as the Okanagan Valley, or many regions in the prairies, where annual rainfall is around 15 inches (40 cm) or less, minimal preparation may be required. Much depends on how well your soil drains, and your clay content. Mounding the soil, and adding some compost and coarse (not fine) sand, may be enough
In wet areas, such as coastal British Columbia and many parts of Ontario, soil mounding is almost essential, along with generous application of coarse sand (up to 50%). In very high rainfall areas, your cactus will appreciate some cover from winter rains. Another way to grow cactus in wet areas is to grow them in containers, which can be moved out of the winter rains.
Watering and Fertilizing
Cactus grown in Soil
Once your plants have become rooted in (jiggle them with your tongs to see if they have rooted), they will appreciate occasional watering the first season. Every two to three weeks should be entirely adequate. If plants experience rainfall, don’t bother watering for a few weeks.
After the first year, no watering is required in any region in Canada. For example, after planting our cactus gardens in the Okanagan, our plants have thrived for eight years with zero irrigation.
In-ground cactus do not require much, if any fertilizer. If growth is very slow, or plants look anemic, some fertilizer can be added before mid-summer.
Cactus grown in Containers
Once your containerized cactus are rooted, they will appreciate a nice soak every once in a while. If rainfall does not occur, a watering every ten days to two weeks is entirely adequate.
A light feeding, perhaps fish emulsion or seaweed extract, or a commercial cactus fertilizer, will be appreciated every month or two. The general appearance of your plants can be your guide. If plants look anemic, or just don’t seem to be thriving, they might be ‘hungry’.