Paul Nickerson

Germinating Prickly Pears

In Propagation on September 18, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Prickly Pear Seedlings

So this is a little more involved than your usual ‘bury and wait’ germination, but its not impossible. At the beginning of this past summer, a friend brought a number of Prickly Pear seeds home from vacation. Being the type of people we are, we HAD to give it a shot.

The first step to germinating these seeds is cleaning off any extra pulp that may remain. This can be done by soaking the seeds in a warm, soapy bath for a few minutes. You may have to use your fingers to pull the pulp from the seeds. Once the pulp has been removed, rinse the seeds.

This is the fun part. In nature, the seeds pass through the digestive system of different animals before they are ready to germinate. For higher germination yields, we will need to imitate this. The seeds need to be soaked for an hour in an acid bath. It is possible to germinate Prickly Pear seeds without washing them in acid, but it can take up to a year! (I recommend you use the acid.) Courtesy of the Department of Chemistry, we were able to use sulfuric acid for this step. Lemon juice will work fine however.

After allowing the seeds to soak, rinse them again in water, then stratify them in a mixture of 1:1 vermiculite and perlite. Cover the container, and place in an refrigerator for 90 days. After the 90 period, vent the container and place in a sunny location. You should begin to see sprouts shortly after. The individual plants can be potted separately in a well draining media. We had a very high rate of germination, and the plants seem to be doing really well!

  1. I gave this a shot, after reading your advise, and saw my first seed sprout today. Thanks for all the info, I would definitely recommend this method. I cant wait to watch my new cacti grow.

    • That’s fantastic! I am so glad to hear you have some new sprouts. Keep us posted on how they go. Mine are about ten inches tall now. Still very healthy and growing strong!

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