The cactus family includes about 2,500 species found throughout the Americas. An unwanted wild cactus can quickly become problematic in your yard, threatening the safety of your children and pets. Wild cactuses can be aggressive growers and difficult to control. Good home remedies for controlling wild cactuses include manual options and homemade weed killers.
1. Removing the Top
The top removal method uses no chemicals and is an environmentally friendly way to get rid of wild cactus. It can be rather labor-intensive and requires severing the plant from the main root 2 to 4 inches below the ground with a shovel or hoe. Once you have detached the cactus, physically lift it up and out of the ground. Keep in mind that -- depending on the species of cactus -- any pads left on the ground can form a new plant. The top removal method doesn’t work well for cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida) or Tasajillo cactus (Cylindropuntia leptocaulis) -- which grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11 -- because they can regrow from severed roots. Always wear protective clothing, such as sturdy footwear, long sleeves, long pants and eye protection, when dealing with larger cactuses.
2. Add Water
Over-watering is a sure way to kill cactuses, notes University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. Over-watered cactuses begin to lose vigor, brown and become soft before rot sets in. The stems of over-watered cactuses rot and become weak, which causes the plant to tip over. Immediately remove and dispose of any cactus that has fallen over and never leave any part of the plant on the ground.
3. Homemade Weed Killers
Vinegar has long been used to control weeds, including those of the succulent variety. Combing 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of gin with 1 quart of water may kill cactus plants. To help the homemade weed killer stick to the wild cactus, add 1 tablespoon of gentle dish soap. Wait a few weeks after applying the homemade weed killer before planting in the area. It may take multiple attempts to kill the cactus with the vinegar mixture and you should consider manual removal to get rid of wild cactus more efficiently.
4. Precautions and Warnings
Before touching the cactus, put on a pair of heavy work gloves to protect your skin from the sharp needles covering the plant. If there is a possibility that your arms or legs may be near the cactus needles, wear a thick, long-sleeved shirt, thick pants and work boots. Vinegar is generally safe, but you should still be cautious. To help keep your children safe, keep them away from the area until the homemade weed killer has dried. If the vinegar happens to comes in contact with eyes or skin, flush the area with water for several minutes.
- School of Biological Sciences - University of Edinburgh: Cacti and Other Succulents
- Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center: How to Take Care of Pricklypear and Other Cacti
- Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center: Top Removal Method
- Arizona State University: Cylindropuntia Fulgida
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension: Cacti Care
- University of Washington Botanic Gardens: Green Weed Management
- Carolina Biological Supply Company: MSDS: Vinegar
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images