How to Kill a Cactus?

Cacti are hardy plants that don’t require much maintenance besides watering once a month and a lot of sunlight. Unfortunately, the average garden provides cacti with abundant sunlight and water. So unless you go out of your way to kill these cacti, chances are, they’re not going anywhere.

The good news is that you can kill cactus plants if you want them out of your sight and mind. Here are the steps you need to follow.

Find the Right Tools

The methods you deploy to kill cacti are only as good as the right tools. In general, there are two ways of killing cactus plants. The first is to spam herbicides and other toxic chemicals to get rid of them. If done correctly, you can easily wipe out cacti, but there is a risk of indiscriminately harming other plants in the area.

The second method is manual removal using tools such as tweezers, shovels, chainsaws, and shears. This means you’ll have to get your hands dirty – but doing so spares your other plants from being exposed to harsh chemicals.

Always wear protective clothing if you decide to go down the manual route. You don’t want to get pricked by any of the cacti.

The Herbicide Route

This more potent option also runs the risk of damaging other plants in the area. But if you’re willing to take the risk, it’s a great method of killing cacti. With so many formulas of herbicides out there, it can be dizzying to buy one that checks all the right boxes. Most experts agree that all potent herbicides should contain an ingredient called picloram.

This ingredient is highly effective for curtailing cacti infestation. You can encourage absorption by adding some dish soap to the herbicide mixture.


Pro tip: Consider applying a dye with the herbicide to help you mark areas of the garden that have already been covered. Blue is the most popular marking dye because it provides a temporarily visible pattern to indicate where you have and haven’t applied the herbicide.

Before mixing the herbicide, make sure to follow the instructions that come with the label. You must use an appropriate amount of water for the ideal concentration.

It is also recommended to damage the cacti before applying the herbicide. To expose the plant’s interior, you may use any sharp tool, such as a shove, ax, or chainsaw. Cacti are, after all, incredibly resilient.

Of course, you can skip this part if you want to, but damaging the plant helps you dramatically speed up the process.

Below is a look at good herbicides for eliminating cacti.

HerbicideDescription
HexazinoneThis herbicide is great at killing cacti. Make sure to spray the chemical at the base of the cacti. After the application of the chemical, water the area to speed up the process.
2,4-DPThis is a useful choice for killing cholla cacti but may not be effective against prickly pear cacti.
PicloramHighly effective against most species of cacti, including the prickly pears. Don’t spray the herbicide near plants that you want to protect.

Removing Cacti Manually

You can use manual processes to kill cacti if you’re not keen on using herbicides and want to protect your other plants. Also, manual removal may be recommended if you deal with a few cacti.

A foolproof method of manual removal is to simply overwater the cacti. This will lead to root rot and the eventual death of the plant. The only thing left then is to remove the plant physically. You may have to follow local regulations (that vary depending on where you live) when it comes to discarding cacti.

Here’s how you can go about the physical removal of cacti:

  • Wear protective clothing such as long sleeves, gloves, pants, and shoes. Collect all the tools needed to start cutting the cacti.
  • Take a sharp tool such as an ax to start hacking away at the plant. Remove small pieces in the beginning and toss them in cardboard boxes to prevent them from injuring someone.
  • Once you have removed the top area of the cactus, try to remove the rest of the plant with the help of a shovel.
  • Now dig about 4 inches of the soil near the cactus to remove its roots. This is an important step to prevent the plant from growing again.
  • Collect all organic material of the plant in a cardboard box. Remove any spines from your gloves and clothes. Use a magnifying glass to see if anything remains.
  • Dispose of the cardboard box in a dumpster; you’re ready.

Getting Pricked by Cactus Needles and the Solution

It’s very easy for cactus needles and spines to get stuck in your skin, even if you take all the necessary precautions. Simply passing by these plants is all it takes for their needles to latch on and cause discomfort and pain.  

And if you dare handle them with your bare hands or step on them, you will be greeted with hundreds of glochids in the skin. This is a key reason why you should never expose any part of your skin to an area infested with cacti.

But if you do get pricked by cacti needles, you can remove them using a pair of needles. Whatever you do, don’t grab the spines or needles. This is a knee-jerk reaction for most people but will worsen the situation. A pair of tweezers should help you get rid of the needles more effectively.

If a lot of needles are lodged in your skin, you may consider applying a thin layer of glue over the area. Allow the glue to dry out, and peel it off. The needles stuck to the skin will be removed by glue. Repeat as necessary until you have completely removed all needles.

Another option is to use duct tape. This may be a little painful because you will have to press the video down to get to the needles.

In any case, you should apply some antibacterial soap to prevent the wound from getting infected.

Finally, it’s just better to go to a doctor if you’re dealing with a more severe wound. It is very unlikely for the cactus spines to kill anyone, but they can do a lot of damage. The spines may also end up in a sensitive area of the body, such as the mouth or even the eye. This may occur if you touch the cactus and then rub your eye or mouth.

And if your garden has been infested with a large number of cacti, it’s simply better to just ask a professional to remove them.

USKC Live Succulent Cactus Plants (2"Pot Crassula Estagnol Spiralis)

Wrapping Up – How do you Kill a Cactus

So there you have it, an in-depth look at how you can kill cactus plants. You can either apply herbicides to weaken the plants or get more up close and personal by using a chainsaw to remove them. In any case, don’t forget to wear appropriate clothing to protect yourself. And if you ever get pricked by cactus needles, resist the urge to grab them.

Instead, either use a pair of tweezers or apply some glue. It is better to just go to a doctor for treatment instead. Let us know how you removed cacti from your garden without damaging the other plants.

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