Best Tricks and Tips to Kill Cholla Cactus in Your Yard

how to kill cholla cactus

I, a cacti blogger, have conversations with many people seeking suggestions on how they can maintain their plants. However, every now and then one must know how to get rid of the cactus plant because their yard is inundated.

It makes me look at the world from a different angle and how everything has a lot to do with the perspective, just looks paradoxical. One person is trying to keep a baby cactus alive in one area of the globe, while someone is surrounded by huge cacti they’re trying to get rid of. Isn’t it ironic?

If you’re among the people who struggle trying to maintain a cactus alive it’s best to quit reading right now as the thought of eliminating you seems like a nightmare in your head. However, the reality lies in the fact that these plants could be dangerous for pets and children, and at times they just aren’t a priority for a particular area, suppose in your yard.

3 Mechanical &11 Chemical Ways to Kill Cholla Cactus 

Cholla, also known as a walking stick, tree cactus, or cane cactus, is widespread throughout all regions of New Mexico.

It’s a tree-like plant that can reach 8 feet tall with cylindrical joints that measure 1 in. in diameter and 3-5 inches. long.

Spines are numerous and approximately 1 inch. long. Cholla flowers are a deep purple. grow into yellow fruit.

As UA Campus Repository stated the two main invaders are chollas and the pears. The chollas can be adapted to elevations lower than 3,800 feet, which is the lower, dryer ranges. However, they are an invasion of the more productive lower grassland.

The control of this species is particularly challenging because of their methods of propagation and spreading. When the stem joint breaks off, they fall to the ground and then take roots, eventually forming a different plant. They can be attached to the bodies of the grazing animals and be transported to a far-off location prior to being released.

Why Need to Kill Cholla Cactus?

  1. Cholla is a common problem in rangeland (lands in which the native vegetation is predominantly grasses) in the event that grass cover is reduced due to drought or over-use.
  1. Once established, the cactus spreads out and disturbs or even invades valuable rangeland ( the vast portion of land comprising native shrubs or herbaceous plants that can be grazed by livestock animals or wildlife herbivores) until a dense cholla bush develops. The thickets bush disrupt livestock operations and compete with animals for water and nutrients. The thick stands can lead to livestock turning into “cholla consumers.”

There are two methods to get rid of the cholla Cactus. The first involves physical removal. The second method involves making use of chemicals. Both are safe when executed in the right manner.

Here’s what you need to know about both methods of removing cactus from your yard or rangeland:

Mechanical Control Methods

1. Hand Cuttings/ Burning

 The main roots should be cut about 2-4 in. below the soil level, and then remove the plant from the zone.

If you clean the area with care the regrowth should be limited to plants that are still young and not apparent.

Do not scatter broken joints as the possibility of sprouting can occur. Stop sprouting around the pile of Cholla with a fire.

Then pile the crushed plants on top of each other and let them dry.

Grubbing during drought or winter seasons helps to prevent re-infestation of scattered joints.

Hand burning with a gasoline torch (buy from followed by close grazing gives satisfactory control of the cholla. 

2. Mechanical Grubbing

It is possible to mechanically remove cholla plants by placing the fork with teeth on the front-end loader of the tractor. Slide the fork underneath the plant, and then gently lift until the cactus has been uprooted. It is recommended that the bucket be tilted so as to capture as many damaged joints as you can.

Mechanical Grubbing

Mechanical grubbing isn’t always efficient because heavy re-infestation can happen if the tractor operator is not cautious.

When you lift the cholla out of the soil, be sure not to disperse the joints.

The cactus is more prone to dry out if it is excavated in January or December, or during dry summers.

3. Fire Control Methods

In certain instances, the cholla issue can be dealt with by using fire. The plant’s height is the main aspect to be considered and is followed by fuel load.

The University of Arizona website described that  Broadcast burning has been fairly effective in reducing the number of cholla plants, provided there is enough grass to carry a fire. Kills ranging from 30 percent to nearly 100 percent have been obtained by burning prior to the summer rains.

Dwyer and Pieper (1967) reported excellent control when plants were less than or equal to 6 in. in height.

Plants that were 6-12 inches in height also died at a rate of 50 percent. Cholla with a height greater than 1 foot in height did not suffer any damage from the burning.

Fire Control Methods

Parmenter (2008) has also noted higher mortality rates on shorter Cholla plants which had 22 inches breaking points.

A statement from  Control Cholla Cactus  “Heirman and Wright (1973) published 15% mortality in cholla smaller than 1 foot in height following one growing season after the fire, but 48 percent by the middle of the second season of growth following the fire. Mortality for cholla that was greater than 1 ft was zero percent and 4% in two years following the burning, respectively.”

Nominal mortality is to be expected for cholla that is higher than 1 ft in height but with slightly higher mortality in the case of large fuel loads.

Chemical Control Methods

Follow some rules

  1. Follow the directions on the USDA-approved labels which are placed on the container to prevent the dangers of the chemical residues.
  2. Remove drift to foliage of susceptible crops. Otherwise, it will harm your healthy vegetables and grass.
  3. Wind blowing can be quite strong sometimes. Avoid spray in windy places.
  4. Don’t use the same apparatus to spread insecticides to flowering plants, crops, or other vegetables.
  5. Herbicides can be used at any time during the growing season or in the fall when the cactus is blooming, at a temperature below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  6. Picloram is a powerful herbicide that seeps deep enough into the soil to contaminate groundwater.
  • Contact the local cooperative extension office to determine what herbicide is suitable for your soil kind and the cacti species.
  1. Protect yourself with protective gear when using herbicides that contain 2,4-DP.
  2. Herbicide application may increase the palatability of toxic plants. Thus, they are more likely to be consumed by livestock. Eventually, beneficial organisms are killed and livestock is adversely affected.
  • Herbicide-treated areas in which poisonous plants have become palatable due to the use of herbicide chemicals should not be grazed until the toxic plants dry up.

Recommended Solutions

Cholla species (such as the cholla cactus, Cylindropuntia) and other cacti can choke out desirable plants and turn a simple garden stroll into a dangerous spot. Cacti spines are painful, can cause infections, and are a nuisance. Mowing simply spreads the problem and pulling the plants up can be challenging. Herbicides can kill unwanted cacti, but the process is time consuming and requires care and patience.

1.Picloram ( check from


To prepare the spray mix, add 1% concentration of Surmount™ to the water. To ensure a thorough coating of the waxy pads or stems, add either a non-ionic surfactant or liquid dishwashing detergent to the spray mix (see table below). It will be helpful to add a spray marking dye, such as Hi-Lite™ Blue Dye, to mark plants that have been sprayed and to tell if you are getting an adequate amount of spray on the green pads or stems.

Recommended spray mixture

IngredientConcentration in Spray SolutionTank size3 gal.Tank size14 gal.Tank size25gal.
Surmount™1%4 oz.18 oz.1 qt.
Surfactant1/4%1 oz.5 oz.8 oz.
Hi-Light Blue Dye™1/4-1/2%1-2 oz.5-9 oz.8-16 oz.

Source: Texas Natural Resources Server

You can get 76% to 100% root kill on Prickly Pear and Cholla Cacti through spraying with an herbicide called Surmount™. The component of this spray that kills cholla cacti is picloram.

Before you spray it onto the cactus, it’s better by damaging the plant first physically and allow the spray to more effectively penetrate to the inside of the plant instead of just resting on the outside.

2. Undiluted hexazinone (Velpar) (Check-in


Hexazinone , known as velpar, is a herbicide that I usually apply to the base of cacti to kill them. The herbicide inhibits photosynthesis and kills the cactus gradually.

VELPAR L herbicide is a water-dispersible liquid that is applied as a spray for weed control in certain crops of cholla cacti. It may also be applied undiluted as a basal  ( base) soil treatment for brush control in reforestation areas, rangeland, pastures, and noncrop areas. 

It is also used as a soil treatment for turfgrass and ornamental grasses, for home lawns and gardens, for erosion control in water meadows, in forested areas, and on slopes.

VELPAR® L herbicide (Velpar®) is a selective, systemic herbicide designed to control or prevent the spread of many annual, biennial and perennial weeds and woody plants. The product is an effective tool to control soil nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the soil.

DuPont Velpar L  website stated that Do not apply this product in a way that will contact workers or other persons, either directly or through drift. Only protected handlers may be in the area during application. For any requirements specific to your state or tribe, consult the agency responsible for pesticide regulation

3. 2,4-DP ( buy from


New Mexico State University recommends the chemical 2,4-DP to manage the Cholla Cactus. The herbicide is less effective against prickly pear Cacti, however.

To get rid of cholla cactus,  mix 3 parts diesel oil and 1 part 2,4DP and then add 20 parts water. The mixture kills between 14 and 20 plant species per gallon.

2,4,5 -T (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxy) ester

Hand spraying to thoroughly wet all parts of the plant with a 2 to 4 percent solution of 2,4,5 -T (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxy) ester in a 4 -water: 1- diesel oil emulsion gave the best results. 

  • A post-emergence, selective, hormone-type emulsifiable concentrate weed killer.
  • Can be readily absorbed through the shoots and roots, gets translocated throughout the weed plants, and causes disturbance in their normal growth.

4. CANYON new products make controlling prickly pear and cholla cactus a paying venture, as long as planned for on a long-term basis.

5. Vista ( buy now from ama


Vista XRT Specialty Herbicide, Formulation herbicide that has a high load, providing superior control of dogfennel, Kochia, Prickly Pear Cactus,  cholla cactus, and Sericea lespedeza.

Vista XRT helps manage other difficult-to-control broadleaf and woody brush when in conjunction with DMA® 4 IVM, Garlon®, or Tordon®  special herbicides (When tank-mixing other herbicides, only use according to the limitations warnings, precautions, and limitations on the labels of the products.)

6. Surfactants ( check price on


The surfactant used for Herbicides is an agent that wets over 80percent non-ionic surfactant, which is ideal for increasing the effectiveness, coverage, and overall effectiveness of virtually every herbicide. Surfactant for herbicides is employed with all herbicide sprays, including Trimec, Atrazine, Brush Killer, and 2 4D Amine. Surfactants decrease the water’s surface tension for better coverage and better penetration of herbicides as well as weed killers.

7. Methylated seed oil ( check on

Methylated seed oil

Compared to the standard surfactants, a methylated seed oil with an organosilicon additive has 20 times the spreading power according to research.

8. Foliage spray

Amazing results have been obtained using a mixture consisting of one part 2,4-DP 3 parts diesel oil along with 20 parts water. The kills range from 95 to 99%..

The number of gallons of mix will depend on the density and the size of the plants. However, one gallon typically covers 14-20 plants.

9. Basal treatment

 Undiluted picloram can be applied to the base of cholla near the ground line using 4–6 mL of product per 3 ft of plant height. 

Picloram that is undiluted can be used to treat the bottom of cholla at the line of the ground using about 4-6mL of the product per 3 feet from the height.

The herbicide must be applied undiluted by hand using a metered gun,  designed to release 4-6mL of the product to the junction with the primary stem close to the surface of the soil. Precipitation assists in moving herbicide up the soil until it reaches the roots and cholla are extremely slow to show any effects (2-3 years).

“Just remember, in treating cactus, you have to be patient,” Cadenhead said. “It generally takes two to three years to achieve the maximum control with those herbicides.”

10. Aerial Control

Large cholla cactus can’t be controlled through spraying by the air, however, its growth could be slowed back.

When you are treating the cholla cactus the plant must be at least knee-high or less to ensure the best aerial control.

11. Power Sprayers 

In thick stands of cholla cacti, power sprayers can offer additional advantages over hand-sprayers. They are able to be pulled or carried by tractor or a truck and refilling the sprayer isn’t required as frequently as it is with hand sprayers.  And several operators are able to operate from one tank by connecting additional lead hoses and sprayers.

Power Sprayers

Power sprayers work best for areas that are mostly smooth and not slick. Hand-type sprayers can be utilized on any terrain and are commonly used in conjunction with power sprayers.

How to Get Rid of Cactus Without Chemicals

If you’re looking to take the chemical-free path,  here are some suggestions for safely and safely getting rid of a cactus in your backyard.

If you don’t wish to resort to chemical treatments to deal with a cactus, then you’ll need to use physical removal which simply means eliminating it. After that, you’ll be able to dispose of it in regular garden garbage, compost it or simply throw it away in the garage.

If care is taken to see that cattle don’t carry joints from in-fested areas onto a “clean” range, the invasion can be slowed until effective control methods are developed.

A recipe for homemade cactus killer consists of the equivalent of one part vodka, one portion vinegar, and one portion of water. Put this into the bottle, spray it, then sprinkle it on the area of the plant’s base.

Things to Remember About How To Remove Cactus Plants

It’s normal for them to begin to grow back, no matter if you’ve sprayed them with chemicals or performed a physical removal.

When they begin to grow again you can repeat the procedure. It’ll be less difficult each time, as they’ll not be as big as they were prior to the initial extraction.

Cleaning up after removal is very crucial. There are always going to be growing thorns in the vicinity of your yard or in an area where animals or people pass through. When dragging some cloth over the ground to make sure you’ve taken care of as many scattered thorns as you can.

Before you begin any of these steps, make sure you check to see the municipal laws, regulations, and laws. You’ll want to be sure you’re allowed to take out old cacti and also to determine what they’re asking you to do with them.

If you’re using herbicides, ensure you’re enough far from other plants that you don’t harm the plants on your own. You should be at least 15 feet away and take into account the wind, and not forget the rain, which can absorb some chemicals and move them to the path of its travel.

Time of Application

  1. Spray solutions for cholla when the first signs of growth appear in May. Also, when temperatures are around 60degF.
  2. Flowers are the best choice to treat.
  3. Give two growing seasons to evaluate.

Quick Notes on Killing Cholla

” Cholla can’t be killed completely, but it could hinder their growth as long as you do not allow them to flower and form seeds,”

Cholla is usually much more difficult to control than prickly pear.…….AgriLife TODAY


Anwar Hossain

My name is Anwar Hossain. I am a cactus lover, researcher, and cactus blogger.

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