Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cactus Propagation from Stem Cuttings

Never touch the cactus -
no fail method to propagate
Cactus can be straight forward to propagate and you can do it without injury from spines. The trickiest part is making sure you don't get poked in the process!  Here are my tips for getting more of your favorite cactus. This is a good late fall or winter activity for many cactus are not actively growing now. 

Make a Cutting:

First you need to get a piece of the parent plant. For this you need just two tools. Best way to do this is to cut the stem with a very sharp knife. I tend to use a serrated knife work - like a bread knife, which has just come out of the wash and I know it's clean and sterile. This will helps limit risk of bacterial diseases.  The second tool that you need is my secret weapon for

handling cactus and almost everyone will have one at home. It's right in your kitchen. I'm talking about a pair of tongs. Plan on never touching the cactus - just holding it with the tongs :)

Callused over Cactus Cutting

For cactus shaped like a prickly pear (with pads) make the cut at the joint between pads. With columnar cacti, like a saguaro, make the cut anywhere along the stem.  Cut at a 45 degree so that the parent plant will not accumulate standing water on the top. Square off the bottom of the cutting. 

Callus Over the Cut:

Next set your cutting out and let it air dry until the cut is callused over.  The callus formed will protect the plant from most soil-borne diseases.  Just like out skin forms a scab over a cut - a succulent / cactus will harden off at the point of the cut. If you don't let it dry out and harden, the cutting may rot and go to waste.  It may take a long time to truly harden. Not to worry - cactus do will without water and some cuttings can be left for a month or so without issue. 

Pot up your Cutting:

Make a clear and level
indentation for the cutting to fit into.
After the callus has formed, fill the containers with prepared propagation mix. I use a dirty perlite - about 50% perlite or vermiculite and 50% peat or potting soil. The inorganic material provides aeration and drainage which is essential for rooting. I use a smaller pot to make an indentation into the potting mix for the cutting to fit nicely into. 

Place the cutting deeply enough in the container so that it will not fall over.  I have used a variety of items to help keep the cuttings upright - my favorite is chopsticks. They are easy to acquire, can be placed relatively close to the cactus, and go into the soil/come out cleanly.  If not using something to prop it up, you might need to cover 1 /3 to 1 /2 of the cutting for stability. Water in the cuttings and keep them in a sunny or partially sunny spot. 

Chopsticks help support Cactus Cutting

With most type of cactus, rooting should start within 4 - 6 weeks. During this time the cutting may thin out a bit.  Some cactus, like a pencil cactus, can take several months to root. Once the cuttings show signs of new growth and they are full of water (plump again) you can move them to a new pot with more traditional cactus mix. 

Happy Gardening!

Teresa Marie

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