Propagating your cactus plants is a great way to trim down the ones that are getting too large, expand your cactus garden, or even share your favorites with your family and friends. There are several ways to propagate a cactus, depending on the type you’ve purchased, but one of the easiest methods is to grow new plants from a cutting. If you’re interested in cactus propagation but aren’t sure where to start, the following information can help.
Step-by-Step Cutting Guide
You can propagate most cacti from cuttings, especially if they form long or segmented stems. Some examples are Prickly Pears, Pincushion, and Christmas cacti. It’s an easy process, though you do need to be careful not to injure yourself or the cactus in the process.
Step 1 – Prepare your tools
Choose a sharp knife or razor blade and disinfect it using warm soapy water or rubbing alcohol. You will also need a pair of thick gloves and some tongs or a cloth to handle the cactus and avoid getting those sharp spines in your fingers.
Step 2 – Make your cut
Find a healthy stem on your cactus that is a minimum of 4 inches (~10cm) long and cut it cleanly across. If the plant is segmented, you can cut at the segment or even gently pull it off if possible, though you do need to be careful not to damage the plant.
Step 3 – Dry the cut piece
Lay your new cutting on a windowsill, ensuring that it is not in direct sunlight, and leave it to dry for a few days to a week, depending on the size of the piece you’ve cut. This helps heal the cut so that it is ready to be planted on its own.
Step 4 – Prepare your pot
Fill a pot with cactus soil, which is a mixture of pumice, perlite, sand, gravel, and peat moss or coco coir. You can purchase this or make your own using 3 parts each of potting soil and sand or gravel and 2 parts perlite or pumice.
Do not use any rich potting soil with fertilizers since cacti aren’t used to this soil type and could be burned by the included fertilizers. General purpose potting soil typically isn’t well draining enough either, and therefore shouldn’t be used.
Step 5 – Plant your cutting
Now it’s time to plant your cutting. You can dip it into rooting hormone if you have some available, though this isn’t necessary. Then plant your cutting into the well-draining soil, pushing about 1/3 of the cutting beneath the top of the soil. Pack the soil tightly around the cutting to ensure it won’t fall over. Add some water and place it in a bright spot with no direct sunlight.
Step 6 – Caring for your new cactus
To care for your new cactus, water it every few days, though you need to be careful to avoid overwatering. Once the new roots have grown, you can decrease the watering until the soil dries out before adding more moisture. Be sure to avoid direct sunlight with this new cactus, keeping it in a bright area or on a north-facing windowsill.
It may take several weeks for you to see any new growth on your propagated cactus, so don’t worry if you don’t see a change right away. Once the new roots are established, you can slowly move it to a brighter spot with more direct sunlight without risking burns to your new plant.
Tips for Propagating a Cactus
Though the above steps should help you propagate most cacti, there are a few do’s and don’ts that you may want to consider to be sure you’re not damaging your cacti or trying to propagate them at the wrong times.
Avoid Heat Waves
Any plant is stressed during a heatwave since they are fighting not just the high temperatures but the lack of moisture at the same time. Trying to propagate a cactus during this time only adds to the stress they are already dealing with, so it is best to leave them be and give them some extra care during those extra hot days. This does depend on the variety a bit though as some are better suited for the extreme heat than others.
The colder months of the year are when cacti have their dormant period, so they don’t grow or change during that time. They are also more prone to disease or rot when they are dormant, so trying to propagate them during this time may end up killing the new plant you’re trying to grow. That’s why it is best to avoid propagating any of the cactus plants that you have in your home in the winter.
Best Time to Propagate a Cactus
The spring and summer months are when cacti are actively growing, which makes this the perfect time to propagate them. After you do your cutting and plant it in the new soil, the new roots that sprout will do so much more quickly than at any other time of the year. You’ll have a newly established plant, or several of them if you like, in no time.
Know Which Cacti Can Be Cut
You may assume that you can do a cutting on any of the cacti in your home but this isn’t the case. It all depends on the type of cactus you’re trying to propagate. There are some breeds, like the Golden Angel Wing Cactus, that grow in segmented pads, which only require the removal of a single pad to start a new cactus plant.
Other types, like the Thimble Cactus, produce offsets or pups that can be separated from the plant for propagation. You shouldn’t cut these, but instead, use the individual pups themselves to propagate new plants. Again, these shouldn’t be cut.
Knowing which ones are safe to cut and which ones aren’t isn’t difficult to deduce. If you aren’t sure, do some research on the particular breed you’re working with before you make any decisions on cactus propagation.
Propagating your cactus is a fun and easy way to grow new cacti from existing plants. It’s an interesting experience, and I highly recommend you try it at least once.
I also want to end this article by noting that many other plants can be grown from cuttings similar to the process above. If you have other plants you’d like to grow more of check and see if they grow from cuttings. It’s a great way to reuse plants, and can save money by using your existing plants in a new way.