From Clippings to New Plants: How to Propagate Your Cactus

Cactus plants are easily the flagship of the broad succulents family and the most diverse genera, with over 1,700 varieties identified.

A cactus plant is unmistakable in its unique physical outline, bearing cacti-specialized areoles on which their characteristic plant hairs called trichomes, branches, and flowers grow.

A Cactus plant can be propagated easily from an older pot, so first-time propagators can achieve success without stress.

Propagating Cactus Plants

Propagate Cactus

They’re commonly propagated from stem and leaf cuttings, but some species that grow Rossetti can be propagated by division. In contrast, others that grow offsets called pups are propagated from the buds.

Propagating Cactus Plants by Cuttings

Large Candelabra Tree Cactus Cuttings
Candelabra Tree Cactus

Stem Cuttings are the easiest and most trusted method of propagating Cactus Plants among garden growers. I’d recommend every newbie and first-time propagator begins their journey with this method.

Stem Cuttings are taken from a mature cactus plant using tongs, snips, or a sharp garden knife. Ensure you’re well protected with leather gloves before taking cuttings.

Each cutting should be between two and ten inches long, bearing leaves or spikes. If the cactus has no stem, leaf cuttings are the way to go.

Select healthy leaves without blemishes, spots, or rings for the cuttings, and Ensure the leaf cuttings have the stalks fully attached for rooting.

The cuttings should be fully calloused at the cut edges before rooting. If you root cuttings that weren’t healed completely, they will rot in the rooting medium. Remove the lower leaves still attached to the cuttings.

Your cuttings can be placed on a flat, warm, dry surface with indirect sunlight to heal for ten to thirty days. You’ll know they’re fully calloused when a soft, thin filmy covering appears on the cut edges.
Your cuttings are thereafter ready to be rooted in water or a potting medium.

Rooting the Cactus Cuttings

The creative way is to root your cuttings in water, allowing you to regulate the rooting environment and monitor your progress.

  • Prepare your glass jar or water vase and pour water until it’s half full.
  • Insert the stem cuttings gently, balancing them at the sides of the jar and if you’re rooting the leaf cuttings, spread them evenly on the water surface.
  • Place the jar under indirect sunlight and change the water weekly. New roots will appear within three to eight weeks for most typical cactus plants.

Once your cuttings are fully rooted in the water vase, you should transplant them immediately into a Potting medium to prevent rotting.

Rooting your Cuttings in a Potting Medium

This is ideally the choice method of propagating Cactus Plants because it’s more straightforward and less risky, and cactus plants averagely root faster in a pot than in water.

Your potting should have holes at the bottom and sides for faster drainage. You could also insert the tips of your calloused cuttings in a rooting hormone or natural honey to improve the rooting process.

Pour your prepared potting mix into the pot till it’s almost full, and make some holes on the surface that fit the size of the cuttings.

Insert your cuttings into the holes not more than 1 inch deep around the edges of the pot and support them with more potting mix.

You should place the pot under indirect sunlight and wait till after a day or two, when the topsoil looks dry, before watering. New roots and leaves will begin to grow within four to six weeks after planting.

Propagating Cacti from Offsets

Offsets are pups or outgrowths found on the stems and leaves of certain cactus plants, such as Globular cacti and Echinops; they have a higher chance of growing new plants.

Cut the pups using a clean, sharp knife or gardening scissors and place them on a dry, warm surface for 1-3 days to heal before rooting them in a Potting medium. Most pups grow on the stems and leaves of cacti pots, so offsets are usually propagated in the same way as stem and leaf cuttings.

Propagating Cacti by Beheading

Most cactus plant species can also be propagated by cutting off an entire stem, especially those that grow multiple ‘heads’ such as Echinopsis Mammillaria.

Beheading is a term used to describe the partial or total division of a mature cactus plant. Aloe variegata, as an example, can be propagated easily by beheading.

The decapitated stem is first kept on a warm, dry surface, getting sufficient indirect sunlight, until it callouses, before growing it in a Potting medium.

Watering your Young Cactus Plants

Cactus plants have internal water retention structures within their spikes, leaves, and fruits, enabling them to survive long, dry, and harsh weather conditions.

An average cactus plant can survive for about two years without water, although it’s not advisable to starve them for so long. Cactus plants don’t require frequent watering; they’re ideal when one cannot water them regularly due to tight traveling schedules.

They can go fo so long without water because of their thick, waxy stems and spike-like leaves, which conserve water efficiently. Spraying and misting is a huge fat No! When it concerns Cactus plants, excessively watering them could result in the rotting of the leaves.

It would be best if you only watered them once or twice a week in their growing season (between early spring and Summer) when the atmosphere is warm and humid. During winter and fall, however, they’re mostly dormant and don’t require frequent watering.

You’ll know they’re due for watering when the top layer of the soil appears dry and crumbly. Also, remember the best time for watering is usually late at night or early in the morning before the mid-day sunshine is up.

Sunlight Requirements for Cactus Plants

Your Cactus pots need a lot of sunshine, and the pots should be allowed to receive between ten and fourteen hours of indirect sunlight.

Some species are resilient in scenarios with little or no natural sunshine penetration. You can propagate cactus plants successfully in a room without windows; an example is the mistletoe cactus.

Cactus plants flourish excellently in sunny climates, just like most succulents. Your Cactus pots should be positioned southward, towards the brightly shiny sunlight.

However, it is imperative to regulate the amount of sunshine they receive because exposing them to direct unprotected sunshine can change their color from green to a yellowing tone.

Best Soil Potting Mix For Cactus Plants

Cactus Plants in Pots

Cactus plants thrive effortlessly in a loosely packed soil base with good drainage and aeration.

A home soil-based Potting mix will comprise 30% garden potting soil, 30% gravel, grit or fine sand, and 20% perlite or horticultural pumice. You can combine them thoroughly in a separate mixer before usage.

I have tried my hands on a homemade soilless cactus mix, and I was amazed at the outcome, very impressive. Mix a blend of 20% horticultural pumice, 20% Cactus mix, 20% orchid mix, and 20% fine sand mixed with fine pebbles.

A cactus plant is distinguishable by its sharp need-like spikes called glochids.
There are several benefits to propagating cactus plants.

They’re not just useful as ornamental garden plants; cactus fruits and pods are efficient for treating hangovers and reducing blood cholesterol levels, owing to the high fiber content of their fruits and pods.

Cactus plants can also be seen as the symbol of longevity among garden plants because they can live for hundreds of years when properly maintained. Repotting your cactus plants keeps them rejuvenated and restores their appeal to sight as they tend to lose their appeal the older they get.

Leave a comment