A Step-by-Step Guide for Growing Cactus from Cuttings

Cactus may not be the most popular plant, but it’s one of the best choices for those looking for a low-maintenance plant. Plant it outdoors or indoors; a cactus is easy to grow and requires minimum care (it almost looks after itself).  It’s also easy to propagate.

Propagating Cactus from Cuttings

Using cuttings to grow plants is a popular propagation method and one of the most fun aspects of growing houseplants. It’s also cost-effective. So, if you’re looking to grow your cactus collection, growing it from plant cuttings is one of your best and easiest options.

Whether it’s your first time propagating cactus from cutting or you just need a quick rundown of the procedure as a reminder because you haven’t done it in a while, here’s everything you need to know about growing cactus from cutting.

What Cacti Species Can Be Propagated from Cuttings?

Most cacti varieties can be easily propagated from cuttings. However, the following ones are most commonly grown this way:

  • Columnar Cacti
  • Prickly Pears
  • Globular Cacti
  • Pincushion Cacti

How to Take Cactus Cuttings for Propagation?

Though cutting a cactus is simple, there’s a little science behind growing a new plant from a mere cutting, which dictates how the cuttings should be taken for different types of cacti…

  • For a cactus that has stems made of segments, such as a Christmas cactus and prickly pear, the whole segment makes a cutting. Never cut a segment in half; remove it as a whole from the plant.
  • Clump-forming cacti are propagated by dividing the rootball.
  •  To propagate cacti with multiple heads or offshoots, like several Echinopsis and Mammillaria species, simply cut off the heads and use them as cuttings.
  • When cutting from a columnar cactus, it’s best to cut at a 45 degrees angle. This helps prevent water pooling in the cut, which can make the parent plant susceptible to diseases and/or rot. You can straighten the cut piece once it’s removed from the parent plant.

Growing Cactus from Cutting – A Step-by-Step Guide

Here’s a detailed, step-by-step, guide to propagating cactus:

Step 1 – Take the Cutting

To take a cutting for propagation, choose a cactus stem that is healthy and at least 10 cm long but no more than 4 inches in diameter. Thicker cuttings are harder to root. A good size for cactus cutting for propagation is about 4 inches. For cactus with pads or offshoots, remove the whole section.

When propagating a cactus that has offshoots, you have more chances of success and quicker growth with offshoots that have already developed roots.

Use a sharp knife or blade sterilized with alcohol for a clean cut. If taking multiple cuttings, disinfect your tools after every cut.

 Avoid using pruning shears to take cuttings for propagations. They won’t give you super clean cuts and might even crush the tissues on the surface, and you don’t want that.

Wear gloves or use a pair of tongs when dealing with a spiny cactus to avoid getting yourself injured.

Step 2 – Dry Out the Cutting

Place the cactus cutting on a window sill in a warm, dry area with good air circulation for a few days to let the cut surface dry out and callous over. Make sure it’s not in direct sunlight.

 Step 3 – Plant the Cutting

Fill a 7cm to 9cm pot with cactus or free-draining compost and plant the cutting. You can use store-bought compost or make your own soil mix by combining equal parts of potting soil, perlite, and (less coarse) orchid bark.

Ensure you keep the cut side downwards and insert the cutting deep enough (at least 2 cm) to hold its position.

When propagating from cactus pads, you may also let them lay flat until they start developing roots before planting them in the soil.

Note: You may dip the cutting in a rooting hormone before planting to increase its chances of taking root. However, it’s not necessary, and you may skip it.

Rooting Cactus Stem Cutting in Water

Cactus stem cuttings can be grown in water, too. However, planting in the soil is more widely used as it’s easier and has more chances of success for beginners.

If you want to try growing a cactus stem cutting in water, here’s how to do it:

Fill a plastic or glass container with water, add the stem cutting, and leave it in a warm place. The water level should be enough to cover about ¾th of the cutting.

Once the cutting starts developing roots and new growth begins to appear, transplant it into the soil.

Step 4 – Water the Cutting

Water the newly planted cactus cutting generously and then place the pot on a window sill where it is warm, and the plant gets a good amount of indirect sunlight.

Step 5 – Caring for the Newly Propagated Cactus Cutting

As mentioned earlier, cacti are low-maintenance plants, so you do not really have to do anything to make the new cuttings take root. They will do it on their own.

Just make sure that the plant is getting enough indirect sunlight and water only when the soil feels dry. Do not water your newly planted cactus too much; overwatering is a recipe for disaster for cacti.

Never place newly planted cacti cuttings in direct sunlight. Also, avoid covering them with plastic or placing them in a propagator.

Once the plant starts to produce new growth, slowly acclimate it to direct sunlight. Do it gradually to avoid burning the plant.

Overwatering, poor drainage, inadequate amount of sunlight, and too much fertilizer are some of the common causes of cactus propagation failure. Avoid these mistakes, and you’ll be good.

How Long Does It Take for a Cactus Cutting to Grow Roots?

Most cacti cuttings develop roots within a month or so. However, sometimes they may take a little longer, so hang in there. Just make sure that you continue to fulfill its water and sunlight requirements.

What is the Best Time to Take Cactus Cutting?

The best time to take cactus cuttings for propagation is when the plant is in the active growth phase, which is late Spring or Summer for most cacti species. The cuttings are likely to grow roots much more quickly during this time.

When Not to Take Cactus Cuttings for Propagation?

While you may grow cacti from cuttings around the year, you have significantly lower chances of success in extreme weather conditions. Therefore, it is recommended not to propagate a cactus during:

● Freezing Temperatures

As the weather turns cold, most cacti species go into dormancy to reserve energy and nutrients in response to decreased sunlight. This means they aren’t actively growing.

Propagating a cactus during this time will increase the chances of failure, as well as the risk of the plant developing rot and diseases.

●  Heatwave

Extremely hot weather(like in Arizona during the peak summer season) puts cacti (or any plant, for that matter) under stress, making them direct all their energy toward survival. Propagating during this time will further increase the stress on the plant, increasing its chances of developing problems or even death.

When propagating a cactus plant, it’s best to wait until the frost, excessive cold, or heatwave is over and the weather gets mild (and less hostile for the plant).

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The Sum Up

Growing cacti from cuttings may take time, but it is the easiest way to grow your own plants. With just a little care, you can increase your cactus collection or may even grow new plants to give as gifts.

Cacti are low-maintenance and can be grown both outdoors and indoors, making them a great option for all plant lovers. So, what are you waiting for? Roll up your sleeves and get ready to propagate your cactus using the information we have just shared.

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