How Do Cactus Reproduce?

The reproduction process of cactus plants is fascinating and differs based on the species. Cacti can reproduce in two ways, sexually or asexually. The reproduction frequency of cactus plants also depends on the type of specie.

Some can reproduce multiple times a year, while others produce only once yearly. Both sexual and asexual ways of reproduction are effective for the cacti to grow and produce more plants.

Sexual Reproduction of Cactus

Cactus is a flowering plant, and like other flowering succulents, it can reproduce through seeds. Cacti can sexually reproduce using pollen and stigma. While the anthers of the flower produce pollen, the stigma is found on the pistil’s tip.

When the pollen of a cactus connects with the stigma of another, the fertilization process starts and produces seeds. The fertilization process also occurs when animals or insects pollinate the flowers of the cacti. The flowers give seeds-containing fruits, and as the fruit matures and dries, it releases the seeds.

Cactus plants depend on multiple pollinators – from simple methods like transfer through the wind to complex techniques, like symbiotic relations with bees, beetles, moths, butterflies, and birds.

Cacti flowers generate a unique color and smell to attract pollinators. As the pollinator consumes the nectar from the flowers, the pollen adheres to its body and is transferred to the pistil from the stamens of other cactus plants.

Cacti can also reproduce sexually without needing external sources through self-pollination. This process happens when the plant’s pollen fertilizes its own ovules. While this is a great way for a cactus to reproduce, cross-pollination can produce more diverse and healthier plants.

Sexual reproduction typically happens between spring and summer as flowers bloom during this time and attract pollinators.

Asexual Reproduction of Cactus

This reproduction process is when new plants are created without the need for seeds. Cactus plants can asexually reproduce using the vegetative propagation process. This is the process in which new cactus plants can be created with a part of an existing cactus.

This process is more beneficial than sexual reproduction as it results in faster reproduction and creates identical plants. There are multiple ways cactus plants can asexually reproduce. The most common ones are as follows:

Cuttings

Segments or pads of the cactus plant can be planted to create a new plant. Using cuttings is the easiest asexual reproduction of cacti. All you need are a few cuttings from the plant. Here are the steps to follow if you want to propagate a cactus using cuttings:

  1. Timing is everything when it comes to the propagation of cacti. Be sure to do this process in a warmer season after the cold and frost threat is gone.
  2. Start by cutting the joint of a cactus from the segment where it is attached to the parent plant. In the case of a prickly pear cactus, ensure you cut a segment containing at least three pads.
  3. Keep the cutting in a shady, dry spot for at least two weeks. This stage heals the cut site, protecting the plant from potential rot after getting replanted.
  4. After two weeks, place the cuttings in well-drained soil under the full sun.
  5. Avoid watering the plant for a month and then deeply water it every month until the fall season.
  6. Provide the new plant temporary shade throughout its first summer by using a cloth or putting a plastic patio chair over it.

The new cactus will start growing, and you will witness new growth in the plant.

Grafting

The grafting process means joining the tissues of two or more plants to grow together. Grafting should be done during spring or early summer. Here are the steps you can follow to graft cacti:

  1. Start watering and fertilizing the plants properly a week before you start the grafting process. This will help ensure the plant grows stronger.
  2. The rootstock, the recipient cactus, should be a tender, new cactus so that it can easily accept the graft without expelling it. The graft should also be from a new plant that is not more than three years old.
  3. Use a disinfected, well-sharpened instrument, like a knife, scalpel, or cutter, to make the cut.
  4. Make a cut on the tip of each rib of the receiving cactus. The cut should be made diagonal and downwards.
  5. Slice the particular part you want to graft from other cacti from the base and place it on the receiving plant’s tip. Avoid placing it in exactly the center but put it to one side, as this will allow it to grow in that direction, and the plant itself can continue growing upwards.
  6. Ensure you are holding both grafted parts properly, so there is no air in between. You can use grafting tapes to tighten the grip.
  7. Place the plant in a place that is warm and water it without overdoing it.
  8. In 15 days, both parts will join, and the grafting tapes can be removed.
  9. Be sure to protect the plant from excessive water and sun until it becomes strong.

The cactus plant will start producing multi-colored flowers soon.

Division

The division is when you split a cactus into two or more plants. Here are the steps to follow when you want to propagate a cactus through division:

  1. Start by removing the plant from the pot and dividing it into two pieces (or more) using a sharp knife.
  2. Remember, each piece must have a root of its own.
  3. After the cactus has been divided into two or more parts, you can replant them in individual pots. Fill the pots beforehand with a cactus mix.
  4. Water the plants and put them in a sunny spot.
  5. Once the cactus plants start growing, you can water and protect them as regular plants.

This method is also ideal for those cactus plants that overgrow or become too large. The same steps can be used to divide the plant and replant it in the same spot or pot.

Offsets

Offsets might seem like cutting, but they are actually small plants produced either on the sides of the leaves or the base of the stem of the parent plant. This is also a simple method to reproduce cacti. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Use a disinfected, sharp tool or tweezers to remove the offset from the plant.
  2. Provide protection for the offset after the extraction from excessive sun and humidity for at least two weeks so that the wound area properly heals.
  3. Once the offset has healed, place it in a well-drained mixture under a shady spot.
  4. Water it generously during the first month and lower the amount as it grows. Once it is an adult plant, start watering it normally.
  5. After a month or so, the roots will start growing, and you can replant them as needed.

Ensure you replant the cactus during spring or early summer.

Can Cactus Reproduce Fast?

The speed of cactus reproduction depends on the propagation method and the type of species of the cactus. In the case of sexual reproduction, it takes somewhere between a few weeks and a few months for flower pollination and for the fruits to mature. In the case of asexual reproduction, it can take somewhere between a few days to a few weeks.

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Wrapping Up

Growing your cactus plants can be rewarding but could also need some patience. While some species of cactus can reproduce within a few weeks, others take years to even flower. When a cactus reproduce asexually in good growing conditions, it gives quicker results. Using cuttings is the easiest and fastest way to reproduce a cactus. With the right knowledge and care, these plants can be enjoyed for years.

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