How to Trim a Cactus Without Killing It

Most cactus plants don’t require much trimming because they grow slowly and take a long time to get big. But, a little trimming to remove old stems might help overgrown plants.

Normally, you should think about trimming your cactus when it is overcrowded, displaying indications of insect infestation, suffering from top-to-bottom decomposition, and after flowering.

Cacti plants in the U.S. are distinguished by their many forms, dimensions, and hues. Although mostly green, some of them are also white and purple. These plants’ low maintenance requirements are one of their finest qualities.

But what do you do when you see that your cactus has grown too large? You regulate its size by trimming it back.

Cutting Back a Cactus

So, can you cut back a cactus plant? The short answer is yes. You should always prune your cactus plant to control its size and prevent crowding. In rare cases, trimming might prevent your plant from dying.

Remember that most cactus species don’t require any shape or pruning until they have grown a big branch that threatens to topple your plant.

The only time most gardeners are required to prune their cactus plants is when they need to take cuttings to replant.

Most cacti don’t require any shaping unless they have a large branch poised to topple the plant. The main purposes of cactus trimming include:

  • Reinvigorating a plant that has grown too tall or too lean
  • Removing offsets or pups for the same purpose
  • Removing damaged material

There are many different types of cacti. By avoiding overcrowding, which raises the risk of disease, mildew, and ill plants, cactus trimming can improve these shapes.

The majority of cacti feature a spine or prickle, which may be uncomfortable to come into contact with. For the larger garden specimens, wear long sleeves and trousers and thick gloves.

Depending on the size of the plant, a variety of tools may be used, although pruners are the most common. Just the biggest ones will need a saw.

As with any pruning, ensure the pruner is clean and sharp to prevent damage to the plant and the spread of disease.

Getting Started

An overgrown cactus will need to be pruned using a saw. To avoid damaging the plant and lower the risk of infection, the instrument should be clean and sharp.

Be careful not to cut into the main stem while cutting the arms at the branch point. Use pruners to separate pads or leaves; otherwise, they can easily fall off.

The sort of cactus you have will determine how you should trim it; for instance, Agave plants require the old leaves to be removed to preserve their aesthetic. Use scissors to cut them at the base of the plant.

To induce branching or larger stems, columnar cacti like Organ pipe and Totem pole cacti must be severed when they grow too tall and thin over time.

To take up the thorns and trimmings more easily, wrap the section of the cactus with an old sheet or newspaper.

Decide what has to be clipped before pruning on an overgrown columnar cactus because these plants sometimes have fewer segments than other cactus species.

Eliminating bigger pieces might be hazardous for the plant since the columns store water and gather sunlight for the entire structure.

Cut just the bits that are necessary. Cutting off a tree limb is just like pruning the columns.

The top or inner side, approximately 14 into the column, should be the location of the initial incision, a few inches above the base.

To induce the weighted fall of the column when you make the final cut, make a second cut comparable to the first cut in size—about an inch below the first cut—but should be on the bottom or outside.

Clear the place where the cut section will land before making the final cut. At a safe location, begin completely cutting through from the top, inner side at the base where the column has developed.

Trim away any damaged or overgrown areas. Make these kinds of cuts repeatedly as necessary to eliminate any overgrown regions.

How to Preserve Its Natural Shape

Each plant’s natural shape should be preserved while trimming; topping or hedging does the exact opposite.

Most desert plants, including cacti and succulents, have some sort of defense mechanism to keep them safe in their natural environment. In an urban setting, this may be both advantageous and dangerous.

The armor may discourage animals and people from visiting places where it is planted. Still, it may also provide a risk if it is positioned too close to walkways, roadways, parking lots, or building entrances.

Once blooming is over, tall, beautiful bloom spikes from yuccas, Colinas, and dasylirions should be removed.

Pruning should be done after the seeds have matured if one wishes to conserve the seeds for replanting or as food for wildlife.

To avoid damaging the plant by excessive trimming:

  • Don’t go overboard with the sheers.
  • Before transplanting, remove the broken pieces and let the column branch for a few days to develop.

If one wants to conserve the seeds for further growth or as food for wildlife, prune them after they have matured and scattered.

After blooming, agave will expire. After flowering or at the first indication of agave weevils, their spikes should be cut off, and the plants should be pulled up.

How to Help a Sick Cactus

The tilting and tipping over of a cactus plant is an indication of overwatering, under watering, insect damage, root rot disease, or an excessively large container.

To remedy the succulent’s drooping issue, repot it in a new container with just 2 inches of space on the sides and water it until the top 2 inches of soil are dry.

Replanting a cactus in dry soil or adding extra dirt around the cactus’ base are two possible solutions to this issue. Also, you may encourage your cactus to grow upright by covering the soil’s surface with a coating of gravel or tiny rocks.

What to Do with the Trimmed Cactus Parts

Except for sick or dead stems and leaves, almost all of the pieces you remove can be recovered. Even on top of the earth, pads will take root and develop into new plants.

Cut stems and trunks can be planted to develop into new cacti after being left alone for a few days to form a callus at the cut end.

Any offsets or pups taken from the base of a cactus should be planted immediately since they will begin to root in a month.

Compost may be made from dead items like leaves and flower stems. Your cactus plant will seem more beautiful as you prune it.

Pachycereus Marginatus Mexican Fence Post Cactus (4 inch)

How to Help a Sick Cactus

The tilting and tipping over of a cactus plant is an indication of overwatering, underwatering, insect damage, root rot disease, or an excessively large container.

To remedy the succulent’s drooping issue, report it in a new container with just 2 inches of space on the sides and water it until the top 2 inches of soil are dry.

Replanting a cactus in dry soil or adding extra dirt around the cactus’ base are two possible solutions to this issue. Also, you may encourage your cactus to grow upright by covering the soil’s surface with a coating of gravel or tiny rocks.