Many people start out with cactus as a gift plant and don’t think much about cactus propagation.
However, when they see how easy it is to care for these interesting plants, they quickly become collectors. Soon the “How to propagate cactus” or “How do I start new plants” question gets asked.
It’s easy to grow cactus from grafts, seeds or cuttings if you know how.
The propagation method of cactus you choose depends on the type of cactus you are dealing with. Each type has its own special quirks.
In this article, we provide guidelines to help you choose your cactus propagation method and share advice for propagating cactus. Read on to learn more.
Cactus Propagation: How To Graft Cactus?
There are three ways to graft cactus propagate.
The Flat Graft:
If you are grafting round or globular cactus (also the Desert Rose plant – Adenium), they should be melded face-to-face. This sort of graft is often called a flat graft.
To do this, you would use two globular cacti of the same size. Use a very sharp, clean blade to cut them in such a way that each has a flat surface.
The surfaces should be exactly the same size in order to fit together perfectly, face-to-face. Grafted moon cactus (moon cactus babies) is a good example.
You must fit them together immediately. Don’t allow them to dry out at all. Secure them together with a strong rubber band.
The Side Graft:
For this type of grafting the cuts are at an angle. This is a good way to graft cylindrical cacti.
Follow the same instructions for flat grafting to carry out this operation.
If you are trying to graft a hanging cactus onto a sturdy base or parent plant, you must insert the stem of the grafted cactus into the base.
Make a V-shaped cut or cleft in the base and create a matching cut in the grafted plant.
Fit them together carefully. This process will encourage the grafted, trailing plant to grow in a more upright manner.
Cactus grafting techniques. You can easily do it yourself!
Grafting is a very interesting way to propagate cactus and other plants. It is also very challenging.
Nonetheless, it’s a good choice for cactus that may have a hard time surviving on their own immature roots.
Grafting is a good choice for the types of cactus that do not produce pups or offsets. [source]
Grafting can also give a more attractive appearance to some forms of cactus.
For example, those growing from hanging stems can take on a more upright new growth habit when properly matched and grafted with another type of cactus.
You can graft a trailing cactus onto a more chunky type to create a very interesting visual appeal.
The main idea of grafting is that the selected base or mother plant are grafted to grow simultaneously. This produces a “chimera” effect as the tissues of both plants meld.
For best results, always undertake grafting cactus during both plants’ growing season when both plants are active. Grafting during the dormant season is sure to fail.
Both plants used in grafting must be healthy and strong.
For the base stock, Myrtillocactus and Hylocereus are good choices as they are robust and easy to grow.
The base and the grafted stock should be about the same size.
Propagating Cactus Cuttings?
To grow cactus and succulents like Echeveria plants from cuttings is by far the easiest and most popular method of cactus propagation. Take cuttings from any sort of cactus to quickly and easily expand your collection.
This includes cactus pups, cactus pads (like the prickly pear cactus plant) and offsets.
You can get cuttings from friends and fellow enthusiasts. Sometimes you can just pick up cuttings from the floor of nurseries or home centers or along the walkway when out for a stroll.
If your favorite cactus has succumbed to root rot or pest infestation, you can collect viable cuttings, toss out the dead cactus and start over again.
Just as with grafting, you should start cuttings during the growing season.
April through June are the best months as cactus are waking up from winter and getting ready to put on new growth.
What Are The Best Types Of Cactus To Grow From Cuttings?
Opuntia cactus are some of the best candidates. They produce pads or stems that are easy to cut and easy to start.
If you want to try your hand at growing tall column cactus from cuttings, you would cut off the top of the parent plant and use it as your start.
The Cereus peruvianus cactus “Peruvian Apple” is a good choice for this project.
How To Prepare The Cactus Cutting?
Unlike grafting, you can start cactus and succulent plants from cuttings that have dried well before being planted. Do not plant cuttings in soil right away.
Instead, allow the cactus cutting or succulent leaves to dry out a little bit before introducing it to potting medium.
If you pot the cactus cutting or pad too soon, its watery sap is likely to become contaminated with bacteria.
Wait until the surface of the cactus is dry (three or four days not weeks). You shouldn’t leave it so long that it begins to shrivel as this may mean the cutting has died.
What Kind Of Soil Should You Use For Cuttings?
A commercially prepared cactus potting mix is a good choice. You can make your own that will hold just the right amount of moisture along with other ingredients will allow for good drainage.
More for read our article on Making Your Own Cactus Soil Potting Mix
Tips For Success:
Dampen the soil thoroughly, but don’t get it too soggy. Very wet soil encourages fungal growth. Before introducing a cacti cutting to the soil, dip them in hormone rooting powder that contains fungicide.
If you want to avoid the moisture problem altogether, you can just use pumice to start your cuttings and then transplant them to their permanent pots when they get a little growth.
To plant cuttings, just set them on top of the soil. There is no need to bury them. They will send out roots in search of the soil.
Keep cuttings of cactus in a warm area with plenty of bright, indirect sunlight and good air circulation. Give them a little misting every couple of days, but don’t water them heavily.
How To Plant Cactus From Seed?
This can be slow work, but very rewarding when you successfully grow cactus from seed.
Growing cactus from seed is a great way to add exotic or hard-to-get specimens, such as the majestic Saguaro cactus, to your collection. [source]
It’s easy to expand your cactus collection by ordering seed online. [Cactus Seeds from Amazon]
The best time to start cactus seed is in May, before the growing season.
At this time the difference in daytime and nighttime temperature is not very great and the humidity levels are just right to create an environment conducive to germinating cactus seed.
What Kind Of Soil Is Best For Cactus Seeds?
For this project, use a commercially prepared cactus potting mix combined with about one-third coarse, sterile sand.
You can start your seeds individually in small pots or sprinkle seed mixed with sand over the top of a shallow tray of your potting mix.
Whatever container you use, it should have good drainage holes in the bottom.
Do not cover the very fine cactus seed with soil. Just tamp the surface of the potting medium lightly to keep the soil from shifting around.
Once the seeds are sown, set the pots or tray in a dish of water and allow the soil to soak up water through the drainage holes.
Wait until the water reaches the surface of the soil and then remove the pots/tray and let excess moisture drain out.
This method prevents having seeds washed around as they would be by top watering.
Place the container in a warm place with bright, indirect sunlight. Cover the container with plastic to retain moisture until the seeds sprout. When they do, remove the plastic.
Keep the potting medium slightly moist through occasional misting. Don’t let the soil dry out completely.
How Long Does It Take For Cactus To Grow From Seed?
It can take quite a while to grow a full-fledged cactus plant from seed. Some types can be transplanted into their own pots during the first growing season.
Others are slower growing and more delicate and should be left in place until their second summer.
When the time comes, repot using a good commercial cactus mix. Press the soil down firmly to hold the plant in place. Top the soil off with coarse sand.
Cactus Plants: The Perfect Plant For Gardeners At Every Level
Whether you are just starting out as an indoor or outdoor gardener or have many years of experience, cacti make excellent additions to your collection.
These easy-care plants bring interest to any sunny setting.
Learning to propagate cactus on your own is an affordable and adventurous way to build an intriguing collection.