Can You Cut Off A Piece Of Cactus And Plant It?

Rooting and planting a piece of your cactus plant is a technique for propagating it. You need to carefully take a cutting, allow it to try, and root it into a proper-sized pot with suitable soil. To keep your cacti healthy, never overwater them

Overly active children, marauding cats, a careless bump, or an unexpected accident can easily knock a piece off your loved cactus plant. If such a thing ever happens to you, no need to worry because you don’t have to throw away the cut piece.

While the main plant can still survive even after losing part of its stem, it may seem wasteful to throw away the dislodged part and forget everything.

So, can you cut off a piece of cactus and plant it? The simple answer is yes. A significant number of cacti species can easily be propagated from cuttings. Some of the common cacti species usually propagated from cuttings include a hedgehog, prickly pear, and branching columnar cacti such as the night-blooming cereus. 

Also, if a section of your cactus breaks off accidentally, don’t throw away the broken piece. Instead, root it and let it grow into a new plant.

In this post, we discuss everything you need to know about propagating cacti plants from cuttings. Whether you have taken the cutting from your plant intentionally or it has broken off accidentally, we are going to teach you how to grow new plants from the cuttings.

Taking a Cutting from Your Cactus

A small pot with a different kinds of cactus.
Carefully taking the cuttings is essential for the proper growth of the cactus.

When it comes to propagating a cactus from cuttings, you need to be careful with how and where you take your cutting. In fact, this step will determine your success in the long run. If you make a mistake at this point, your cactus cutting may fail to grow into a new plant.

The first thing you need to do is choose a healthy and mature plant where you will be taking your cutting from. If your plant has pads, be sure to select a mature one even if other smaller pads have started growing on top of it.

Once you have identified a good plant to take cuttings from, put on protective gloves and carefully cut off a section of the plant that is at least a few inches from the top. You can use a sharp knife or hand saw to accomplish this step.

Make sure you take the cutting at an angle so that rainwater doesn’t start collecting on the parent plant because it can lead to rot issues. You should also disinfect the knife or handsaw before you take the cutting.

This is to ensure that you don’t transmit bacteria to the plant via existing wounds on its surface. If you don’t feel comfortable holding a cactus plant with your hands, feel free to use a pair of cactus pliers or tongs.

Rooting Your Cactus Cutting

Once you have your cutting, you will need to do a few things before you root it.

First, set your cutting in a dry, cool area away from direct sunlight for a few days. If possible, keep the cutting in a vertical position to prevent roots from growing out on the sides of the cutting and to help it remain straight while drying.

Let the cutting rest for a few days to form a callous at the cut end. Don’t take the cutting and plant right away because it will only rot and you will have nothing at the end of it.

Callousing seals and protects the wound from bacterial and fungal organisms that could easily cause the cutting to rot once it has been planted.

1. Rooting in a pot

A pot with drainage holes.
While rooting the cuttings, you should select a proper container along with suitable potting mix.

Once your cutting has dried and calloused completely, it is time to root it so it can start growing into a new plant. You can choose to root your cutting in a planting pot or the ground. We shall talk about both methods.

If you decide to root your cutting in a pot, make sure you find the right pot size. For a cutting, you don’t need an enormous container.  Just find something appropriate that won’t appear too large for your cutting. Ensure the container you choose has plenty of drainage holes.

The next thing you need to do is fill your pot with an appropriate potting mix. Let us discuss a few things about the soil because it plays a crucial role in the survival and rooting of your cactus cutting.

Just like mature cacti plants, your cactus requires porous, well-draining soil. Keep in mind that if the soil holds water for too long, it may cause rotting of the cutting at the base. To be on a safe side, consider adding plenty of perlite or sand to your soil to improve drainage.

Now, fill the growing pot with the potting mix and carefully insert the cutting into the container.  Your cutting should penetrate at least two inches into the soil if it is small (less than six inches) and three to four inches deep if the cutting is more than six inches long.

Consider supporting your cutting with small stones or two wooden stakes with twine to keep it in an upright position.

Keep the newly planted cuttings away from direct sunlight. You can position your pot in a brightly lit location but make sure the cutting is well protected from direct sunlight until roots are well established.

You want to avoid sunburns and dehydrating your cutting before it develops a stable root system.

2. Rooting in the ground

If you don’t have an appropriate pot size, you can still root your cutting in the ground.  If you choose to take this route, be sure to loosen the soil in the spot where you want to plant your cutting.

After that, dig a hole in the loosened soil that is deep enough to place the calloused end of your cutting in the ground a few inches deep.

Small cactuses on the ground.
Be sure to loosen the soil in the spot where you want to plant your cutting.

In most cases, you may be forced to mound small stones around the cutting for support, especially if the cutting is from a columnar cactus.

Once you are sure that roots have successfully formed and your cutting is now firmly anchored in the ground, remove the stones.

Should I Water the Cutting Immediately After Planting?

A person watering the plant.
Overwatering will not make the cactus grow faster. Excess water will rot them and might even kill your plant.

When it comes to taking care of cacti plants, watering is a critical factor that you need to handle carefully. By now, you must be aware of the fact that overwatering kills these succulents much faster than underwatering.

So, how often should you water your cutting after rooting?  At the time of planting, consider wetting the soil thoroughly. From there, you don’t have to worry so much about watering because the cutting can remain in good shape for a few days or weeks before it requires another watering.

Any subsequent watering must be light and consistent. A good rule of the thumb is to lightly water your cutting once every week to keep it moist.  You should aim to keep the soil damp, not too wet.

Don’t try to force faster rooting by overwatering because the cuttings will only rot.

How Long Does It Take a Cactus Cutting to Develop Roots?

Typically, the rates at which cuttings develop new roots depend on a wide range of factors such as the size of cutting, type of cactus, and watering regimen.

Generally, it takes four to six weeks for the roots to form, but smaller cuttings tend to develop roots much faster than large cuttings.

To achieve better results, make sure you take time to prepare your cuttings properly beforehand and pot them in sterile rooting material to keep them from rotting or withering before they root. After rooting, most cacti plants will be ready for transplantation approximately one month later.

If a Cactus Breaks Off, Can I Plant the Broken Pieces?

Yes, you can.  Don’t throw away broken pieces of your plant because they can give you new plants. The only thing you need to do is to make sure that you are following the right steps in preparing the broken pieces for planting.

The first thing you need to do is to check the broken end of the piece. If it is crooked or broke, use a sharp knife to make a fresh cut to even the end out.

Set the broken piece aside for a few days to allow the wound to callous over in preparation for rooting. Make sure the cut end is dry and sealed over before you proceed to root it.

3 Tips for Successful Propagation

As a gardener, your joy is to see your cuttings /seeds develop into new plants to increase your plant collection. These tips will help you when it comes to propagating cacti plants:

1. Develop technical and mechanical skills

Take time to train your hand and eye because they are crucial in propagation. Most of the time, your head will know how, but your hand won’t be willing to do it. The best way to improve your skills is by practice.

2. Know your cacti species and its best form of propagation

A cactus on a claypot outdoors.
Each cactus is unique, know your plant species and what that works best for it

There are over 2500 cacti species in the world, and each one of them is unique. Therefore, strive to know your plant species and the form of propagation that works best for it.

3. Know the different plant structures and how they grow

The best way to learn about your cactus is to study it. Make an effort to know something new about your plant every day. Let it teach you, and once you understand how they grow, you will have an easy time propagating them.

Final Thought

Now that you know how to propagate cacti plants from cuttings, it’s time to go out there and practice what you have learned.

Feel free to experiment with new things and let us know how it goes. We love talking to cacti lovers all over the world. Subscribe to our email list for the latest gardening tips.

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