Can You Grow A Cactus From A Cutting?

Growing cacti from stem cuttings is a common propagation technique. You will need to obtain a fresh cutting and root it either in water or soil depending on the cactus species. Desert cacti should be rooted in the soil while jungle cacti are ideal for water rooting

Gardeners must always find a way of propagating new cacti plants to minimize the cost of acquiring new plants. In the wilderness, propagation from seeds is the most common way these succulents use to multiply, but that doesn’t mean it is the only way. As natural habitats of cacti and other succulents decline, the need to propagate and maintain these species through home gardening is more crucial.

So, the big question is, can you grow a cactus from cutting? The simpler answer is “yes.” In fact, propagating a cactus from a cutting is one of the easiest and cheapest ways of growing new cacti from existing cacti. A significant number of cacti species can be propagated by small cuttings taken from the stem of an existing plant, which are then allowed to dry out and be callous.

It doesn’t take long before the cuttings eventually start rooting from the cut end and growing into a new plant.

In this post, we discuss everything you need to know about propagating cactus from a cutting. Keep reading to discover how to expand your cactus collection easily.

Propagating Cacti from a Stem Cutting

Let us take a look at the process of propagating a new cactus from an existing plant. To complete this process, you will need the following materials:

Once you have all the mentioned requirements, proceed with the steps outlined below:

Obtaining a stem cutting

A person arranging small plant in a small pot.
Taking healthy cuttings from the cactus is the first step for propagation.

You will be taking a healthy cutting from the top of your cactus plant. If your cactus has pads, make sure you choose one that is mature enough- even if a few smaller pads have started growing on top of it.

Using a young pad is quite dangerous because it may fail to root successfully. For columnar cacti, be sure to select a thin stem that will root much faster than a chunky one.

On columnar cacti, carefully cut off the stem at least a few inches from the top. Make the cut clean and straight and be careful not to crush the rest of the stem. If you are dealing with pads, then you can easily snap off one by hand.

Before you begin obtaining cuttings from your existing plant, make sure you disinfect your knife thoroughly. Keep in mind that there may be open wounds on your cactus that can easily contract bacteria leading to other issues. Also, wear gloves to avoid coming into direct contact with the spines.

For extra protection, consider holding the cactus cuttings with tongs or a pair of cactus pliers instead of your hands.

Rooting your cactus cuttings

A gravel with a soil.
After drying up the cut ends, you can root your cuttings into a proper-sized pot.

So, you now have your cuttings, what do you do next?  Set the cutting aside for a few days to allow the cut end to dry up. Make sure the cutting is stored in a safe place away from sunlight and soil. Once the wound has healed, it will form a callous, which is an indicator that the cutting is ready for potting.

Sometimes, you may be forced to use a little sulfur on the cut end to speed up drying and protect the cutting from bacterial infection. The sulfur may turn a few colors, but that should worry you at all. Just check after a few days to see if the end is dry.

Once the cut end has formed callous, you are ready to jump on to rooting.

Fill your new pot with a moist potting mix and level the soil. Carefully stick your cutting into the potting mix with the cut side down. Be careful while sticking it into the container to avoid opening up the dried wound.

If it can’t stand on its own, simply lay it on top of the soil. If you have rooting hormone powder, make sure you dip your cutting into it right before planting.

Use the right type of soil

A soil on hand.
Choosing a suitable soil type for your specific cactus is essential for growing the cuttings.

The type of soil plays a critical role in establishing whether the cutting grows into a new plant or not. Therefore, you need to ensure you are using the right type of soil.

Go for a porous potting mix that is well-draining. Typically, almost all cacti plants require soil that drains much quicker than your average houseplant soil. If the soil holds water for too long, it may cause severe rotting of your cutting at the base.

Consider adding gravel, sand, or perlite to your soil to improve its drainage.  If the soil is already moist, do not water the cutting after planting. If you are not sure of anything, feel free to ask your local nursery center for basic cactus soil mix, and you are good to go.

Watering a Newly Planted Cactus Cutting

While the roots are developing, your newly planted cutting will mainly be relying on stored nutrients and water. Therefore, you need to keep the soil continually moist to supplement the supply and encourage deep root growth.

Consistent watering may also play a critical role in yielding great results.  Light water the soil every few days to keep it moist. However, be careful not to soak the soil with water since it may lead to rot issues. Just keep it damp.

The root-growing speed will largely depend on the type of cactus, size of cutting, and watering frequency. In most cases, small cuttings grow roots faster than large cuttings. Your cactus cutting can take anything from a couple of days to one month or even more to develop roots.

Once the roots have settled fully into the soil, switch to a typical cactus watering regime. Always make sure the soil dries out completely between watering sessions.

At this point, start introducing your young cactus to more sunlight gradually. Keep in mind that even though the roots are growing, you won’t see any significant stem growth for at least one year.

Can You Root a Cactus in Water?

A plant in the water.
While desert cacti cannot be rooted in water, jungle cacti cuttings are perfectly fine for water rooting technique.

To answer this question efficiently, you need to understand the type of cactus you are dealing with. Typically, there are two broad types of cacti; desert cacti and jungle cacti. 

A desert cactus only thrives in arid areas and is extremely drought-resistant, while jungle desert grows in tropical regions that receive plenty of rainfall. A good example of a jungle cactus is the Christmas cactus.

Although you cannot root a desert cactus in water, jungle cacti (specifically the Christmas cactus) can be rooted in water. If you prefer taking this root, you will need to do everything right to achieve better results.

Start with obtaining between one and four cuttings from a healthy Christmas cactus. Make sure each cutting is approximately four inches long, with a minimum of three leaves on each.

From there, take an empty glass jar and fill the bottom with pebbles/stones to about two inches deep. Carefully add water such that it rises above the stones/pebbles.

Carefully place your Christmas cactus cuttings in the glass jar containing water and make sure the bottom of each cutting touches the water. The majority part of the cutting should be in the glass jar but above the water level.

The humidity in the glass jar will help your cuttings to root without rotting. Always keep a close eye on the water level so that it doesn’t evaporate. Add more water to the glass jar every time you notice a significant drop.

Also, consider using rainwater or distilled water for better results. If you must use tap water, let it sit for at least 48 hours so that the chemicals and salts can evaporate.

Tap water contains significant amounts of fluoride, which is harmful to young cuttings since it travels through the plant and settles on the leaves. This makes the leaves turn brown, which can spread to the rest of the plant quickly if you continue feeding it with fluoridated water.

Can You Replant a Broken Cactus Part?

Yes. Just like the cuttings, you can also replant a broken part. However, you will need to inspect it carefully to determine if it is mature.

Once you are satisfied that the broken part is mature enough for propagation, carefully check the broken end of the cactus. If it is uneven or crooked, make a fresh cut to even it out.

Baby cuttings.
Remember the fact that the cut end must be dry and sealed over before you root it.

From there, set the piece aside for a few days to allow the cut end to heal and callous over. Remember the fact that the cut end must be dry and sealed over before you root it.

The amount of time it takes for the cut end to dry and callous will depend on the thickness of the cut and amount of humidity in the air.

After it has dried and calloused over, follow the steps outlined above to root it.

Should I Fertilize a Newly Propagated Cactus Cutting?

Yes. Applying small amounts of succulent fertilizer is essential for a newly propagated cactus to maintain its health and grow rapidly.

However, be careful not to feed the young plant too much fertilizer since it may cause significant damage. Also, avoid using chemical-based fertilizers since they may contain too many salts that can burn the young cactus plant.

You should only fertilize the cutting once it has grown roots. From there, apply fertilizer twice every month but reduce the amount with time as the cactus grows. If you are unsure of anything, consult your local nursery center for basic fertilizer guidelines specific to cacti plants.

It is also essential to ensure that the other conditions for your newly propagated cactus are optimal, such as the right soil mixture and watering frequency. Pay attention to these aspects, and you will have a healthy cactus in no time.

Is Propagation from Cuttings Same as Grafting?

Many people confuse propagation from cuttings with grafting. The two techniques are entirely different and should never be confused.

Grafting is the process of attaching a part of one plant onto another to form a new plant. When done correctly, the two plants can grow side by side as one unit. This method is mainly used when it’s practically impossible to propagate from cuttings.

Propagation from cuttings, on the other hand, is a much simpler and straightforward process. As explained above, it only involves creating small cactus cuttings and rooting them in soil or water. The new plant produced will be genetically similar to the original parent plant.

Grafting is generally more complicated and requires more expertise. It is mainly used when a certain plant species or variety cannot be propagated from cuttings. Therefore, it is best to try the propagation from cuttings method before trying your hands on grafting.

If things fail, you can consider grafting as an alternative technique. However, propagating cuttings is the best way to go if you want to clone your favorite cactus plant and have more of them without breaking the bank.

Final Thought

Cactus plants are relatively easy to propagate from cuttings. In most cases, you will get faster and more predictable results if you decide to propagate a cactus from cuttings than you would from planting seeds.

While it is more common to propagate cacti from cuttings indoors, you can also do it outdoors and expand your home garden. 

Last update on 2024-02-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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