Tips for Propagating a Cactus

By · October 23, 2022

Cactuses are wonderful additions to any in-home plant collection. Their unique shapes, spiky features, and ability to be ignored for long periods of time and still remain beautiful are appealing to avid gardeners and especially those with black thumbs. If cactus is a part of the greenery adorning the windowsills and shelves in your home, propagating the cactus to share or simply add to your own plant assortment is easy and cost effective. 

Propagating a cactus might not be something you have ever given much thought to especially if cactus is plentiful or native to your area but taking the time to do so will yield great results. There are several different ways to propagate cactuses so choose whichever method suits your situation best.

Propagating Cactus Pads

The pad is the flat, green appendage of the prickly pear cactus plant also known as “nopales.” They are edible and are widely used in Mexican dishes like soups, stews, and salads. They can be roasted or grilled or eaten raw but overcooking them results in a slimy piece of cactus. They emit a liquid that resembles aloe vera gel that is said to have similar healing properties and a taste similar to a citrus fruit.

So how do you make more of these fabulous plants to have around your home and garden?

Start by removing one of the pads from the existing plant. (Make sure you use tongs and are wearing gloves to ensure that you won’t get stung by the spines.) The pad should break off easily but if it doesn’t you can separate it from the plant by using a sharp knife. If you have to cut it off, use a clean knife and let the cut “heal” before planting.

 Fill up your pots leaving enough room to lay the cactus pads flat. You will also want to leave enough room around the pad for it to sprout new roots.

Water the pad and the soil, keeping the soil moist. While propagating a cactus pad, you will want to water more frequently than a full-grown cactus. The roots will start to form anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Once the roots are established, reduce the amount of watering and watch as the cactus begins to thrive.

Propagating Cactus Stems

Christmas Cactuses are gorgeous year-round but especially when in bloom with their vibrant pink flowers. This popular breed of cactus makes a great gift so propagating a shoot from your existing plant to give away is easy and always appreciated by the recipient.

Look over the cactus and choose a healthy-looking stem. Use the tongs to securely hold the stem in place and make a clean cut with sharp scissors. It is important to let the cut dry out before propagating to prevent infection and rot.

Fill a pot with cactus peat (a growing mix for cactus that consists of sand, soil and peat moss) and then plant the cutting down deep.

Water generously and then find a nice sunny spot (not direct sunlight) to let the new cut grow.

To speed up the propagating process, create a “greenhouse” by covering the stem with a piece of plastic wrap.

Continue watering every so often when the soil gets dry. The new stem should begin taking root in about a month.

Propagating Cactus Offsets

Some cactuses, such as the Thimble Cactus, produce tiny offshoots as they grow. These offshoots can be propagated easily and quickly.

Choose from a cactus that is mature and already has a lot of offshoots to pick from.

Either cut the offshoot from the plant as described above or wearing gloves, “twist” the offshoot from where it connects to the plant.

Follow the same drying process as above, leaving the offshoot on the windowsill until the cut is healed before proceeding.

Fill your pot with cactus peat or soil and then insert about ¼ of the stem. Refrain from watering at this point to allow the continuation of the drying process and place in a shady spot for a few days.

After about 5-7 days, move the cactus to a sunnier spot and begin watering regularly.

Propagating cactus is something that can be done any time of the year in any climate. Their very limited maintenance requirements make cactus the perfect houseplant for everyone, even those who claim to kill everything green! Give propagating your cactus a try and be sure to share the fruits of your labor with your friends and neighbors.

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