Cacti are unique and beautiful plants that can thrive both indoors and outdoors with proper care. Many cactus species readily propagate from cuttings, making it an easy and affordable way to expand your plant collection. You can successfully root cactus cuttings with a few simple steps on how to plant cactus cuttings and watch them grow into mature, flowering plants.
When to Take Cactus Cuttings
The best time to take cuttings is in spring or summer when cacti are actively growing. This gives the cuttings the best chance to form roots. Avoid taking cuttings in winter when plants are dormant.
Some species that propagate well from cuttings include:
- Christmas cactus
- Dragonfruit cactus
- Fishhook barrel cactus
- Golden barrel cactus
- Hedgehog cactus
- Prickly pear
- Thanksgiving cactus
How to Choose a Healthy Cutting
Pick a healthy parent plant and look for firm and plump segments with no discoloration. Avoid cuttings from weak or diseased plants. Select segments that are around 2-4 inches long.
The cutting should be taken cleanly at a joint and include at least 2-3 areoles, the fuzzy spots where spines emerge. The areoles contain meristem cells that will produce new growth and roots.
Use a clean, sharp knife or scissors to sever the cutting from the parent plant. Cut at a 45-degree angle to maximize the surface area.
Rooting Cactus Cuttings in Soil
Rooting cactus cuttings directly in a potting mix is simple and effective. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1. Let Cutting Callous
After taking the cutting, allow the end to dry and callous for a few days. This forms a protective barrier and prevents rotting. Lay the cutting in a shady spot and allow the cut end to dry and harden.
Step 2. Prepare a Pot
Fill a small pot with a well-draining cactus/succulent potting mix. Water it thoroughly and allow excess moisture to drain out.
You can also use a propagation tray filled with rooting hormone and perlite or vermiculite. This will help stimulate root growth.
Step 3. Plant the Cutting
Make a hole in the potting mix with a pencil. Insert the calloused end of the cutting into the hole. Make sure the end makes good contact with the soil.
If using a propagation tray, gently press the cutting into the rooting hormone.
Step 4. Water Lightly
Water the planted cutting lightly. Do not moisten the soil too much, as too much water will cause rotting. Allow any excess water to drain out.
Step 5. Provide Warmth and Light
Place the potted cutting in a warm location (70-80°F) that receives bright, indirect light. A greenhouse, sunny window, or under a grow light works well.
Step 6. Maintain Moisture
Over the next several weeks, keep the soil lightly moist but not soggy. Let the soil dry slightly between waterings. Proper moisture is crucial for root development.
Step 7. Watch for Root Growth
Check for root formation after 3-4 weeks. Gently tug on the cutting to feel resistance from new root growth. When it resists being pulled up, it has rooted successfully!
Rooting Cuttings in Water
Rooting cactus cuttings in water is an easy alternative propagation method. Follow these instructions:
Step 1. Let Cutting Callous
As mentioned above, let the cut end callous over for 2-3 days before submerging in water.
Step 2. Prepare Cutting
Trim any dried, shriveled tissue from the cut end to expose the fresh inner flesh. This allows it to absorb water better.
Step 3. Place in Water
Fill a glass or jar with water at room temperature. Place the cutting in the water so the end is submerged by an inch or two.
Change the water every few days to prevent bacterial growth.
Step 4. Provide Light and Warmth
Put the cutting container in a spot with indirect sunlight and temperatures around 70-80°F.
Step 5. Watch for Root Growth
Check for root formation every few weeks. Small white nubs will begin emerging from the base. Allow the roots to grow 1-2 inches long before transplanting.
Step 6. Transplant to Soil
Once rooted, plant the cutting in a pot filled with cactus/succulent mix. Bury the roots under about an inch of soil and water lightly. Keep it sheltered for 1-2 weeks while it adjusts to its new environment.
Aftercare Tips for Rooted Cuttings
Cactus cuttings require the same care as mature plants. Follow these tips once your cutting is established:
- Allow the soil to dry between waterings to prevent rot.
- Water deeply when the soil is partly dry. Proper drainage is essential.
- Place in a spot with lots of sun – at least 6 hours daily.
- Use a cactus fertilizer occasionally during the growing season.
- Repot annually in fresh cactus/succulent mix. Choose a pot only one size larger.
- Protect from frost and freezing temperatures if growing outdoors.
- Propagate more cuttings to expand your collection!
With the proper care, cactus cuttings will establish roots in weeks and grow into beautiful, flowering plants. Share the joy of gardening by giving cuttings as gifts to fellow succulent-lovers.
Troubleshooting Common Problems with Cactus Cuttings
While cactus cuttings are relatively easy to root, you may encounter some problems. Here are some troubleshooting tips for common issues:
The Cutting is Shriveling
If the cutting starts withering and drying up, it’s not getting enough water. Make sure to keep the soil or water slightly moist. Increase humidity by placing it in a propagation tray or bag. Avoid direct sunlight until it rehydrates and plumps up.
The Cutting Has Buds But No Root Growth
Some cuttings form plantlets or buds but no roots. This is caused by inadequate lighting. Move it to a brighter location or use a grow light to encourage root formation. Keep the soil just slightly moist.
The Base is Rotting
If the base of the cutting rots and turns black, it is due to overwatering or bacterial infection. Discard the rotten cutting and sterilize your tools. Allow the subsequent cutting to be thoroughly callous before planting, and use a new potting mix. Avoid excessive moisture.
White Growths on the Cutting
White fuzz or unusual growths indicate a fungal infection. Isolate the infected cutting to prevent spreading. Try sprinkling cinnamon powder, which acts as an antifungal agent. Improve airflow and avoid overwatering.
Why Are the Cutting’s Leaves Wrinkling?
Wrinkled, shriveled leaves mean the cutting is losing more water than it can take in. To remedy this, move it to a shadier location, put it under a propagation dome, and mist occasionally. Make sure the soil mix drains well.
Propagating cacti from cuttings is a fun, rewarding way to expand your succulent collection with minimal cost. You’ll have unique cacti to enjoy or give as gifts with patience and proper care. Rooting cuttings in water or soil has a high success rate when given adequate warmth, humidity, and sunlight. You can watch new life emerge from a cutting in just a few weeks! Start snipping and planting segments from your favorite cacti today.
How long does it take for cactus cuttings to root?
Rooting time varies by species but generally takes 2-8 weeks. Cuttings rooted in water form roots quicker than those rooted in soil. Wait at least four weeks before checking for root growth.
Should I use rooting hormone on cactus cuttings?
Rooting hormone is optional but can speed up the rooting process. Dip the cut end in powdered or gel hormone before planting. It contains auxins that stimulate root cell growth.
What’s the ideal temperature for rooting cactus cuttings?
Cacti root best in warm conditions between 70-80°F. Temperatures lower than 65°F will slow or inhibit root formation. Providing bottom heat with a propagation mat helps maintain optimal warmth.
How do I increase humidity for cactus cuttings?
Use a propagation dome, bag, or tray cover to create a humid environment around the cutting. Misting the leaves occasionally also boosts humidity. Good airflow is still essential to prevent rotting.
When can I transplant my rooted cactus cuttings?
Wait until the cutting has formed roots at least 1-2 inches long. Gently tug on it to check for resistance. Transplant into a small pot with cactus/succulent soil. Keep it sheltered for 1-2 weeks to reduce transplant shock.
Please help; my cut cactus is oozing liquid! Is it okay?
Don’t worry; a minor oozing or sap leakage from the cut surface is expected. Just let the cut end callous over and dry out before rooting. Limit watering first to prevent excess sap secretions, inhibiting root formation.
Can I propagate cactus cuttings in perlite or vermiculite instead of soil?
Yes, rooting in a pure perlite or vermiculite medium works well. Soak it first and then drain any excess moisture. The coarse particles provide good aeration for the cutting. Just make sure the base stays consistently damp.
Should I mist my cactus cuttings?
Occasional misting is beneficial to provide extra humidity and prevent leaves from shriveling. But avoid frequent, heavy misting that can lead to rotting. It’s safer to use a propagation dome to maintain humidity levels.
Why are some of my cuttings not rooting well?
Stunted root growth is often due to cool temperatures, inadequate moisture, or low light levels. Try moving the cutting to a warmer spot with grow lights and ensuring the soil stays lightly moist. Wait at least 6-8 weeks before giving up on a cutting.
Can I propagate a cactus by just placing a segment on the soil?
This is known as “cactus planting” or “cactus dropping.” Just lay the segment on moist soil, and new roots will eventually emerge from the areoles. Keep the soil slightly damp but not overly wet.