How To Propagate Cactus: What You Need To Know

Cacti are very popular houseplants, thanks to their unique and interesting appearance.

Cactus grow in many shapes and sizes, from small tabletop specimens up to fully grown plants that tower as high as 78-feet tall (the Saguaro cactus).

With proper care and attention, they can live up to 30 years or even longer. The most common varieties of cactus we see at nurseries are the columnar species, which produce a single stem and flowers arranged around it.

They can be found in many colors, shapes, sizes and even varieties with varying water-holding capabilities. Cacti can also make great gifts for people that have gardens or indoor plants.

There are around 26 families of cacti, though many of them are not used as houseplants. Many people who do have cacti as houseplants can’t get enough of them.

How To Propagate Cactus

Since these plants don’t live forever, we are often left with the dread of knowing that, one way, more money will have to be spent on more of them.

However, what if that isn’t the case? You can propagate your cacti and grow more plants that way! In this post, we will be taking a look at how you can propagate your cactus using different methods.  

Methods Of Propagation

 When it comes to propagating a cactus, there are a number of different methods you could try. These include using the seeds, cuttings, offshoots, or cactus pads.

Below, we will go through each of these methods. A step-by-step guide will be included for those who would like to try propagating their own plants at home. 

Propagating From Seeds

To do this, you will first need to get cactus seeds. You can get these seeds by collecting them from a flowering cactus.

First, however, the seeds will need to be pollinated, either through self-pollination or pollinators. You can self pollinate a flower by using a paintbrush.

If the pollination is successful, then fertilization will happen.

Once the flowers have successfully been fertilized, they can be dried out and stored for the seeds to be harvested.

In order for these seeds to germinate, the correct conditions will have to be provided. Only when the seedlings get big enough will they be able to be transplanted into their own pots.

Remember that only a few seedlings survive to maturity, so don’t be alarmed if it looks like you initially have a lot of seedlings to care for.

To propagate a cactus from seeds, you will need to:

  1. Get pollinated seeds from a cactus flower. You can either pollinate the flower using a paintbrush or wait for pollinators.
  2. Once pollination and fertilization have occurred, dry and store the flower.
  3. Harvest the seeds from the dried flower.
  4. Germinate the seeds. 
  5. Once the seeds have germinated and become seedlings, allow them to grow.
  6. When the seedlings get a little bigger, transplant them to their own pots.

How to germinate cactus seeds:

To germinate cactus seeds, you will need to:

  1. Get cactus seeds. You should collect seeds from an already existing plant. Be sure that the seeds aren’t covered in moisture and stay away from direct sunlight. 
  2. For the seeds to germinate properly, you should place them in a container filled with moist peat moss.
  3. After placing the peat moss in the pot, water should be added. 
  4. Keep the soil moist but not wet. It’s best if the soil does not completely fill the pot. Allow the pot to sit outside until the seeds start sprouting. 
  5. After the seeds have started to sprout, wait about 2 weeks before moving them into new pots. The seedlings won’t put down roots during this time.

Propagating From Cuttings

Propagating From Cuttings

To propagate a cactus from cuttings, you will need to first take your cutting material. This can be done from the stems of a rooted cactus or from the leaves of a leafless cactus.

To propagate from cuttings, we recommend starting with the stem of a rooted cactus. To propagate on a rooted cactus, you will first need:

  1. Take the cutting material. You can use a sterilized knife to take a cutting from the mother plant. Make sure that the cutting you are taking looks healthy and is parasite-free. You may be able to simply wiggle a cutting loose, but this may not always be the case. 
  2. Leave the cutting out for a few days so that it forms a callous over the cut part. Allowing the cutting to do this will decrease the chance of it getting infected once it is planted because of bacteria in the soil.
  3. Once the cutting has calloused over the scar, you can plant it in a plant pot. You can choose to propagate the cutting in water, too, but soil is more commonly used with this type of plant. 
  4. You will need to prepare a plant pot will well-draining soil (unless you are propagating a jungle cactus). The soil should drain well and dry out quickly between waterings or else you could subject your new plant to root rot. Use a mix that is gritty with a low potting soil percentage. You could make your own mix by using perlite, orchid bark, and potting soil at a 1:1:1 ratio, or buy some at your local plant nursery. 
  5. If you would like to use a rooting hormone, you can dip the calloused end of the cutting in it before planting. This will help speed up the rooting process, but it isn’t necessary.
  6. Plant the cutting, but ensure that it isn’t too deep. 
  7. Add some water and place the pot in a spot where it gets bright, indirect sun.
  8. Spray the soil daily for 2-3 weeks. This will help stimulate the root growth
  9. After a little while, you should have a happy cactus plant growing. Just make sure that you don’t water your cactus too much!

Propagating From Cactus Pads And Offshoots

You can also propagate using cactus pads. A popular plant for this is the Opuntia. To do this, you will need to get a pad from a plant, either by cleanly pulling it off or slicing it from the mother plant.

The pad will need to dry out before being used, and heal before being planted. 

The method for this propagation is the same as using a cutting. Check the above step-by-step guide to find out what you need to do if you would like to propagate your cactus using a cactus pad or an offshoot.

Cactus Plant Care

To take care of a cactus, you need to ensure that the plant gets enough sunlight and water. It’s important  to allow the soil to completely dry out between watering.

If you notice any signs of disease, such as brown spots, then you should contact your local garden center or nursery immediately.

Dry soil between watering is what you should aim for, or else you are putting your plant at risk of developing root rot. In a cacti’s natural habitat, it would likely not get water very often.

Always make sure that there is at least one drainage hole in the plant pot to allow excess water to run off.

Placing your plant on a warm windowsill where it can get indirect sunlight will be beneficial. Most plant will not do well in strong, direct sunlight if it is left there for an extended period of time. 

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Cacti are great plants, and they are super easy to propagate. If you feel like you would like having a few more cacti around, why not try it out?

All you need to do is follow the steps above for your preferred method, and you are on your way!

Despite how easy it is, the end result is very rewarding, and worth every day you need to wait for your baby plant. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Propagating Vs Grafting – What’s The Difference?

Grafting and propagating are different because when you graft a cut part onto another plant, both parts remain attached and grow together.

When you propagate, you create clones which have their own roots, so they can live independently.

Is It Easy To Propagate Cactus?

Yes – you just need to know what you’re doing. You’ll see that my first answer provides all the information you need to know about propagating cacti. But, I’m going to explain it briefly to give you a better idea.

What Is A Desert Cactus?

A desert cactus is a cactus that grows in desert regions.

How Many Cactus Varieties Are There?

There are over 2,000 different types of cactus in the world.

Can You Propagate A Broken Cactus?

Yes, but with a lot less success than other methods; a broken piece won’t be able to develop into a fully grown plant.

How Can You Tell If You Have A Healthy Cactus?

How Can You Tell If You Have A Healthy Cactus

You can tell if a cactus has a problem by looking through its leaves. Look for yellowed leaves, brown spots, or wilted leaves.

If you notice anything like that, don’t use the plant right away, you may want to call someone who specializes in caring for them.

How Much Light Do Cacti Like?

Most cacti like bright, indirect light. To get amazing cacti, always make sure that they get enough light to keep them healthy. This is especially true for the parent plant, or mother plant.

Can You Use Cactus Cuttings To Grow A New Plant?

Yes, with a few exceptions. Cactus cuttings cannot survive without a bit of extra moisture, so you must mist them every couple days until the tip starts to sprout.

Once the tip starts to sprouted, you can move it to a place with more light exposure.

Why Is Propagation Slow For Cacti?

With some cacti, the reason that propagation fails is that the plant doesn’t have enough nutrients. These plants require certain minerals in order to perform properly.

However, this isn’t the only reason that propagation might fail. Another issue could be the shape of the pot.

Some pots aren’t ideal for growing baby cacti. For example, if the pot is too small, or if it’s made from plastic or ceramic, then your cacti won’t thrive.

How Long Does It Take To Produce A Cactus Plant?

It depends on the cactus variety, as well as the method used to propagate them. Most cacti will take between 4-6 months before they begin bearing fruit / flowering.

What Is A Columnar Cactus?

What Is A Columnar Cactus

A columnar cactus is a cactus that has one main stem (or trunk). The rest of the cactus consists of smaller stems called branches.

Can You Grow Cacti From Seed?

Yes, you can grow cacti from seeds. To do this, check out the method mentioned above. 

What Is A Parent Plant?

A parent plant is the plant that produces the offspring. In the case of cacti, we talk about the mother plant.

How Often Should You Water A Cactus?

Cacti usually prefer to stay dry. They also prefer to not receive any direct sunlight. Sometimes, you’ll want to add some water to help them grow faster. Try adding 1/4 cup per week during very hot times of year.

What Is The Success Rate For Propagating Cacti?

The success rate varies depending on the type of cactus; however, most people report that their success rate is around 50%.

Does The Parent Plant Need To Be Healthy Before Propagating?

Yes, the parent plant needs to be healthy. You can use the same technique as mentioned above to create a cutting. Also, when propagating cacti, it helps to use a good quality cactus rootstock.

Morgan Daniels

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