How to Root a Cactus Cutting? This guide was written with the San Pedro Cactus in mind, but these instructions can be applied to most columnar cacti that grow from cuttings. Please keep in mind that some large cactus varieties, such as the Saguaro Cactus, will not root from cuttings.
What you will need?
- Pair of gloves;
- Garden soil or a potting mix of your choice;
- A suitable plant pot with adequate drainage holes. We recommend a pot at least 25cm H x 20cm W for small cuttings. A pot at least 40cm H x 30cm W, preferably larger, is required for large cuttings.
*Perlite is a silicate material formed by the heating volcanic glass at high temperatures. As a result, tiny, irregular-shaped white pebbles that resemble Styrofoam are formed. Because they are filled with air pockets, they are extremely light. And Because of the air pockets, it has excellent aeration qualities while also holding small amounts of water, which is ideal for plant roots.
Because of these properties, it is frequently used as a soil additive in all areas of horticulture, particularly in cactus cultivation. Perlite also has the added benefit of being a sterile medium, making it ideal for cactus roots. Bunnings sells small bags of perlite, but they are quite expensive when compared to purchasing a large bag from a hydroponics or speciality gardening store.
- Make a cactus rooting mix by combining and thoroughly mixing the following ingredients:
- 3 parts perlite (75%)
- 1 part sifted garden soil (25%).
- Fill your pot about two-thirds full with rooting mix.
- Add a second thin layer of perlite.
- With your gloves on, insert the calloused/cut end of your cactus cutting into the centre of the pot, so it rests on the perlite;
- With one hand, hold the cactus in place while the other (or a helper) fills in all around the cactus with your cactus rooting mix. You don’t have to completely fill the pot if you don’t want to, just enough to keep the cactus from falling over when you release it.
- That’s all! You’re finished. Isn’t it simple?
How to Root a Cactus Cutting?
1. Take a Cutting to Root a Cactus Cutting
Taking a cutting is the simplest way to propagate a cactus. This entails removing a portion of the plant, which can then form its own root system and grow to form an entire new cactus. To make a cut, all you need is a sharp knife and some alcohol to sterilise the tool. Tongs and gloves may also be useful if you intend to handle one of the more prickly species. And, of course, your cactus of choice must multiply! The following are some of the easiest cacti to propagate:
- Opuntia (also known as prickly pear), including Opuntia microdasys.
- Cacti that tremble (Mammillaria gracilis).
- Cacti of Easter lily (Echinopsis subdenudata, from offsets).
- Columnar cacti such as Cereus, Pachycereus, and Trichocereus.
Any species that grows in a clustering fashion, as well as segmented and elongated ones, is ideal for cactus propagation. Ones with a single-round orb are obviously not ideal candidates because there is nowhere to cut without ruining the look.
Choose a segment/pad/cluster piece/column that appears healthy and can be removed without affecting the mother plant’s appearance. You may be able to wiggle the cutting loose in some cases, but if not, you can use your sterilised knife to make a clean and easy cut. And there you have it: a freshly cut cactus ready to root.
You’ll have to wait a few days longer. Place the cutting in a light location and leave it there to callous over, reducing the chances of bacteria or fungus getting into the cutting once it’s planted in the soil.
2. Prepare a Planter
Once your cutting has dried, it’s time to plant it in a pot! Cactus propagation, like other houseplants, can be done in water, but it’s a pretty uncommon practice because they do so well in soil.
Your brand-new cutting, like all cacti (unless it’s a jungle cactus like the Christmas cactus), will require excellent drainage to thrive. Cactus roots have not evolved to withstand prolonged periods of wetness. They enjoy a refreshing splash, but the soil should quickly dry out and not be prone to remaining wet or humid.
A good cactus soil is easy to identify: it will be gritty and contain a low percentage of potting soil, if any at all. You can make your own cutting mixture by combining 1 part potting soil, 1 part perlite, and 1 part orchid bark (not too coarse), but you can also buy a ready-made cactus soil mixture.
As for planters for your cactus cuttings, as long as they have good drainage, you should be fine. Although standard plastic nursery planters are fine, some cactus growers prefer to provide even more drainage by using terracotta. Because this material is porous, water can actually evaporate through its walls.
3. Growing Process to Root a Cactus Cutting
Let’s begin cactus propagation now that your cactus cutting has callused and you have a soil-filled planter ready to go. Do you have any rooting hormone on hand? Dip the cutting’s base in it to promote root growth. If you don’t, don’t worry; your cutting will still root naturally.
Insert the cutting into the soil so that it is stable but not buried too deeply. Water lightly and place the planter somewhere bright but not directly in the sun. Then prepare to be patient for quite some time!
Continue to spray the soil every day or two to encourage root growth. Give the cutting a gentle tug after 2-3 weeks. If you encounter any resistance, congratulations: your cutting has developed a root system and you should be fine. Switch to a regular cactus watering schedule and acclimate the plant to a spot with the direct sun once you see the first signs of growth.
4. Caring For Your New Cactus
Drainage: As previously discussed, this is a critical aspect of growing cacti. It is critical to use a gritty, airy, and well-draining soil, as well as a planter with a drainage hole. Peat-containing soils are not recommended because they clump around the roots when they dry, making it impossible for the cactus to absorb water.
Water: Overwatering is most likely the leading cause of cactus death. Remember that succulents, such as cacti, require regular watering, especially in the summer. They don’t, however, like getting a little bit at a time. Flood the soil until water runs out of the drainage hole, then leave your cactus alone until it is completely dry again. More information can be found in the cactus watering guide.
Light: Desert cacti adore the sun and crave as much light as possible. This is especially true indoors. If you don’t have windowsills that get direct sunlight, consider purchasing a simple grow light! You can also move your cacti outside during the summer, but make sure to gradually acclimate them to the higher light conditions.
Fertilizing: Cacti are not heavy feeders, but the inexperienced grower can feed them once a year or so in the spring using a diluted houseplant fertiliser.
Disease & Diagnosis:: The most common problem with a cactus is rot caused by overwatering. The stem blackens and softens as a result of this. A cactus that has been submerged will wrinkle and crisp, possibly due to a problem with its root system. Pests are also an issue: white, cottony mealybugs, which prefer to infest cacti, can be eradicated with a neem oil and water mixture or an insecticide.
Where to put your cactus to root?
Place your potted cactus cutting in a dry, well-ventilated location with plenty of light, but keep it out of direct sunlight for extended periods of time at this stage. Your cactus is currently focusing its energy on growing roots; if you place it in the sun now, it may get sunburned, stunting its growth and possibly killing it.
1. Good Location to Root a Cactus Cutting
- A windowsill that does not receive a lot of direct sunlight;
- A covered outdoor space, such as a deck or patio;
- The shade that is well-ventilated or greenhouses;
- A brightly lit room.
2. Bad Location
- North-facing windows that get a lot of direct sunlight;
- Rooms that are dark;
- Full sun in the middle of your yard;
- In your swimming pool;
- A flooded cave.
How Long Does it Take For a Cactus to Root?
Rooting occurs more quickly in the warmer months, but it usually takes 3-4 weeks. After about 2 weeks, gently lift your cactus up and check the base to see if it has any roots; if not, replace it; if it has just begun, replace it for a few more days. Cactus roots are extremely sensitive, so try to limit the number of times you pull them up to inspect them. It can be watered for the first time once a few small roots have formed.
Can You Root Cuttings Straight in the Ground?
Cactus cuttings can be rooted directly in the ground or in garden beds outside. Just keep in mind that too much sun can sunburn them at this stage, so choose a suitable location or cover them with a shade cloth until they are established. Another factor to consider when planting cuttings directly into the ground is a surplus of moisture. To reduce the possibility of your cactus rotting, plant the cactus cutting directly into gravel rather than soil. The best way to do this is to dig a hole, fill it with gravel, insert the cactus cutting, and then completely fill around it and compact it down.