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Cacti Propagation

Sooner or later every grower of cacti and succulents will want to propagate their favourite plants! For most species cacti propagation is not too difficult and many can be propagated either by seed or cuttings.  Below we describe techniques for propagating from seeds and from cuttings. We are happy to take questions via our contact page, in person or at one of our talks.

Propagating from Seeds

Growing from seed is the greater challenge, you need a lot of patience and a fair measure of good luck.  From seed to a plant growing independently in, say, a 50mm pot will take 2-5 years for most species. 

Seed raising can be very rewarding. Each plant raised will have its own unique DNA combination and its characteristics will be a combination of the parent plants. Sometimes interesting hybrids are produced. The image below shows the some of the author’s seeds – sown on a 50:50 mix of course grit and perlite after 2 months.  The pots are in water within a heated propagator.

Cacti raised from seed - 3 weeks old
Cacti raised from seed at 3 weeks old

For further information on seed raising, please see this information sheet produced by The British Cactus and Succulent Society.

Cacti Propagation from Cuttings

Growing from cuttings is a lot faster than from seed. Good sized plants will be produced within one season, but they will always be identical to the parents – clones! Taking cuttings is quite straight forward using a clean, sterile, sharp knife!  Cut off an offset/branch/sideshoot. This will leave a wound on the parent plant and a ‘soggy’ end on the cutting, see image below.

cacti cutting wound offset
The “soggy” end on a cutting needs to dry off and form a callous before planting.

Both parent plant and ‘soggy’ end should be left facing the Sun in the lightest position as possible to dry off. A greenhouse shelf is ideal. The parent plant will heal after a few days, but it is wise to leave the cutting to form a callous. This may take a week or so depending on the weather.  Then place the cutting on gritty compost supported with sticks if necessary. Water initially, then sparingly – using a mist spray every couple of days is a good method.  Roots should form within a month.  The image (below) shows cuttings, one supported with sticks. Note also note the callous on the stem lying on the compost. 

Taking cuttings of leafy succulents is easily achieved through a similar method. To prevent the cutting drying out too much, leave the wound to seal in the shortest time possible, no more than a day or two.

cacti cactus offset propogation
Planted cuttings. The left one is supported by sticks. The one lying on the tray has formed a callous and is ready for planting.

Sometimes offsets will have grown their own roots – as shown opposite – in which case gently tease them away from the parent plant.  Again, any wounds should be left to dry out before potting up.

Offsets with their own roots being teased away from the parent plant
Offsets with their own roots being teased away from the parent plant

For further information on propagation, see this information sheet produced by The British Cactus and Succulent Society.