How To Propagate A Cactus (A Comprehensive Guide)

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With their unique, sculptural qualities and low maintenance requirements, cacti make them a desirable addition to any houseplant collection. Often, cactus owners want to increase their collection without purchasing new plants. Luckily, cacti are relatively easy to propagate at home. Today, we will guide you through the two most common methods of cactus propagation: stem cuttings and seeds. On the other hand, propagating a cactus using offsets or pads is a possible but less popular method. We will also discuss detailed guides on such methods now. Let’s get into it!

Method 1: Propagating Cactus from Stem Cuttings

First thing first, how to grow a cactus from a cutting? This method is the first we pick as it’s the most common method to grow new cacti. Also, there is a higher chance that you will succeed with this method, even as a beginner.

  • Step 1 – Choose a Healthy Parent Plant: Selecting a healthy parent plant is the first step in successful cactus propagation. Ensure the cactus shows no signs of disease or stress, which may inhibit its ability to produce a healthy cutting.
  • Step 2 – Make the Cutting: Cut the cactus’s stem using a sharp, clean knife, preferably at a joint. If the cactus doesn’t have apparent joints, you can cut it anywhere along the stem. It’s essential to wear gloves or use tongs when handling the cactus to avoid getting pricked by its spines.
  • Step 3 – Let the Cutting Heal: After obtaining your cutting, let it heal for a few days to a week. This healing process allows the cut area to dry and form a callous. This step is crucial as planting a freshly cut stem can lead to rot.
  • Step 4 – Plant the Cutting: Once the cutting has formed a callous, it’s time to plant it in a well-draining cactus or succulent soil mix. Insert the healed cut end into the soil.
  • Step 5 – Rooting and Aftercare: Keep the soil moist but avoid waterlogging. Over a few weeks, the cutting should start to develop roots. Once the roots form, you can care for it like a mature cactus.

Method 2: Propagating Cactus from Seeds

You can see many vendors selling cactus seeds online or in the market. The method is to help germinate the seed once you have it (whether it’s from a mother plant or you buy it). This part is where I uncover the procedure of how to grow a cactus from seed:

  • Step 1 – Obtain Seeds: You can purchase cactus seeds from reputable online retailers or collect them from a mature plant.
  • Step 2 – Prepare the Planting Medium: Fill a small container with a well-draining cactus mix or create a mix with equal parts of potting soil and sand.
  • Step 3 – Sow the Seeds: Gently spread the seeds over the soil surface. Avoid burying the seeds, as they require light to germinate successfully.
  • Step 4 – Maintain Moisture and Warmth: Cover a layer of plastic wrap over your container to create a greenhouse effect. This setup helps maintain the necessary warmth and moisture levels for seed germination.
  • Step 5 – Wait for Germination: Depending on the cactus species, germination can take several weeks to months. Keep the soil moisture.
  • Step 6 – Transplant the Seedlings: When the seedlings develop their spines, you can carefully transplant them into individual pots.

A good tutorial that can bring you better visualization:

Method 3: Propagating Cactus from Offsets (Pups)

Propagating cacti using offsets, also known as “pups,” is a method that is only common for cacti species with small offshoots. It’s recommended to execute this method when the cactus produces offset. However, it doesn’t mean other methods like cuttings don’t work.

  • Step 1 – Identify and Remove the Offset: Offsets are small cacti that grow from the base of the parent plant. They look like miniature versions of the parent and are often connected to the parent plant by a small stem. To remove an offset, use a sharp, clean knife to remove the offset from the parent plant (remember to include as much of the offset’s stem as possible). Note: Wear protective gloves or use tongs to avoid getting pricked by the cactus spines.
  • Step 2 – Let the Offset Dry: After removing the offset, let it dry in a shaded, low-temperature area for 4-7 days. This action allows the cut area to be callous over, which helps prevent rot when you plant the offset.
  • Step 3 – Plant the Offset: Once the offset has dried and calloused, you can plant it. Use a well-draining cactus or succulent soil mix and place the offset on top, slightly pushing the base into the soil. The calloused end should be the one inserted into the soil.
  • Step 4 – Water Sparingly: While the offset establishes roots, water it sparingly. Keep the soil moisture but not soggy.
  • Step 5 – Care for the New Plant: After 2-3 weeks, the offset will establish roots. Now, care for it as you would look after a mature cactus. This step includes providing plenty of sunlight, watering it sparingly, and protecting it from extreme temperatures.

Method 4: Propagating Cactus from Pads

Propagating cactus pads, also known as leaves or segments, is commonly done with types of cacti that naturally grow in segmented sections, such as the prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) So, how to propagate cactus pads? Here is my step-by-step guide on how to propagate a cactus using pads:

  • Step 1 – Select and Remove a Pad: Choose a healthy-looking pad at least a few months old. Using a sharp, clean knife, cut the pad from the cactus. It’s often easier and safer to cut a pad off where it’s joined to another pad. Always wear gloves or use tongs to avoid getting pricked by the cactus spines.
  • Step 2 – Let the Pad Dry: After you’ve removed the pad, let it dry for 5-7 days, maybe a bit longer if the pads are significant or the weather is rather cold. This step makes the cut area callous, preventing rot when you plant the pad.
  • Step 3 – Plant the Pad: Once the pad’s cut end has been calloused, it’s time to plant. Use a well-draining cactus or succulent soil mix. Plant the pad upright with the cut end down and about a third of the pad buried in the soil.
  • Step 4 – Water Sparingly: Water sparingly for the first few weeks to keep the soil from waterlogging. This action prevents the pad from rotting before it can start giving out some roots.
  • Step 5 – Care for the New Plant: The pad should develop roots in several weeks. Care for it as if it’s a mature cactus. Provide the plant with 100% full sunlight, and only water it when the soil completely dries out. Remember to protect the new weak plant from freezing temperatures.

Before You Leave …

While these steps provide a general guide, remember that each cactus species may have slightly different propagation requirements. Conducting species-specific research can be invaluable to ensure successful cactus propagation. Lastly, always handle cacti carefully to prevent injury from their sharp spines.

Do you find this guide helpful? Figure out more detailed & valuable guides for cacti on Succulent City: 


Richard Miller

Salute everyone. It's Richard, the author of this Succulent & Xeriscaping blog. I am a traveler and a nature lover looking for a connection with the wild green. In my journey, I found a love for succulents and xeriscaping. What attracts me is the long-lasting & unique beauty of every plant I have the chance to see with my own eyes. Welcome to my little blog and let's enjoy a good time together!

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