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Growing a Cactus from a Cutting: Expert Tips

Cacti have become very popular in recent years because they’re so easy to grow and if you avoid overwatering them, you’ll be able to enjoy your cactus for many years.

I have a single chin cactus in a pot that sits on my kitchen window sill where it gets a fair amount of sun.

It hasn’t grown much in 2 years but every summer it’s produced at least three or four large pink flowers that are absolutely stunning.

If you’re like me, you may be ready to expand your cactus collection or share these captivating plants with friends and family.

You’ll be delighted to learn that you can easily grow a new cactus from a cutting. In this article, we’ll walk you through the process step by step.

Take your cutting

Before you attempt to take any cacti cuttings, make sure you wear sturdy gloves because most cacti have very sharp spines that can cause a fair bit of pain if they get stuck in your fingers.

Also, ensure that the tool you’re using to cut is clean and sterilised. 

How you take your cutting will depend on the type of cactus you have.

If your cactus has branches or large pads like the Opuntia species, you can break or cut one of these off for your cutting. These varieties are the easiest to propagate.

Cactus Opuntia | Plant care

Then, there are cactus species that produce pups like the Mammillaria or Echinopsis species. With these, you want to just cut off one of the pups at the soil level.

Columnar cacti, on the other hand, can be propagated by slicing off the head of the column.

cactus propagation 2 | Plant care

This is often necessary if your cactus has developed root rot. By slicing off the top section, you can propagate this and discard the rotting base.

Leave your cuttings to dry out

This is an important step in propagating cacti or any other type of succulents.

Once you’ve taken the cutting, you want to place it on a piece of paper towel or a clean saucer on its side. 

Leave your cutting in a dry place, making sure that the cut end is exposed to the air. This allows the cutting to form a callous over the wound where you made the cut.

Cactus cuttings | Plant care

Don’t leave out this step because your cutting won’t root.

It might take up to a week before your cutting has produced a nice callous on the wound.

Prepare your pot

While you’re waiting for your cactus cutting to dry, you can prepare the medium for rooting.

Select a pot that is not too large but close in diameter to the size of the cutting. Make sure that the pot has excellent drainage holes.

If you’re new to propagating cacti, I would suggest purchasing a proprietary cactus and succulent mix for your cutting.

Cactus propagation 5 | Plant care

However, you can make your own mix by combining perlite with coco coir. You want a light mix that drains extremely well.

For this reason, you should use 3 parts perlite to 1 part coco coir.

Fill your pot around three-quarters full and test the mix to ensure that the water can flow through it easily.

Plant your cactus cutting

Once your cactus cutting has formed a nice callous, you can plant it in the prepared pot. Once again, make sure you’re wearing gloves when handling cactus cuttings.

Stand the cutting on top of the mix in the pot and place some more mix around the base to secure it so that it’s standing upright. 

Cactus Propagation 4 | Plant care

You also have the option of dipping the calloused end of the cutting into rooting hormone as this will help to speed up the rooting process and ensure greater success.

Water the cutting, but make sure that any excess water can drain away freely.

Place the pot in a nice bright spot but keep it out of direct sunlight.

Caring for your cactus cutting

Only water your cutting when the mix has completely dried out. In summer, this could mean once a month but in winter, you might only have to water once during the entire cold period.

Cactus watering | Plant care

Apart from this, leave your cutting alone so that it can put all of its energy into producing roots. This can take around 3 to 4 weeks.

However, if you’re propagating your cactus in winter, it could take as long as 4 months.

You can test whether your cactus has formed roots by just giving it a very gentle tug. If it seems to still be quite loose in the mix, leave it as it won’t have produced any roots yet.

However, if it feels firm, you can be sure that roots have started to form.

Don’t worry if you accidentally pull up the cutting and there are some small roots. Just place it gently back into the mix and give it a watering.

Try not to disturb the roots too much at this stage though, because they are very sensitive.

Once your cutting has formed roots, you can place it in a sunnier spot and care for it as you would a normal cactus plant.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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