Cactus cuttings 101

Crazy cactus lady strikes again! 

Three years ago, I plucked a tiny euphorbia trigona stem from a gorgeous specimen in a catholic church (sinner!!) after my nephew was baptized. I couldn't help myself! Now that little cutting is 5" tall and on its way to greatness. 

Last Tuesday while casting my ballot for Obama, I spotted a potted Opuntia Elata giving a valiant effort to thrive in a cramped corner (right next to the heat vent, poor thing) of the school library. I quietly wandered over to it and gently snapped off one of its larger pups. Stealing property from an official voting place? Probably illegal, but that's how hard-core I am. 

It seems as though I know what I am doing in the stolen-cactus-cutting department, so here are some tips if you aren't exactly well versed in the subject, and want to grow some free plants. 

First, let your cutting dry in a warm, bright spot where it won't be disturbed for at least 2 days and up to a week on a clean, dry surface like a towel. This will help the cut end heal over and give the plant the best chance to root. 

Next, find or buy a small 2" terra cotta pot and place a scrap of paper (I like unbleached coffee filters or newspaper) over the hole in the bottom to prevent your soil mixture from leaking out. 

For cacti and succulent cuttings, your soil mixture should consist of about 50% sandy gravel and 50% store-bought cactus potting mix. The gravel and sand will help improve drainage so the cutting does not rot, and the soil provides nutrients. If your mixture is very dry, lightly spritz it with water to moisten. 

Lightly pack the mixture into your pot, leaving about 1/2" from the top. Using a wooden skewer or pencil, make a shallow hole big enough for the base of the cutting. 

Place the cutting (cut side down) into the hole far enough 
for it to stand up on its own, and fill in the hole with the
 surrounding soil mix. 

I like to use a fine gravel (found at any garden center) topdressing for my cuttings to help prop them up and wick away moisture from the base of the plant. If your soil mix is sufficiently moist, you can wait to water your cutting until a few days after to ensure it will not rot. 

Place your new plant in a warm spot with sufficient natural light and it should root within a couple weeks. Don't be alarmed if the little guy starts to shrivel, he will plump up once his roots start to develop. My cactus cutting will be babied for the next 2-3 years, until I'm sure it is well-established and likes what I'm doing for it.