Cactus Cuttings Propagation Step by Step Guide
Read This First: I have not found any significant advantage to using rooting hormones, so I no longer use them. Cactus to be rooted should be moderately watered only with plain water (no fertilizer) 3 to 5 days before the operation.
Fill a pie plate about halfway with coarse sand and cover it with aluminum foil. Bake in an oven for 30 minutes at 300F, turn off the oven, and allow the sand to slowly cool inside the oven until room temperature. Keep the sand-covered until ready to use so it remains sterile!
Making the Cut of succulents: Lightly mist spray the areas to be cut with 70% isopropyl alcohol. This alcohol spray is usually not necessary for taking cuttings of Selenicereus grandiflorus unless they have been grown in a dirty, windy, or dusty environment. Be certain that the alcohol has completely evaporated before making your cut.
It usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes for the alcohol to completely evaporate, so prepare all of your succulents plants ahead of time. Use a sterile sharp blade for cutting. Remove pups by cutting them off close to their base using a sterile blade.
Recent comparison tests have shown that pups that are twisted off for rooting will not grow as many roots or grow as quickly compared to a pup that is carefully cut off.
Healing the Pup or Cutting: Place the cut end of your pup or cactus cutting directly into the prepared sterile dry sand-filled pie plate. Do this with all of the cuttings you wish to make. If the cutting will not stand up on its own, then press the cut end into the sand and then lay it sideways on the dry sterile sand.
Place the pie plate with the succulents plant cutting in or on the sand into a large plastic housing container along with an open container of hot water to increase the humidity inside the container.
Place this in a dark area at room temperature for 5 days while the cut end of the cactus heals. If the humidity inside the container is just right, the cutting will heal without becoming too dehydrated.
Important: When rooting cuttings, make sure that the container is kept in a dark area for the first 5 days. If the cutting gets light during the first 5 days after separation, it may take 1 to 2 weeks longer for roots to begin growing, depending on the type of cactus. Make sure not to touch the cut surface of the cutting with anything while it is healing during this 5 day period.
Planting the Cutting of Succulents: Now plant your succulents healed cutting into a pot of sterile damp soil. First, prepare a hole in the damp soil for the cutting to go into by using a sterile knife or large tweezer-type tongs (wiped with an alcohol damp cloth).
The soil should be only damp enough to form a clean hole without the soil falling back into the hole when the knife is removed. When you put the cutting into the prepared hole, the cut bottom should not come into full direct contact with the damp soil but have a very slight air space underneath.
This will allow the roots to grow more quickly will less chance of root rot. Place the potted cacti inside a large clear or translucent plastic storage container in a moderately lighted area (no direct sunlight). Add an open container of hot water to raise the humidity inside the container if necessary.
Keep the planted cuttings inside the plastic humidity-controlled container for about 2 to 4 weeks. Then remove from the protective container and water with a fine mist spray from the top as needed. Do not use any fertilizer or water too heavily until after significant new growth has occurred.
Rooting Cacti with Aerial Roots (Selenicereus Grandiflorus)
Most of these types of cacti do not need to have their cut end heal or callous before succulents planting. Simply dip the cut end into sterile sand and then succulents plant the cutting as described in the above section.
Ideally, the cutting should have at least one aerial root which is below or at the surface of the soil. The aerial root growth will support the succulents plant and allow it to grow more quickly until a new root grows from the cut bottom.
Rooting Cacti without Aerial Roots
Follow the instructions above in the General Preparations section
Rooting Ariocarpus, Aztekium and Strombocactus
Sensitive cacti prone to excessive dehydration (upon cutting) such as Ariocarpus, Aztekium, and Strombocactus can be easily rooted by performing an unusual method of cutting, separation, and re-bonding without using any attachments! Be sure to use a sterile razor blade for the initial cut.
Cut through the base of the grafted cactus or pup, but leave a very tiny thin edge of skin section attached on one side of the grafted cactus or the uppermost side of a pup. Do not remove the cut cactus!
It will stay attached via the remaining uncut thin edge skin section and the cut surfaces will start to heal if gently pressed together briefly (do not use attachments to hold the cut tissues together unless necessary). Keep the cut cactus in a dark place.
The next day (24 hours later), go ahead and physically separate the re-bonded tissue by lifting from opposite the uncut side of the cactus… Be very careful to leave the small tiny thin edge of the uncut skin section intact, and then once again press the separated surfaces back together. Keep the cut cactus in a dark place.
Repeat the above process each day until the physically separated surfaces will no longer bond back together. Once this occurs, you will then need to cut through the tiny amount of remaining uncut edge skin to fully remove the cactus.
If this tiny remaining uncut skin area appears discolored (from bruising or rough treatment during the attaching and re-attaching process), be sure to completely cut off all of the discolored or bruised tissue before attempting to root the cutting. Now heal that final cut tissue area just like a regular cactus cutting and follow the directions detailed in the General Preparations section.
Forced Pupping (Making New Cactus Clones)
Round and squat-shaped succulents cactus plants are your best candidates for this type of procedure, although it can also be performed on a taller torch-type cactus if you wish. However, with taller torch-type cactus, you can simply cut off the top of the cactus to promote new shoots.
Forced pupping is an easy practical way to grow many new cloned succulents plants rapidly, without resorting to any further grafting. With this method, you simply remove the new cactus pups as you would a cutting (once they get marble size or larger) to grow on their own roots.
Once a pup is removed, other new pups will then start to grow from the mother plant. This method works best on a fast-growing grafted cactus, but can also be used on larger cactus which are not grafted.
Carefully ream out the very top center tip of the cactus using a sterile round tip or round nose tip reamer bit (I use 1/8 or 3/16 inch round tip reamer bits on a 3/8 inch shank). This is done by holding the shank of the round tip reamer bit between your thumb and fingers.
Then rotate it back and forth while applying a slight downward pressure at the very top center of the cactus. Ream only deep enough to reach the apical meristem, which is the part that you need to remove. You should see a very tiny dot or circle at the center of the cactus if you went deep enough (easier to see the following day after the cactus wound has healed).
Remember to spray/wipe the reamer bit with an alcohol moistened rag and allow to dry before using. Round trip or round nose tip reamer bits are usually available at larger hardware or specialty tool stores in their drill bit section or router bit section.
Since you will have a miniature crater on the top of the grafted scion, avoid overhead watering and never allow water to accumulate on the top of the cactus. If water does accumulate, blot it off with a clean paper towel or tissue.
Once the new pups start growing and are large enough, they can be rooted to grow on their own. If you wish, smaller size pups can be individually grafted onto a 3 to 4-inch Trichocereus stock for more rapid growth.