My post about Jean the cactus guy generated interest about propagating cacti, so this is the first in a series on how to start a cactus garden through propagation of cuttings from other cactus plants. The first in this series will document my process of propagating new barrel cactus from the one I purchased from him.
This barrel cactus arrived with five pups. The choices are to plant it as is, or to remove the pups and start them on their own. We decided to remove all five pups and start them as separate plants.
To state the obvious, cacti require special handling. Here's the array of tools set out, and although we didn't use all of them they were ready just in case. Old tongs and a variety of scrapers, chisels, knives and screwdrivers. Leather gloves are a must have. The tools should be clean.
There's one important tool missing from this lineup and that's an empty plastic pot to hold the mama plant while the pups are removed. It's important to find something you can grip and avoid the spines.
All ready to go and Mr. Rock-Oak-Deer starts with the old tongs and a scraper to remove the first one. One twist and a pull and it's separated so he discards the scraper and works with the tongs for the rest.
A slight twist with the tongs and they just pop right off. This action leaves small round scars on the larger plant.
Now he's working his way around the cactus.
Here are four of the pups ready to go on their own now, one more to go!
After the surgery we put the five pups in a box and stored them in the garage for about a week to callous over. If planted immediately the pups could rot, so they must heal first. We also stored the mama plant in a dry spot so its scars can heal. Do not water the plant or pups at this point to avoid any rot that might occur.
Fast forward one week later and the pups are ready to pot up. We are using a coarse sand over light potting mix for this phase. The key is to ensure fast drainage and only allow minimal contact with water to avoid rot at this stage.
Just use the tongs to place them in pre-watered damp sand. Don't water again for week or so, and then water once a week.
About five weeks later, here's what we have. Nice strong roots! The roots were even bigger than we expected. Note that this one was only pulled from its sand to show to you -- plant them with their sand. It will shift a bit, which is not a problem.
We planted them out in the new cactus patch along the dry creek. In their new home they are small and barely visible. We gave these plants plenty of room considering their size at maturity. We'd rather wait for cactus to grow into their space than move them later!
Next in this series I will show cactus pad propagation. I'll also continue to report on progress in the cactus garden.