How to Propagate a Cactus

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There are hundreds of cactus varieties. If you have cacti at home but want more, you can propagate them. Of course, you can buy cacti, but why would you want to when you can propagate them yourself? However, propagating a cactus takes some work and effort and a good deal of knowledge.

This article discusses how to propagate a cactus. There are various methods for doing so, and we will cover all of them in detail.

How to Propagate a Cactus: Different Methods

As we mentioned, there are different ways to propagate a cactus. The method you choose will depend on what you feel comfortable with and the type of cactus you are trying to propagate.

Propagating Cacti from Cuttings

One of the easiest ways to propagate a cactus is using stem cuttings. First, take a piece of the existing plant and allow it to dry out.

Once enough time has passed, the cuttings will start to form roots from the end that has been cut and will therefore grow as a new plant. If you are looking for a fast, easy, and relatively reliable method, this is a good one to consider.

Propagating Cacti from Seeds

Cacti have flowers; those flowers produce seeds, and you can use those seeds to grow new plants. First, however, you will need to pollinate the flowers to cause them to produce seeds.

The good thing about cacti is that the vast majority of species allow you to propagate them with their seeds. However, with that being said, this is an overly slow process that is definitely going to test your patience.

Once the flowers produce seeds, you can harvest them, dry them, and store them. You will then need to germinate those seeds before planting them.

However, the cacti seed germination rate is not fantastic, so you will need quite a few seeds for this to be successful.

We will not cover this method in our step-by-step tutorial due to the relatively slow and challenging nature of harvesting and planting seeds.

Propagating Cacti from Offshoots

Many species of cacti can asexually propagate by growing lateral offshoots or offsets. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all cacti species, but many can.

Carefully remove the offshoot from the main plant and put it in the soil. This is a very easy method, although admittedly, it’s not always successful. Cutting off the offshoot may very well result in it dying.


Although grafting is not a form of propagation, it is something that you can do with cacti. You cut off one part of a cactus and then attach that cutting to a different cactus. This is a fairly laborious, long, and difficult process, so it’s also not something that we’re going to cover today.

How to Propagate a Cactus

How to Propagate Cacti From Cuttings

You need to know that when propagating a cactus from cuttings, you can either use pads or columns, depending on the type of cactus. Therefore, we will cover both – pads and columns.

Propagating Cacti from Pad Cuttings

Before you get started, get some tongs and gloves – you don’t want to touch those sharp spines.

  1. Take either a razor blade or a sharp knife. Don’t use pruning shears, as they aren’t sharp enough to make clean cuts. Use a disinfectant on your knife or razor; you don’t want to make a cut without disinfecting the blade first – you don’t want to spread disease to your cacti.
  2. Choose a healthy cactus, find a healthy pad, and then cut it off. In some cases, you might just be able to break it off cleanly.
  3. Let the pad dry for a few days after cutting to allow the cut to heal over. Also, don’t keep it in direct sunlight while it is drying.
  4. If you want the roots to grow as quickly as possible, dip the cut-off section into rooting hormone.
  5. Next, get some potting soil that is suitable for succulents. Make sure it is good for drainage, and then plant the cutting. Ensure at least 1/3 of the cutting is underneath the soil’s surface. Also, pack the soil tight to ensure the plant doesn’t tip over.
  6. Don’t water the newly potted pad right away. You can mist the soil if it feels dry, but you don’t want to water it yet. Once the roots are established, you can then start watering. After that, you only have to water it once every few days at most.
  7. Also, keep it out of direct sunlight until the roots are well established.

Propagating Cacti from Columnar Cuttings

Once again, get some tongs and thick gloves and a sharp razor or a very sharp knife. As before, disinfect the blade to prevent disease from spreading to your plants.

  1. Select a columnar cactus to cut. You want it to be around 4 inches long or longer but no thicker than 4 inches in diameter. A thicker cactus has a harder time forming a good root system when you plant it.
  2. Next, hold the top of this columnar cactus steady, and use your other hand and your sharp knife to make a clean cut.
  3. As with the pads, allow that columnar cactus cutting to dry and the cut parts to callous over. This may take up to a week if you have a large cutting. Once again, keep it out of direct sunlight while it is drying.
  4. You can also dip it in rooting hormone to make this process more successful.
  5. Get some good potting soil ideal for succulents and make sure that it has good drainage.
  6. Put the cut-off part of the columnar cactus into the soil, making sure that about a third of it is underneath the surface. Pack the soil tight, so it doesn’t fall over.
  7. Don’t water your newly planted cactus for a few days. If the soil feels dry, mist it lightly. You don’t really want to water your cactus too much until the root system has developed. This also applies to exposure to direct sunlight.

How to Propagate Cacti from Offshoots

The other method for propagating cacti is by using offshoots. Simply follow these instructions.

  1. You first need a cactus that has offshoots. Keep in mind that not all cacti produce offshoots.
  2. Remember to have a very sharp knife and disinfect it. You probably want to protect your hands a little bit as well. Once again, some gloves and tongs are called for.
  3. One tip is to get an offshoot that already has some roots growing out of it. This will improve the chances of this process being successful.
  4. Using your knife, cut gently, and remove the offshoot. Sometimes, you may just be able to pull them off gently, although you will usually need a knife. Then, very gently separate the connecting root with your sharp knife.
  5. You can now plant the offshoot in suitable potting soil with good drainage. Make sure that about 1/3 of the offshoot is under the soil’s surface, and pack it in tightly.
  6. As with the other propagation processes, make sure to water sparingly and keep it out of direct sunlight until a solid root system has been developed.

Final Thoughts

You now have all of the information you need to propagate a cactus using various techniques. Just make sure to work carefully because these are somewhat fragile plants.

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