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Monday, June 20, 2011

Cactus Cuttings Need Healing Before Planting

Pup growing from base
Q. The 'pups' that grow off of the mother plant, you said to cut them off and let them dry out for a period of time. What is the time to leave them dry out and unplanted?

A. In most cacti when we take a pad, offshoot or a pup (young offshoot that comes up from the ground right next to the mother plant) we just want some time for the damaged tissue to heal and begin callusing over after separating the plants. This helps in disease problems that might enter the wound once in contact with the soil. In warm weather this can be just several days. This can be out of doors but should be in the shade. Some take an extra precaution and dip the callused end into a fungicide before planting.

If you are taking a pad from a cactus such as an opuntia (bunny ears or prickly pear) then while it is healing put the pad on end and don’t lie it flat on the ground or a table. If you lie it flat it can begin curving or cupping toward the light and makes it kind of hard to plant a curved pad. Sever a pad at the base of the pad exactly at the “joint” or where the two pads come together. I have used a sterilized, very sharp knife and even a pruning shears.

Removing pad from Opuntia with sharp knife

If you are planting a healed pad from a cactus such as an Opuntia then I would make sure you plant the pad so that its flattened sides face East/West, not North/South. If the flattened sides both receive light about equally then the pad is more likely grow more uniformly.

On pups and chollas they are three dimensional in shape so there really is no “flattened” sides. Plant healed pads during the warm or hot months, not the winter months. Plant pads so that one third of the pad is below the soil level. Now is an excellent time.

Make sure you add compost to the planting soil and water infrequently, about once every two weeks in the summer. If you water too often you will rot the bottom of the pad or the pups.

Pads from Opuntia cupping when laid flat

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