Once the cactus lover’s passion for collecting has taken hold, the subject of propagation quickly becomes the focus of interest. It is undoubtedly a matter of honor among home gardeners to perform the procedure by hand. How good that cacti are so easy to propagate. Whichever course of action you choose; With cuttings, offshoots or seeds, your collection will quickly expand to a level that will make you jealous. The following guide will get you there.

Cuttings – multiply cacti in the classic way

Anyone who is already the proud owner of a cactus or is inspired by a cactus gardener friend of theirs will be happy to choose propagation by cuttings. The principle is quickly explained. With a sharp knife, separate the side shoots from a healthy mother plant. Planted in fresh substrate in a new pot, it develops into a pretty cactus.

Depending on the type of cacti being cultivated, multiple cuttings are available. An overview:

Leaf cuttings
The large family of cacti does not only consist of the well-known prickly balls. Various genera, such as Epiphyllum, have developed into beautiful ornamental foliage plants with drooping shoots. Other genera, like Rhipsalidopsis, thrive with erect, leafy shoots. It is precisely these cactus leaves that serve as the starting material for propagation.

A large number of cacti develop side shoots during the vegetation phase, which present exactly the habit of the mother plant, and in mini format. These offshoots are called kindels. It is obvious that they are excellent for growing new cacti.

Offshoots Cacti, which develop hanging shoots up to 1 m long, give off a bizarre appearance Genera such as Rhipsalis , also known as rod cactus, are very popular with amateur gardeners in hanging baskets. Irrespective of whether the shoots are round, cylindrical or angular in shape, they offer two methods of uncomplicated propagation by cuttings: top cuttings and sinkers.

Material and tool list

  • sharp, sanitized knife
  • matches or a lighter
  • high quality aluminum foil
  • candle
  • growing substrate
  • plastic pots

The optimal substrate for cuttings and offshoots

Cacti make different demands on the substrate than conventional potted plants. The closer the soil comes to the conditions of the native environment, the better the propagation will be. It follows that commercially available potting soil is just as unsuitable as potting soil with a pH greater than 7. The following conditions are more favorable for the propagation of cacti:

  • Well drained substrate
  • Light, airy consistency
  • Poor in humus and nutrients
  • Medium water retention

Ideally, cactus soil fully absorbs water and nutrients to gradually release them to the roots of the plants. For this reason, the trade offers special soil mixtures for cacti. Experienced cactus gardeners recommend upgrading this substrate with pumice, lava granules, vermiculite or fine grit. The bargain hunters among the leisure gardeners grab the cheaper pricking soil in the supermarket and add the supplementary materials to it.

Instructions for the propagation of cuttings

Once the working materials are ready, the actual propagation begins. The months from April to August are the perfect period for this activity. It is essential for a good success that you have ensured absolute calm. Concentration is considered the key intangible ingredient to propagate cacti.

  • Light the candle
  • Wrap the knife in aluminum foil and heat over the flame
  • If the foil turns black, cut off the cuttings
  • Head cuttings are 10-15 cm long
  • Spherical offshoots are larger than their diameter
  • Children are as developed as possible
  • Cut leaf cuttings from the mother plant in their original size

After each cut, press the still hot knife onto the cut so that it hisses. This will stop the sap flow so the cactus doesn’t bleed out. Before cutting the next offshoot, wrap aluminum foil around the blade again and hold it over the candle flame.

Make sure the incision is slightly conical. The tough outer skin of the cactus causes a wavy to bell-shaped deformation of the soft storage tissue. A conical cut steers the subsequent root formation in the desired direction, which makes all subsequent work easier.

Cactus cuttings are not potted immediately. Rather, they will air dry over the next few days. Do not place an offshoot in the substrate until it has formed the first roots. Only rooted is it able to absorb water at all.

  • Fill the growing pots with nutrient-poor cactus substrate
  • Pot one cutting at a time up to halfway
  • Do not water for the first week
  • Then keep the substrate only slightly moist with low-lime water

Since the propagation of cacti is practiced during the beautiful season, carry the prickly offspring to a partially shaded place in the fresh air. Once a cutting has rooted through its nursery pot, transplant it into its final pot. He is cared for immediately like an adult specimen of his species.

Tip: Use a match to help keep larger leaf cuttings from falling over.

Special case sinker

Cacti with long, dangling shoots are suitable for an extra uncomplicated propagation. Place the mother plant so that there is space for a pot with growing substrate right next to it. Select a strong, vital shoot and place it on the ground. Where it touches the substrate, lightly score the cactus skin with a razor blade and push the sinker in. Until a new root system forms from the wound tissue, it is not poured. The propagation of cacti is successful when the shoot sprout again. Now separate it from the mother plant with a sharp cut and pot it in normal cactus soil. Ideally, seal the cut with charcoal ash.

sowing seeds

Hobby gardeners with a long line of patience choose the propagation of cacti by seed to expand their collection in an inexpensive way. Especially for the breeding of rare cactus species, only seeds are often available. The ideal time to propagate cacti from seed is in the weeks of April.

Beginners are advised to start with cacti that have good germination capacity. These include, for example, Echinopsen, Lobivien, Rebutien or Mammillarien . Opuntias, on the other hand, have a reputation for taking forever to germinate.

Harvest cactus seeds yourself

If you already cultivate your own cacti, you can easily harvest the seeds yourself. At least 2 specimens of the same species or variety are required for this purpose. The chosen ones present their magnificent flowers, take a brush and carry out pollination by transferring the pollen. To prevent unwanted cross-pollination afterwards, isolate the two cacti if there are other specimens in the room. In professional nurseries, a glass bell is placed over the pollinated cacti until the flowers have withered.

The typical cactus fruits have developed by autumn. When they are ripe, pick off the berries. If the fruit doesn’t pop on its own to release the seeds, use your fingers to help. Then clean the seeds thoroughly and lay them out on blotting paper to dry. Store the cactus seeds in labeled paper bags or small, airtight containers until next year’s sowing.

Material and tool list

  • Together
  • seed substrate
  • Quartz sand with a grain size of 3 mm
  • Seed tray or small pots
  • potassium nitrate, or hydrogen peroxide
  • indoor greenhouse
  • Hand sprayer with rainwater

As a sowing substrate, experienced hobby gardeners swear by a purely mineral material such as perlite or pumice beads. In it, the seeds can swell unhindered, while the delicate roots can gain a foothold without being damaged thanks to the airy pores. In addition, mineral substrate is stable enough to safely house the small succulents during the long period of sowing. If you are very precise about the perfect sowing conditions, add a layer of sphagnum moss as the bottom layer in the sowing container. The calculating geniuses among home gardeners have discovered cat litter as an inexpensive medium for sowing cactus seeds. Clumping litter, on the other hand, is unsuitable.

Note: Sterilize the seed substrate before use in the oven for 30 minutes at 150-180 degrees or in the microwave for 10 minutes at 800 watts.


The seeds come from the fruit of the respective cactus species or variety. They are encased in a hard, waterproof shell so that they do not germinate prematurely in the wild. Targeted pre-treatment is required to break this germ inhibition. If the seeds are large enough to hold between your fingers, use a file or sandpaper to roughen the surface. Then place the seeds in hot water for 24 hours so that they can swell sufficiently. In a thermos, water constantly maintains the required temperature. If the cactus seeds are very small, proceed with the pre-treatment as follows:

  • Soak the seeds in 0.2% potassium nitrate at room temperature for 24 hours
  • Alternatively, pre-soak in 3.0 percent hydrogen peroxide for 20 minutes
  • Then dilute it with water to 50 percent and leave it there for 24 hours

After the pre-treatment, sow without further delay.

Instructions for sowing

Since meticulous cleanliness is an important prerequisite for successful sowing, experienced hobby gardeners do not stop at sterilizing the substrate. The seed tray, the pots and the greenhouse are meticulously cleaned before use.

  • Fill the seed container with substrate and distribute the seeds on it
  • The light germs may only be pressed a little, but not covered
  • A thin layer of translucent quartz sand is permitted to prevent mold
  • Briefly place each pot or seed tray in lukewarm, lime-free water

Only when the seed soil has been sucked up to the top layer with water do the containers go into the indoor greenhouse. At a constant temperature of 20 to 25 degrees Celsius, germination begins within a few days to several weeks. The sowing must not be exposed to direct sunlight at any time. A partially shaded spot on the windowsill on the west side of the house is ideal. The cover is aired briefly every day. When the first thorns appear, leave the lid permanently open.

The sowing of cactus seeds is always watered from below by placing the seed pots in lukewarm rainwater or boiled tap water until the substrate has soaked up.

Proper pricking

It can take several months before you can transplant the young cacti into their own pots. Ideally, you should use a pricking stick, with the help of which each seedling is lifted out of the substrate. Be careful not to pull on the small cacti as this will tear off essential root material. Place the plants in normal cactus substrate by pre-drilling the planting hole with the pricking stick. From this point on, you take care of the prickly offspring as well as your adult cacti.

Propagating cacti is easy and a lot of fun. First and foremost, cactus gardeners favor propagation by means of cuttings and offshoots. If well-founded instructions are available, success will not be long in coming. Whether leaf cuttings, kindel, head cuttings or sinkers; an amateur gardener simply chooses the method that suits him. In this way, his collection quickly increases in size. Patient hobby gardeners choose propagation with seeds, primarily if they want to cultivate a rather rare cactus species or if they harvest the seeds themselves.

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