— Rooting Trichocereus cactus cuttings —
This photo shows what I did with a batch of late season tips. They
had been cut in September, then allowed to dry in a shady
location, stacked on shelves between layers of cardboard.
You don't want them to touch because the spines
puncture each other because that will leave a peppered appearance on the skin
like black pimples.
With nicely healed cut ends the
tips were set in potting soil in an unheated
filtered light. They'll spend the winter
there healthy & happy. Cuttings are alive, they open
their pores (stoma) at night to let in CO2 and water vapor. They'll live
quietly, in stasis, waiting for warmer soil temperature
and the longer
daylight of spring.
Can you root cuttings in winter?
No. Not really. You can't cheat nature by forcing it to be
spring when it is winter. Don't believe me?
Fine, go ahead with
your science experiment Dr. Frankenstein.
What do you do then?
If cuttings are put in storage all winter they may or may not be
OK. They may develop yellow, skinny tips from trying to grow in
low light. Cuttings laying on a horizontal shelf may exhibit
tips that bend upward trying to grow to find sunlight.
(photo at right)
The dusty stuff is sulfur. Its harmless - one of the
products approved for use in organic foods. Anyway, you know how
there are dust mites in your house? Many varieties also affect
agriculture, too. Mites can blemish the skin.
Mites are most problematic during dry periods. Here is some good
California's UC Davis.
Indoor storage of cuttings requires enough light and
possible rotating the cuttings periodically to prevent yellow tip,
skinny tip, or skinny tips growing straight up from one laying
horizontally. Cuttings may try to grow upward
if bright light is overhead.
Tips left in darkness will grow slightly from internal stored
energies but will not make chlorophyll resulting in yellow tip.
|Mites can scar tips of
dormant cuttings. Simply dust them with pure sulfur
powder. Mites HATE that!
|Dusty conditions often lead to mite outbreaks.
Apply water to pathways and other dusty areas ...provide
adequate irrigation. ...water to remove dust may help
prevent serious late-season mite infestations.
|The table shown at right has 36 square feet of 5" pots with
cuttings in them. Many are doubled up (fights loneliness). They
are set in dry potting soil in an unheated greenhouse. They
receive bright but filtered (not direct) sun.
Don't expect roots in winter
Just don't expect rooting until spring. They are better off
planted because they get light, are vertical, and their butts
are setting in dirt. They like the cut end to be buried.
I filled this entire 3'x12' table with potted cuttings set up in
November. They are happy, healthy, yet dormant; waiting for the
right season to light them up!
Dry soil, don't tamp it down
Set cuttings lightly in the soil without tamping down
the soil so there is air circulation to prevent
molding of the cut end. I've learned that from years
of rooting cuttings.
See that root
budding out? That's a Clonex root. I took this photo on December 22
when the night time temperatures are down in the 30s. The
cutting is not really rooting.
I don't worry about mold because the potting mix is made from
compost so beneficial microorganisms are present. Mold, yeast,
and fungus spores are everywhere. This cutting sits in dry
mix there is no water to feed a fungus that could cause rot.
When things go wrong you might have a cutting that
doesn't root (during the correct season of course) while all the
others in the batch do. That cutting's bottom may have a dark
coating which could be a fungal growth inhibiting rooting. It
happens to a small percentage. Clean the cut end with a
brush, leave it in a shady place to air out. Paint with Clonex
and try again. It'll root.
I only pulled this out to make a photo for you. The table filled
with cuttings will sit undisturbed until March. I'll check
these again in 3-months to take photos for you. OK?
Between now, Christmas, and then there is cold weather with
short daylight. This is what I call the dormant period, despite
the number of people who email me to ask why San Pedro takes the
Well, notice nature. It all takes the winter off!
After you satisfy your impatient curiosity by peeking for
roots...just replace the
potting soil. Set the cutting in gently, pouring soil around
down. Bury the tip deep enough to prevent it from falling over.
• DON'T TAMP DOWN THE SOIL
• DON'T USE WET SOIL
• DON'T WATER A CUTTING before it has roots
Leaving soil loose allows air to circulate that prevents
fungus/molds from growing on the cut end. Even a healed cut end
can soften & become moldy if soil is damp.
Dry soil is essential. Cactus open their stoma at night to let
in CO2 and H2O vapor. Cuttings do not need watering; especially
since the cutting doesn't have roots! How would it "drink" water
if you watered it?
A cutting first sends out what I call "root buds" that are tough
enough to dig down searching for moisture. These then branch out
fragile rootlets to absorb water.
After the root bud stage you don't want to lift a cutting
completely out to check it because you could break those
rootlets. Instead do the "tug test" where you gently lift the
cutting upward until you feel the tug of those new roots. You'll
notice the soil lifting up, or bulging; this signals time to
begin giving small amounts of water. I start watering with a
mister --only enough to wet the soil surface.
When you can lift the cutting and the pot picks up with it there
are enough roots for normal watering. If the pots falls back to
earth leaving you holding the cutting, well...then start over.
Be patient, in 20 years you'll be a pro.
How do you prepare cuttings?
The cut ends can be painted with Clonex rooting gel. Brush
Clonex on bottoms and up the side 1-2". I do this as I harvest cuttings, setting them on a shady shelf
with good air circulation. Never leave cutting out in full sun--they'll
Clonex is good stuff
No, I don't get paid by the manufacturer. But the product
works brilliantly. One year I tried to save money by purchasing
some powdered rooted hormone (Hormodin).
Whoa! It actually inhibited rooting, nearly ruining my efforts
to root 900 cuttings. Never again. It choked the cut ends with
dry white powder that just sat there like a barrier to life.
Clonex is good stuff that has proved itself to me over the
years. It is based on the class of chemicals,
auxins, present in plants that
regulate plant growth. By the way, I water my San Pedro with
another growth regulator MaxiCrop
seaweed concentrate. [Maxicrop provides... growth
hormones, cytokinin, auxins, vitamins, and enzymes.]
Clonex is essentially natural; "...a plant hormone in the
family and is an ingredient in many commercial plant rooting
When Clonex treated cuttings are stored on shelves for a couple
of months they sometimes do this cool thing where root buds start squirting out the bottom
like a cluster of maggots. Yeah, many will just start air
rooting with buds about a 1/4" to 1/2" or so.
|Angel Cat Guardians
Was it just a fur ball or was it an evil spirit?
Never underestimate cats, or any animal of nature.
They live mysterious lives that our science may never
|"Hey! Are you going to leave us out here without a
greenhouse cover? We're getting rained on! But the stars and
moon are pretty."
You'll be OK.
|Good night San Pedro.
Good night Peruvian Torch.
God thank you Father.
Thank you for the farm, the cats, the plants, the compost, the
worms, the wind, the sun, the moon, and all
the splendid things that flow through life.
Thank you for the Angels.
Thank you for everything.
Good night moon!