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— Rooting Trichocereus cactus cuttings —
Winter 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 greenhouse with 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.

 winter rooting san pedro cactus in potting soil
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. Isn't that sad?


(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 advice from California's UC Davis.
san pedro cactus cuttings, mites, and sulfur
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. rooting san pedro cactus in soil mix
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.

UC DAVIS
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.
san pedro cactus cuttings sitting in 7" rooting pots
checking for roots on a san pedro cactus cutting
root forming on san pedro cactus cutting
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 winter off.

Well, notice nature. It all takes the winter off!
san pedro cactus tip cutting has a small root
After you satisfy your impatient curiosity by peeking for roots...just replace the potting soil. Set the cutting in gently, pouring soil around without tamping 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.
potting soil for rooting san pedro cactus cuttings
tip damage san pedro cactus black spots
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 sunburn.

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 auxin family and is an ingredient in many commercial plant rooting horticultural products"

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.
clonex rooting hormone on san pedro cactus
clonex speeds rooting of san pedro cactus cuttings
roots popping out of san pedro cactus cuttings
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 fathom.
cat guardian spirits protect trichocereus pachanoi from evil
"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.
peruvian torch plants in 20 gallon tubs
Good night San Pedro.

Good night Peruvian Torch.

Thank you 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!

peruvian torch plants under a full moon at cactus kate trichocereus
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