By Mike Stiles, Master Gardener
Though most cacti are native to the desert southwest,
Most nurseries and garden centers have a small collection of cacti. An Internet search will yield other sources of mail order plants, sometimes with a very large selection. Another source of cacti is the trading of cuttings with other cactus gardeners.
Cacti respond very well to propagation by cuttings. Be sure, though, when taking a cutting that the overall appearance of the parent plant is not harmed. Use a sharp knife or saw and remove a section at the joint. Multiple barrel-type cacti should be cut at ground level.
Allow the cuttings to dry in a shady spot for at least a week, until the cut end is dry and callused. This will help prevent rotting. When the cutting is ready, plant it shallowly. Tall specimens may need to be staked. Cacti should be grown in well-drained soil, either in the garden or in pots. Potted cacti may be an advantage where winter temperatures drop far below freezing, and the pots can be brought indoors.
Water very sparingly for the first few weeks until you are certain that roots are established. Until roots have formed, excess water will just rot the cutting, and rot is the primary cause of cactus loss.
In the wild, cacti receive most of their rainfall, and do most of their growing, in the summer monsoon season. Therefore, summer water is essential to the plants, but allows the soil to dry between waterings. A diluted, complete fertilizer can be used if desired in the water. Along the
Remember, cacti can be very mean when handled. Many types just laugh at leather gloves. A folded strip of newspaper, wrapped around the cutting or plant, and squeezed together to hold the cutting tightly is an excellent way to move the plant into position when planting.