One of the best ways to grow new plants is to propagate them from the cuttings of an established plant, but this can be daunting to any new plant parent who is fearful of causing harm. The good news is that when it comes to cacti, the process is relatively straightforward and is something that even the most junior plant owner can do.
In fact, not only can you easily propagate a cactus yourself or grow one from just a small trimming - but you should because it’s a low-maintenance and sustainable way to help the environment. Though it can be done on most cacti, two that do particularly well with this practice are the Monstrose Cactus and Peruvian Apple Cactus.
If you want to try your hand at propagating a cactus you already have, rather than buying a trimming, identify a healthy piece of stem and cut it cleanly using scissors. Of course, you’ll want to use gloves or a tool (such as tongs) when handling a spiny cactus, such as the Monstrose or Peruvian Apple varieties. Set the trimming on a windowsill (or outside, but preferably in east or west sunlight) until the cut surface has healed. Then, insert the base of the cut stem into a sandy peat mix, at least deep enough so that it can easily stand on its own. Water it (no more than 8 – 16 ounces, depending on its size and environment) and, if indoors, place the pot back on the windowsill. Eventually, your cutting (either done yourself or pre-purchased) will root and begin growing as a new plant. Generally speaking, the best time of year to do this is during the summer - but you can also have success during the fall and spring.
A common mistake people make with caring for their cacti is overwatering. Cacti require even less water than you think (making it much less maintenance than most nursery-grown plants), and they do best with water only once a month. Before you water, carefully feel the soil to assess its moisture level. You always want the soil to be dry between waterings, a good rule of thumb is that the soil should be completely dry two days after watering.
Growing new cacti isn’t only exciting because of their beauty, but the process is also important for the environment. Cacti serve several purposes, including removing toxins from the air we breathe. But unfortunately, the natural habitats for cacti (and many other plants) are increasingly in danger due to a variety of factors, ranging from overdevelopment to climate change. Propagating these plants not only creates new ones for us to enjoy, but doing so also helps the species’ survival.