Rooting & support
Commercial nurseries use sterilized
soil, (or sterile media such as perlite, vermiculite, peat moss, etc.) to
avoid molds, fungus, and weed seeds that will sprout. Imagine having to weed
10,000 small flower pots. Sterilized soil is easy to make--just take good
organic soil and bake it in a microwave/oven.
Cut & heal
Cut the piece you want to root from the cactus with a clean, alcohol
sterilized knife. Place it in a moderately cool, dry shady location to
allow the base to form a scab. This will take 2-3 weeks. An electric fan
can help dehydrate the end in 24 hours, then let it rest for a couple of
Sterile rooting medium
Why a sterile medium? The "experts say" If you have problems with rot, then use sand or vermiculite as a
rooting medium. "The use of soil can cause rot since it contains
bacteria." Nonsense! Soil contains beneficial bacteria!
Rot is from too much water and/or from using anerobicly (BAD) composted material.
Anerobic compost stinks and has pathogenic bacteria in it! Good
compost is aerobicly
composted material and is sweet smelling humus that has beneficial bacteria!
World of difference.
If you don't know what you are doing, then read a book on
This is basic knowledge; not rocket science. Heck, just go buy a bag of cactus
mix potting soil at a garden center/Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe's, etc.
Short tip vs tall
If you root a tip 6 to 12 inches tall it will easily stand up. But when
rooting 18" to 36" tips support must be provided. Shown at
right is a 24 inch tip held with twine between redwood poles.
One way to hold up a tip
Garden stakes made of 1 inch square, 6 foot long redwood are commonly
sold for use in vegetable gardening. At right are two such pieces used
as supports. Deck screws, 1" long, are driven through the outside of the
pot into the redwood.
Perlite potting soil
Prepared 50% perlite with 50%
garden soil works for
The pot at right was filled about 2/3 of the way, the tip set on in it, then more
so that the tip sets about 3 inches deep. The buried end
will sense that it
is underground and in time sprout
root buds to search for water.
In the picture garden twine was used to tension the two poles.
Doing so pressed gently yet firmly enough to hold the tip in position. It
to either side because the string is in a "V" formation as
Or use this product called "Miracle garden tie" by the L.E.Cooke Co. [http://www.lecooke.com]
sold at retail garden stores.
It is a nicely soft, stretchy, but tough plastic ribbon. About $3-$4 per
roll. I prefer the wider tape.
More info: Shade nursery
Soil + 50% perlite works for me. Lay
off watering to prevent rot.
How long does it take to root a cutting? Depends on
|Gardening is such hard intellectual effort
sometimes; mix dirt, fill pots, stick in cuttings.
|This cutting has been in soil since
October without rooting. Why? Because it was too cold. Notice
how healthy it looks. It just went dormant for the winter and would
not root in cold soil. It never needed water because its stoma
(breathing pores) open at night to get CO2 and H20. It never rotted
because I kept it in dry soil. But now its ready to rocket! Spring
will break that dormancy as the sun shines longer every day and the
soil warms up.
See our friend? We put him back in soil and
on him next month.
I'll bet he has some root buds by then.
|You can root any tip,
log or just a chunk. It is very easy if you set up a shade house with
bright filtered light.
Mix up sand + perlite + garden soil.
[avoid peat moss and vermiculite because these hold onto water like
sponges] Or you may use
sterile soil to prevent rot [bake at 400 degrees in an oven for
an hour, let cool]. Or use 100% sand or perlite. Any sandy, well
draining soil is fine.
|The soil needs to be warm, over 60 degrees or so
to stimulate rooting. Spring time weather is fine for this unless you
live in a cold place; but this is all standard gardening knowledge. You
can't get vegetable seeds to germinate in cold soil either. To start
tomatoes you usually use a soil heating pad, or I've even used cables
you lay in the dirt (for a greenhouse). Most vegetables require 60 to
70 degrees and I guess rooting a cactus isn't much different
You can certainly start rooting your cuttings in the house because that
is warm. Here in California I can root cuttings outdoors from Spring
all through the Summer. By September they slow down and go dormant
around October when it cools off.
You can root in 100% sand if you like. Even 100% vermiculite--but I
have not tried it. I just use 50% soil and perlite. You want to avoid wet,
soggy soil as that will rot the
cutting. Your cutting does not need water to root! No water. Got it? Its a
cactus. It breaths through its stoma (pores) at night to get CO2 and
water vapor. Watering a cutting is dumb--it has no roots to absorb the
moisture. But the soil can be a bit damp; it does not have to be "bone
dry". Don't obsess. Nature will go into automatic mode and root it for
you. Often you find stuff grows best if you leave it alone.
Check every month for roots
in sandy soil put it in a bigger container and I recommend you mix in earth worm castings and/or real
organic compost (buy it from a local organic gardener--do not use the
garbage they sell at Home Depot!).
Big Pots=Big plants
The larger the pot the larger the root system will be. The more roots,
the faster the plant will develop.
To get large root systems you need rich, organic soil that is easy for
roots to grow in. It should have lots of sand or perlite so it
does not compact and cut off air & water. Thick clay soils are bad, but
can be mixed with 50% sand and perlite to become OK. If you grow in a
large container always go with 50% perlite to help avoid soil
compaction (hard soil).
San Pedro wants to grow to tree size unless you
restrict the roots in a pot. You know how Bonsai works? To achieve
huge plants you need to put them in the earth so the roots can grow as
large as they wish. Dig a big hole and
back fill it with mixed sand, perlite, and compost. Then top mulch your
continuously with at least 2" of organic compost. Get earth worms
living in the soil around the San Pedro.
You want a 12 foot tall
Because you have to
encourage symbiotic microbial life with the roots. Then the plant can really
drink up tons of organic nutrients. There are thousands of tiny root hairs
that look like a fine fuzz. You want to "inoculate" your plants with
beneficial microorganisms. Buy fresh worm castings from a local person
who raises earth worms. That is a great way to jump start this. Mix in
about a 2 inch thick layer on top. Earth worm castings are alive with
microorganism that will set up the right symbiotic relationship with
the roots. Trust me on this one.
You want a 12 foot tall