Winter rooting of cuttings?
Actually they just hang out waiting for spring.
Like we do.
This is 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.
This leaves a peppered appearance on the skin sort of like
blackheads, only you can't squeeze them.
With nicely healed cut ends these
were set in potting soil in an unheated greenhouse where they
will receive good light. They'll spend the winter
there healthy & happy. Cuttings are alive, they open their pores
(stoma) at night to let in CO2 and H2O vapor. They'll live
gently waiting for warmer soil temperature with 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. Isn't
|Potting soil is a compost/perlite/coir mix
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.
(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.
Mites can be controlled with predatory mites. When I
investigate that option—the supplier wanted $125 for a minimum order.
I passed. They can
controlled with water sprays, (careful use of) neem oil or
|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.
I never use an insecticide because there are too many good
insects around that would be harmed. Just spray with water. Keep
the plant tips washed off. Mites & thrips attack cuttings in
dusty, hot, dry conditions.
Neem oil can burn plants if applied in sunlight. Use it
sparingly, apply after sundown.
The real problem is with cuttings because they are so vulnerable—you can't water them to
wash off mites & thrips so tiny you can't even see them. Without
roots the tip isn't growing so mites can turn the entire tip
into a tan scab.
Take cuttings early in the season before hot, dry
summer weather sets in that favors mites &thrips.
Are your cactus
tips scarred by a tan colored scab? Check with a
10X magnifier to see it there are mites or thrips
feeding on that soft, emerging tissue.
|Thrips feed by rasping the leaves and other
tissues of plants to release the sap, which they then
consume. ...alternative pesticides ...Sulfur,
insecticidal soap, and diatomaceous earth ...
|Two in a pot prevents loneliness. San Pedro are a
social species that like having friends & family near
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.
|Instruct the guardian cats on winter rooting care
||Does it have roots yet?
Does it? Huh?
I wanna look!
I can't wait!
|"Uh, oh! Nothing. It has been 2 whole
weeks and no roots. Something must be wrong! When I planted those
radish seeds they popped up in 2 days. Why is San Pedro
"That guy with the website said I can't root cuttings
in the winter but that's not what I want to hear. I'm
going to write him and ask what to do. He must be wrong.
Nature should do my bidding because I can't wait for
spring. I want roots right now. I don't care what season
it is, why should the dumb plant? Maybe I can set up
artificial lights with a cycle to trick it into thinking
it is spring to
fool the stupid cuttings,? I'll bet that's it. And
water it with some super plant food or Viagra or something."
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.
Only a few old, woody cuttings take a year. Really
woody old sections may take a second year.
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 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 DAMP SOIL
• DON'T WATER A CUTTING
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.
Tips can get herpes if they don't use condoms.
Black soft spots like the ones were at right will
heal up. They are caused by mechanical injury. Ever get a
bruise? Or a hematoma? Mechanical injury.
Stuff heals. These marks will become tan colored scars becoming
less noticed as new cactus tissue emerges from the growing tip.
(Plants grow taller, they are not statues)
A customer in Michigan freaked out and I issued a call tag to
have FedEx bring the specimen back. He probably bumped the tip
during unpacking or repotting. The plant now looks fine with
just a couple of tan spots on the side of the column.
He had been afraid it was a disease that could spread to his
other plants. Oh...well...
Has it rooted yet? Huh? Has it?
You may obsess by expecting roots to pop out like germinating
seeds. It is not like that. Roots may take weeks, months or a
year (for old, woody cuts) depending on many factors.
You may lift up tips every few weeks or months to make sure
they are OK (not molding). Then just set them back down. If you see
rot on the side you have to cut it off and start all over (dry,
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".
(scroll down). 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 worth its weight in Clonex!
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.
|Clonex is pricey at $40 a 250ml bottle. One supplier
from Amazon.com shipped me two 125ml bottles when I paid
for two 250ml ones. That merchant would not reply to
email; acting as if I was making it up, or that I was
too stupid to know the difference. I photographed
the box he shipped in, with the 2 half size bottles next
to an old 250ml (correct) size bottle of mine. Mailed
that to him. No good. American Express to the
rescue! I shipped back the 2-half size bottles while
a dispute on my behalf—based on copies of the photos & return shipping documentation. AMEX
made them refund my money.
This is why I believe some merchants won't take American
Express; to me it means they are frauds and can't
qualify to be an Amex merchant. Amex also rescued me
when a supplier once sent me 212 seedlings when I paid
for 500! Amex had to force the refund--and I had
immediately shipped back the 1/2 order by Priority Mail.
You have to be careful when you buy online.
|Angel Cat Guardians
Was it just a fur ball or was it an evil spirit?
|"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!