Thanksgiving cactus training

JAndrewsMarch 3, 2013

I have a little Thanksgiving cactus in a 4 inch pot. Most of its branches are still growing upwards. It also has the beginnings of a woody trunk at the base.

I actually like the woody trunk on cactuses quite a bit, and I'm not a huge fan of the long, trailing branches these guys usually have. So I was thinking I might keep it small and prune it tightly, especially the branches that don't grow upwards, and let the plant develop a thick, tree-like trunk.

I love those big old opuntias that grow into trees, and this guy reminds me a little of those, which is nice, since I don't think I could grow a tree in my tiny Wisconsin apartment :) I guess that makes this a quasi-bonsai project.

Does this all sound like a good idea? Is there anything I can do to encourage it to grow a thicker/woodier trunk, and would it be healthy for the plant? I'm guessing pruning would be the thing to do if I want thicker rather than longer growth.

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ctreeteac(Zone 8b; rain-spewing Oregon)

I have never understood that these guys can be made to grow upward or 'trained' to do anything outside their normal growth habit, really. At a certain point, they're going to curve over to the sides, I think, and that's just how they are, unless you continually keep removing the new growth and don't let the plant grow.

Anyone, correct me if I'm mistaken.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 10:45PM
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JAndrews

Yeah, for sure. I'm planning on continuing to prune it in a certain shape, so maybe "train" isn't the right word, except maybe if there's a way to encourage the trunk to thicken (which might help it support more upward-growing branches? I don't know but it'd just be a side benefit either way).

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 11:18PM
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ctreeteac(Zone 8b; rain-spewing Oregon)

I don't know that it would encourage the trunk to thicken. I've only heard that comes with age.

I don't know, it's up to you, but I personally don't imagine it making much of a difference in changing the look of the plant, more than keeping it stagnant by removing new growth and thus limiting the areas for blooms to develop.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 12:13AM
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JAndrews

Okay! I'm fine with it looking like a regular thanksgiving cactus, and I realize this might be more work than it's worth, but I thought it might be a fun project to try. Thanks for the advice.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 12:25AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I've done this very thing with a Christmas Cactus for several years now. I had heard that rooting a woody segment was more difficult, and so I took up the challenge and rooted a woody section in an upright position. Then, as the cutting bushed out, I began pruning off the heavy tips of the branches and thinning branches entirely.

What I recommend is that you grow your cutting in a fast-draining mix of orchid bark and perlite, with a pinch of porous grit or even a pinch of potting soil (and by pinch, I do mean very, very little). Then, simply water and fertilize throughout the growing season. Allow the cutting to bush out and feed energy back to the roots....then give it a hard-pruning and start the process over.

Once you've established a woody, upright trunk, you can allow the branch-tips to "weep" down normally, while still showing off the trunk. Here's my work-in-progress.

Josh

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 4:43PM
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JAndrews

Great! That's exactly the kind of thing I'm going for. When would be the appropriate time to hard prune it? I would think at the beginning of its growing season, but should I wait until the middle or so when it's had a chance to branch out for a while and hopefully thicken the bottom?

Thanks for the picture, it's very inspiring.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 4:56PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Thanks! I'm glad you're giving it a try.

Houseplants tend to lose vitality over the Winter, and so they're at their lowest energy levels sometime around the beginning of the growing season. For this reason, I would wait until mid-May to do any work on the plant. Most important is getting it into a mix that can be watered thoroughly and frequently.

I prune mine at least twice a season - mid-May, and again at the end of Summer. Two more pics for you. A before and after from early October, 2011.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 5:50PM
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JAndrews

Great, thank you!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 8:56PM
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mrlike2u(**)

Not mine but was removed and then rooted from an older mother plant Even a common friend would agree it does thicken and will form if cut back
Exactly Josh and looking as good as it did before

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 10:18PM
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JAndrews

Very nice! That's the kind of look I'm hoping for someday.

This post was edited by JAndrews on Tue, Mar 5, 13 at 0:05

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 12:00AM
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petrushka

the wooded trunk will develop with time. i usually trim mine after secondary blooming in mar-apr and then let it rest and water sparingly for a month or so.
i prune all limbs leaving sometimes 1 sometimes 2 segments after a fork. make sure you dont cut into the leaf, but trim at the seam between 2 segments.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 7:01PM
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petrushka

this is after 3-4 years. you can see the 1-2 segments in the center are semi-woody. grown from tender end cuttings.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 9:59AM
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petrushka

this was bought about 8 years ago, may be even 9. the bottom trunks totally wooded.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 10:01AM
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tommyr_gw

Man I love that Bonsai look! Nice job!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 7:23PM
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petrushka

i am now much better with them then i used to be. i had a 15 year old white one, blooming faithfully, but really woody - and getting very big and sort of ratty ...and i junked it. now i would've figured out a way to trim it .
if you trim them every year, it'll maintain the shape, if you dont'...they just get out of control.

This post was edited by petrushka on Thu, Mar 7, 13 at 21:20

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 9:14PM
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