Planting Pencil cactus from cutting

jbaborrOctober 25, 2007


I have a 6 ft tall Pencil Cactus that is top heavy and starting to lean badly from the high winds here in S. California. I would like to know, short of staking, which I don't think looks very good; Could I cut of the top 3rd, let it dry out for a few days and plant that to sort of start it over. Also, would it be OK to leave the trunk that remains in the ground after the will it get new growth on it.

I'm a little new to this, so I'm not sure if there would be a better way to handle this problem.

Also, I know the issues with the I will take precautions

Thanks in advance...

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dufflebag2002(Calif. 91607)

I would take off several pieces and plant them in pots to start. If you lose one you have several more going for you, when doing this protect your eyes with goggles, wear cloves and a plastic cover over your arms, that can be tossed out, take a shower after, keep sap off of you, out of your eyes, and nose, mouth, it can be dangerous. Prune this plant after July 4, when it will be hot enough for the cuttings to start, it needs heat to start and prosper. Good luck, I hope I have been of some help. Norma

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 11:53PM
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This plant roots so easily you cant get it to NOT root. I would take some smaller cuttings, AFTER you lop off that big top cutting, it will sprout out new side stems from where you cut. And yes, the plant in the ground will live and sprout out more side branches where you cut it. You could dig it up and move it, if you wanted! It is indestructable...almost. So,it will make it have a different shape after its haircut! So, decide where you are going to make that big cut. It will fill in with new stems,but it wont be as 'natural' looking for a while, till the new stems come in. I have cut the main stem growth and now I have a big fat bush,instead of a tall lean 'tree'. Mine is the 'Sticks on Fire' variety...with the reddish stems when they first sprout, not the plain green one. And it loves to be pruned.
Make sure you have a clean cut to plant,take off any side stems so you have a 1-3in stem to put into the soil. Any soil will work. But a good fast draining soil will work best. 'Top soil' alone will kill it overnight! It will sufficate any roots that try to form, and it will rot.It is a succulent/cactus, so it loves fast draining soil,heat,and sun! You can put some rooting hormone powder on it after it callous' over for a few days before planting it,if you want. But you don't HAVE to.

And the part you leave behind will of course live and do well. It will sprout out side branches and probably put out a few new stems that will try to replace the top upright growth. Pick the best one and it will look like it did before in a year or so. You dont have to wear a 'haz-mat' suit when you cut this plant and handle it. The sap CAN be irritating to some people. But it isnt liquid acid, and it wont spray out at you. Just be careful and put on some gloves and eye protection. BUT if you get it on your skin, wash it off with dishsoap or another strong soap. As a precaution, the sap is kind of like touching poison will be a little while before you find out if you are or are not allergic to it...if little blisters turn up and if it itches or not. So, just incase, wash good after IF you get sap on you, and just because you have been in the garden of course:) It isn't like the acid blood from Aliens! SOME people get a rash from the sap, and there are a FEW people that are VERY allergic to it and will get hives or blisters on their skin where any sap touches. My mother cut mine pencil tree back once and her hands looked like they were burned for weeks! I have cut it back so many times,I cant count, and the sap has covered my hands and nothing happens to me. So just be careful.

Enjoy your new plants,and while they are rooting,IF you can leave them outside in as much warmth and heat as possible, that is great. Inside, put the cuttings in south windows or next to sliding glass doors that get sun through them. They will root VERY easily. The smaller thin stems root faster, but if you root a BIG fat stem,you will get a BIG plant FAST! But it is a bit harder to get it to root,but it will root! Then you have a new BIG plant! Pets should leave them alone. It is poisonous to pets. But IF they take a nip at will only be 1 nip,I think the taste alone will stop them in one nibble. Then the rest of the day, they will try to get rid of the taste! But I think they 'know',not to touch this plant. animals know these things. Good luck,let us know what happens and if you get a big fat plant!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2007 at 6:24PM
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I have been told that pencil cactus have a root spread of 5-8 feet wide. I thought they had very shallow root system. I have planted one around a palm tree base and it is growing up the tree. I think it looks great!!!! I have been told it has to be removed because its root system is so invasive.
Thank you for your prompt response.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 7:00PM
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