Taking Care Of A Grafted Cactus

Taking Care Of A Grafted Cactus

A grafted cactus is a kind of cactus plant that you can produce by putting together two different cactus species through the process of grafting.

Grafting is a horticultural technique where the tissues of two plants are joined together so that they grow as one. In the case of a grafted cactus, you take parts from two cactus plants and join them together.

If you can achieve it, grafted cacti are undeniably beautiful additions to any home or garden. They’re also pretty low-maintenance.

Ready to add some color to the garden? Here’s your comprehensive guide to grafting a cactus and taking care of a grafted cactus.

What Is a Grafted Cactus?

As we’ve already learned, it’s a cactus created by fusing the tissues of two separate cacti parts. Also known as cactus graft or cactus hybrid, the process typically involves taking a scion, or a cutting, from one cactus species and joining it onto a rootstock of another cactus species.

What Is a Grafted Cactus

The scion of the cactus is called the “top” or “graft,” while the receiving/base piece is referred to as the “root,” “stock,” or simply “rootstock.”

The rootstock provides the root system and stems for the grafted plant. It absorbs nutrients and water from the soil, anchors the plant, and provides support. It must also be disease resistant.

Meanwhile, the scion is chosen as the desired upper portion of the plant based on the preference for fruits, flowers, or unique growth habits.

As you can imagine, to ensure compatibility and successful grafting, the scion and rootstock must be matched carefully. Do note that while grafted cacti share some characteristics of both the scion and the stock, the unified plant is typically more influenced by the scion.

Why Graft a Cactus?

Why go to the trouble of formulating an entirely new type of cactus when you can just get yourself an existing species?

Why Graft a Cactus

Well, because grafting allows you to combine the best parts of different varieties and species of cacti.

This means that, while many people do it for aesthetic purposes, grafting can also help to deal with challenges relating to cultivation or growth.

Let’s say that one cactus species has beautiful flowers in your favorite color while another one has better disease resistance. If you can combine both? Profit!

Another reason for grafting is to help restore mutant pups that have come detached from their mother plant and are suffering due to a lack of chlorophyll. When grafted to a nutritious rootstock, the pup then has a greater chance of surviving.

Furthermore, grafting might also allow you to grow cacti that are not suitable for your climate or have specific soil requirements which you cannot provide.

Not to mention, grafted cacti are wonderful to look at. Plant enthusiasts love the unique color combinations and growth patterns that can be enjoyed through grafting.

How to Graft a Cactus

The process of grafting cacti is one that requires patience, and practice also certainly helps.

How to Graft a Cactus

Before you start grafting, it’s best to research the particular cacti species you want to graft, as some may have specific requirements or grafting techniques.

Below is a step-by-step on grafting a cactus. But before you start, make sure to gather the following tools:

  • a clean cutting board
  • a sharp, sterilized blade or knife
  • grafting tape (or rubber bands)
  • a clean cloth or tissue.

Ready? Let’s begin.

Step 1: Choose the scion and stock

The top part of your grafted cactus is called the scion, while the bottom part is called the stock. Select your scion and stock based on your preferences for appearance, climate suitability, disease resistance, etc. But make sure that the two species are compatible.

Step 2: Cut the scion and stock

Using your knife, make a slanted cut (around 45 degrees) at the base of the scion.

Then do the same for the stock. The cut on the stock should correspond to the scion in terms of diameter, and the two pieces should fit together comfortably.

Step 3: Put the scion and stock together

Being as precise as possible, carefully align the scion’s cut end and place it onto the stock’s cut end.

Ensure that the cambium layers of both scion and stock make contact with each other (the ‘cambium’ refers to the green tissue just under the skin). It is essential for this connection to happen properly for successful grafting.

Step 4: Secure the graft

Tightly wrap your grafting tape or rubber brands around the graft union while holding the stock and the scion firmly together. This helps to maintain stability as the two parts grow together.

Step 5: Place the graft in a protective environment

Once the preliminary grafting process is done, cover the grafted area using a tissue or a cloth. This prevents moisture loss. Next, place the graft in a warm place where it won’t be exposed to direct sunlight or high humidity.

Step 6: Wait and monitor

While you wait for your graft to grow into a single plant, check it regularly to ensure it remains free from diseases and pests.

Step 7: Remove the support and covering

Depending on the species of cacti, the graft can take up to a few weeks or a few months. Once you notice that the plant is growing cohesively on its own, you can then remove the grafting tape, as well as the protective covering.

How to Take Care of a Grafted Cactus

Like all plants, grafted cacti also have specific care requirements. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Take Care of a Grafted Cactus

Provide Partial Light

Indirect light, or partial sunlight, is the best for grafted cacti. If your grafted cactus is growing in an outdoor setting, it should be placed in a spot receiving partial shade.

If you’re growing it in an indoor setting, make sure to place it near a window. A west- or east-facing windowsill is probably best.

Avoid Overwatering

This rings true for all cacti, not just grafted ones. As they are desert plants, cacti do not require water the same way other plants do.

Therefore, you should only water a grafted cactus when the soil is dry. Also, note that different times of the year call for different amounts of water as humidity levels change.

Worried about your scion not getting enough water? Mist them occasionally. This will help the scion retain its vividness.

Maintain Proper Soil and Fertilizer

For grafted cacti, fast-draining soil mixes are best. Measure the soil’s pH; if it’s acidic or neutral, then it’s perfect for growing your grafted cactus.

When it is in its active growing season, you can fertilize your plant with a cactus fertilizer to encourage healthy growth.

However, make sure not to feed your cactus any fertilizer during its dormancy.

The dormancy period usually occurs during winter and fall months, when the weather is cooler, causing growth to slow down or stop completely. The duration and timing of the dormancy period will depend on the cactus species.

Common Types of Grafted Cacti

Let’s learn about the common types of grafted Cacti.

Moon Cactus (Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii)

Moon Cactus (Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii)

Easily the most popular grafted cactus, the moon cactus is made up of a colorful, spineless top graft from the Gymnocalycium mihanovichii species.

The scion, which is usually red, yellow, or orange, is grafted onto a green, columnar cactus stock such as a Hylocereus that gives it a nice contrast.

This grafted cactus does not fare well in extremely cold weather and grows actively during the summer. However, it’s a great option as an indoor cactus!

Echinopsis ‘Lobivia’, ‘Chamaecereus’ or ‘hertrichiana’

Echinopsis cacti, such as Lobivia and Chamaecereus species, are a great choice if you want your grafted cactus to have a gorgeous bloom.

Echinopsis ‘Lobivia’, ‘Chamaecereus’ or ‘hertrichiana’

The scion, which can be in various colors like pink, red, or yellow, produces large, showy red flowers. Originating in Peru, the Echinopsis hertrichiana has spherical bodies, notched ribs, and interlocking yellowish spines.

This species grows well in the summer and requires regular watering in spring and summer. In winter, it should be kept dry.

Schlumbergera

The Schlumbergera cactus, also known as the Christmas cactus, is so named for its ability to produce gorgeous blooms during the winter holiday season.

Schlumbergera

It is a popular choice for grafting as it yields many interesting combinations. While the rootstock supports it, Schlumbergera’s flat, segmented stems from the scion.

Trichocereus

Trichocereus species, such as Trichocereus pachanoi (San Pedro cactus) or Trichocereus bridgesii, are often used as rootstocks for grafting. They’re a great option for grafting slower-growing cacti due to their strong root systems and rapid growth.

Trichocereus

Common Problems with Grafted Cacti

Are you concerned about the health of your grafted cacti? There are three main causes for the death of a grafted cactus: overwatering and too much heat.

Overwatering

If your cactus is turning brown, this is usually a sign that you have overwatered it. And if this is the case, the cactus will also appear mushy and feel soft and fragile to the touch. Check the cactus’s roots to figure out whether it’s dead or rotted.

But if the roots look healthy and white, you can still save your cactus; just repot it into fresh soil. It’s best if the soil is well-draining. Do not water it again before the mix is completely dried out.

On the other hand, if the roots are turning black or brown, that’s a sign of rotting. In that case, you should snip away the unhealthy parts and replant them in a new pot.

Too much light and humidity

Cacti, especially indoor cacti, should never be exposed to strong, direct sunlight. Furthermore, too much heat and humidity can also kill your cactus.

This is why it’s important to place your cacti in a partially shaded spot so that they can get the best of both worlds. For indoor locations, near a window is the best option.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.    How long do grafted cacti live?

Most grafted cacti will survive for up to 3 years, usually because of a split graft. If you notice that your cactus’s graft has split, try regrafting it into a new stock.

2.    What is the best season for grafting a cactus?

The growing season, which usually occurs in spring or summer, is undeniably the best time to graft a cactus. Avoid grafting during the cactus’s dormancy period in winter.

3.    How big can a grafted cactus get?

It varies from species to species, but you can expect a height and width of 2-3 inches.

4.    Why is the Moon Cactus ideal to graft?

The Moon cactus is a preferred grafting choice due to its easy-to-maintain light requirements, soil preferences, occasional watering requirements, and hardiness in different temperatures. It is also relatively easy to re-graft.

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