How To Propagate Cactus Pups Successfully And Easily?

How To Propagate Cactus Pups

Cactus pups are small offshoots that grow from the base of mature cacti. You can regrow cactus from the pup through the propagation process. But for that you must know how to propagate cactus pups and help it grow with roots.  

Thankfully, propagating cactus pups is a simple and effective way to expand your cactus collection. You need to find the right potting mix, ensure proper light and temperature for the cacti pup. Once you repot the pup, it will grow into a mature cactus within a few months.

As you continue reading our step-by-step guideline on cacti pup propagation, you will learn about different types of pups, and the steps to successfully propagate and care for them.

So, aren’t you excited?

Want to learn more about cactus care:

How Do Cactus Pups Form?

Cactus pups are the result of a cactus plant’s natural reproductive strategy. When a mature cactus is in a healthy and robust state, it will direct some of its resources towards producing new growth.

How Do Cactus Pups Form

Hence, it can take the form of cactus pups. There are two primary ways in which cactus pups form –

1/ Lateral Growth

2/ Adventitious Buds

Lateral Growth

In many cactus species, lateral growth is a common method of pup formation. Lateral growth refers to the emergence of new shoots from the sides of the main stem or arms of the cactus.

These offshoots often start as tiny bumps or nodes and eventually develop into fully-formed pups. Some cacti are more prolific in lateral growth than others, leading to the formation of several pups around the parent plant.

The Opuntia genus, commonly known as prickly pear cacti, is a classic example of cacti that produce pups through lateral growth. As the prickly pear cactus grows, it develops distinct pads, and from these pads, new pups emerge, forming a cluster of interconnected cacti.

Adventitious Buds

Certain cactus species produce pups through adventitious buds. Adventitious buds are specialized structures that form at various locations on the parent plant, particularly near the base or areolar regions.

These buds can lie dormant for some time until favorable conditions trigger their growth, leading to the emergence of new pups.

The Mammillaria genus is known for producing cactus pups through adventitious buds. Mammillaria cacti have prominent areoles, which are small, woolly areas from which spines and buds emerge.

Adventitious buds on these areoles can grow into pups, giving rise to a cluster of baby cacti around the parent plant.

Different Types Of Cactus Pups

Different Types Of Cactus Pups

Cactus pups come in a diverse array of forms, and their appearance and characteristics can vary significantly among different cactus species. Here are some common types of cactus pups, along with a description of each type:

Type of Cactus PupDescriptionExample
Miniature ReplicasIdentical replicas of the parent plantMammillaria species
Color Variation PupsShow variations in colorGymnocalycium mihanovichii ‘Hibotan’
Crested PupsGrow in crested or fan-like shapesEchinocactus grusonii ‘Golden Barrel Cactus’
Variegated PupsDisplay patterns of different colorsEuphorbia lactea ‘Cristata’
Monstrose PupsDevelop irregular and distorted shapesMonstrose Echinopsis species

Miniature Replicas

Some cactus pups are exact miniature replicas of the parent plant. They closely resemble the adult cactus in terms of shape, size, color, and spination. These pups are essentially genetic clones of the parent cactus and inherit all its distinctive features.

Many Mammillaria species produce miniature replicas of the parent plant as pups. These tiny versions retain the same tubercles, spines, and flower colors as the mature Mammillaria cactus.

Color Variation Pups

In some cacti, pups may exhibit slight differences in color compared to the parent plant. These variations can include variations in stem color, spine color, or the presence of unique pigmentation on the surface of the cactus.

Gymnocalycium mihanovichii ‘Hibotan’ is a popular cactus known for producing color variation pups. The parent plant is typically green, but some of its pups may emerge with striking red or pink pigmentation.

Crested Pups

Crested cactus pups, also known as cristate pups, are a fascinating variation where the pups grow in a crested or fan-like shape instead of the typical cylindrical or globular form. This cresting occurs due to abnormal growth patterns in the apical meristem.

Echinocactus grusonii ‘Golden Barrel Cactus’ is known to produce crested pups. Instead of the round shape of the parent plant, the pups may grow in fan-like formations, creating a unique and visually appealing specimen.

Variegated Pups

Variegated cactus pups display patterns of different colors or shades on their stems and/or spines. These variations are due to genetic mutations affecting pigmentation distribution in the tissues.

Euphorbia lactea ‘Cristata’ is a cactus-like succulent that produces variegated pups. These pups may exhibit stripes or patches of pale yellow or white on a green background.

Monstrose Pups

Monstrose cactus pups, also called monstruosus pups, develop irregular growth patterns, resulting in unusual and distorted shapes. These pups are a result of mutations in the cactus’s genetic makeup.

Monstrose varieties, such as Echinopsis subdenudata ‘Fairy Castle,’ can produce monstrose pups that have fascinatingly contorted shapes, making them stand out from the typical cylindrical growth of cacti.

Tips To Propagate Cacti Using Pups In 10 Steps

As you read you might be interested to know about how to get cactus pups to root. Propagating cacti using pups is a straightforward process that allows you to grow new cacti from the offshoots of mature plants.

Tips To Propagate Cacti Using Pups In 10 Steps

Step 1: Identify Healthy Pups

Observe your mature cactus plant and look for healthy pups that have developed near the base or on the sides of the main stem. Choose pups that are at least a few inches tall and have their own set of roots or root buds.

Step 2: Prepare the Tools

Before proceeding, make sure you have the necessary tools ready. You will need a clean, sharp knife or scissors for separating the pups from the parent plant. Sanitize the cutting tool by wiping it with rubbing alcohol or dipping it in a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water and allowing it to air dry.

Step 3: Detach the Pups

Carefully cut or gently twist the pups from the parent plant, ensuring you include a portion of the roots or root buds. Try to minimize damage to both the pup and the parent cactus during this process. It’s essential to handle the cacti with care, as they have spines that can cause injury.

Step 4: Callus the Wound

After detaching the pups, let the cut or twisted ends dry out and callus over for a day or two. This step helps prevent potential rot when the pups are potted.

Step 5: Choose the Right Pot

Select a suitable pot for the pups. It should have drainage holes to ensure proper water drainage, as cacti are sensitive to waterlogged soil. The pot should be slightly larger than the pup to allow for some growth.

Step 6: Prepare the Potting Mix

Use a well-draining cactus or succulent potting mix, or create your own mix by combining regular potting soil with perlite or coarse sand. This type of mix helps prevent overwatering and promotes healthy root growth.

Step 7: Pot the Pups

Gently place the pups in the prepared potting mix, making sure they sit upright and their roots are in contact with the soil. Avoid burying the pups too deeply; it’s best to keep them at the same level as they were when attached to the parent plant.

Step 8: Allow for Root Establishment

Place the potted pups in a warm and bright location, but avoid exposing them to direct sunlight immediately. Over the next few days, water sparingly, allowing the roots to establish without causing root rot.

Step 9: Gradually Introduce Sunlight

After about a week, gradually introduce the pups to more direct sunlight. Start with a few hours of morning or late afternoon sun and increase the exposure gradually. This process helps acclimate the pups to higher light levels and prevents sunburn.

Step 10: Monitor and Care for the Pups

Regularly monitor the pups for signs of growth and ensure that the soil is allowed to dry out between waterings. During the growing season (spring and summer), you can apply a balanced cactus fertilizer diluted to half strength once a month to encourage healthy growth.

Cacti Type That Grow Pups

Many cacti species are known for producing pups, making them excellent candidates for propagation and expanding your cactus collection. Let’s explore some of the cactus types that commonly grow pups and discuss them elaborately, along with examples of each:

Opuntia (Prickly Pear Cacti)

Opuntia cacti are famous for their flat, paddle-like stems known as pads. These pads are covered in spines and glochids (small hair-like structures) and often have colorful flowers in spring and summer.

Opuntia (Prickly Pear Cacti)

Opuntia cacti are highly prolific in producing pups, especially along the edges of their pads.

Opuntia ficus-indica, commonly known as Indian fig or prickly pear, is a well-known species that produces numerous pups. The pads of this cactus are edible, and it is cultivated for its fruit in some regions.

Echinopsis (Easter Lily Cactus)

Echinopsis cacti are diverse and come in various shapes and sizes. They typically have columnar or globular stems covered in spines and produce stunning flowers that bloom at night.

Echinopsis (Easter Lily Cactus)

Echinopsis subdenudata, commonly known as the Easter Lily Cactus, is a popular species that forms pups readily. It has white, trumpet-shaped flowers with a delightful fragrance.


Mammillaria cacti are small to medium-sized cacti with globular or cylindrical stems. They are characterized by prominent tubercles (nipple-like structures) from which spines and flowers emerge.

Mammillaria cacti

Mammillaria species are prolific pup producers, with new pups forming at the base or on the sides of the main stem. Mammillaria elongate or the Ladyfinger Cactus, produces pups. It has cylindrical stems covered in white spines and produces bright pink flowers.


Gymnocalycium cacti are generally small and globular, often with beautiful flower displays. They have distinct areoles from which spines emerge, and pups typically form around the base of the main stem.

Gymnocalycium cacti

Example: Gymnocalycium mihanovichii, also known as the Moon Cactus or Hibotan, is a popular species for its vibrant colors. It is commonly grafted onto a rootstock and tends to produce pups around the grafting site.

Ferocactus (Barrel Cactus)

Ferocactus cacti are characterized by their large, barrel-shaped stems and prominent ribs with long spines. They are slow-growing cacti that can live for many years. Many Ferocactus species produce pups near the base of the main stem.

Ferocactus (Barrel Cactus)

Ferocactus glaucescens, commonly known as the Blue Barrel, produces pups. It has a blue-green appearance and large, yellow flowers in summer.

Coryphantha (Pincushion Cacti)

Coryphantha cacti are small and globular with prominent tubercles and relatively short spines. These cacti often produce pups at the base or on the sides of the main stem.

Coryphantha (Pincushion Cacti)

Coryphantha vivipara, also known as the Beehive Cactus, is a species known for its pup-producing ability. It produces small, bell-shaped flowers with yellow or pink petals.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Should I cut off cactus pups?

Yes, you can cut off cactus pups if you wish to propagate them and grow new cacti independently. Cutting the pups also helps prevent overcrowding and competition for resources among the plants.

2. How long do cactus pups take to root?

The time it takes for cactus pups to root can vary depending on the species and environmental conditions. On average, it can take several weeks to a few months for the pups to develop a robust root system.

3. What kind of potting mix should you use for pups?

Use a well-draining cactus or succulent potting mix, or you can create your mix by combining regular potting soil with perlite or coarse sand to improve drainage.


Propagating cactus pups is a rewarding and simple way to expand your cactus collection. Also, with different types of cacti pups and their wide variations, you can truly make a cacti garden through proper propagation.

You can follow our instructions and enjoy excellent cacti propagation rewards with superior performance.

It will also add fun in your gardening life. Bye gardeners!

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