Can You Root A Cactus In Water? Step-By-Step Guideline

Can You Root A Cactus In Water

We mostly root and propagate cactus in soil. But can you root a cactus in water? Yes, you can.

You can root Christmas Cactus, Easter Cactus and many other cacti in water. Some of them will root from the stem and others will grow from the leaf cuttings. So, you should choose a healthy cactus and initiate the rooting process.

Lets learn more.

Which Rooting Is Better For Cactus: Soil or Water?

When it comes to rooting cacti, both soil and water methods are popular. But, which rooting method you should choose? Let’s compare the two methods:

Soil RootingStable rooting environmentSlower visible root growth
Water RootingQuick root visibilityHigher risk of rotting if not monitored
No soil-borne diseases or pestsNot suitable for larger cactus cuttings

Soil Rooting Pros

  • Stable Rooting Environment: One of the key benefits of soil rooting is the stability it offers to the cactus cutting. The soil provides physical support, preventing the cutting from falling over or being dislodged.
  • Strong and Healthy Growth: Soil provides the necessary nutrients and aeration that promote healthy root development. As roots grow in search of moisture and nutrients, they establish a stronger foundation for the cactus to thrive.
  • Prevention of Root Rot: Properly chosen well-draining soil can prevent the risk of root rot, which can occur when the roots are constantly in contact with excess moisture. The soil allows for better control of moisture levels.

Soil Rooting Cons

  • Slower Visible Root Growth: While soil rooting provides a stable environment for root development, the growth of roots may not be immediately visible. It can take a few weeks or even months for significant root growth to become noticeable.
  • Delayed Transplanting: Cacti rooted in soil will need to be transplanted into their permanent pots once their roots are well-established. This can be a bit more challenging and time-consuming compared to water-rooted cacti.

Water Rooting Pros:

  • Quick Root Visibility: One of the major advantages of water rooting is the speed at which you can observe root growth. You can easily see the roots develop, which can be exciting and satisfying.
  • Reduced Risk of Root Rot: While overwatering can still be an issue, water-rooted cacti are less likely to suffer from root rot because they aren’t constantly in contact with moist soil.
  • No Soil-Borne Diseases or Pests: Water rooting eliminates the risk of soil-borne diseases and pests that can hinder the growth of cacti in soil.

Water Rooting Cons

  • Higher Risk of Rotting: Water rooting can be risky if not closely monitored. If the cutting is left in water for too long, it can lead to rotting of the base, which can kill the cutting.
  • Not Suitable for Larger Cuttings: Water rooting is generally more suitable for smaller cacti or cuttings. Larger cactus cuttings might not have enough support or stability in a water medium, making soil a better choice.
  • Transplant Shock: When transitioning a water-rooted cactus to soil, it may experience some transplant shock as it adapts to the new medium. This shock can slow down growth temporarily.

Top Five Cactus That You Can Root In Water

We present you the top five cactus species that have a higher success rate when rooting in water:

Common Cactus NamePropagation MethodNotes
Christmas CactusStem segments in waterColorful flowers, segmented stems
Easter CactusStem will grow in waterVibrant flowers, flat, segmented stems
Jade PlantLeaf cuttings in waterThick, fleshy leaves; not a true cactus
Prickly Pear CactusPads/segments in waterSome species can be rooted this way
Pencil CactusStem cuttings in waterMilky sap can be irritating; not a true cactus

Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera spp.)

Christmas cacti are popular succulents known for their colorful flowers and segmented stems. They can be propagated through stem segments, and these segments often root well in water. Once the segments develop roots, they can be planted in soil and grown as new plants.

Easter Cactus (Hatiora gaertneri)

Similar to Christmas cacti, Easter cacti also belong to the Schlumbergera genus. They have vibrant flowers and flat, segmented stems. These segments can be rooted in water and transplanted into soil after they have developed a good root system.

Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)

While not a typical cactus, the jade plant is a succulent that is relatively easy to propagate. Its thick, fleshy leaves can be rooted in water or soil. Allow the cut ends to callous before placing them in water, and roots should develop within a few weeks.

Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia spp.)

Some species of prickly pear cacti can be successfully propagated by placing a pad or segment in water. Allow the cut end to callous before submerging it. After root growth, these segments can be planted in well-draining soil.

Pencil Cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli)

Pencil cactus, despite its name, is a type of succulent in the Euphorbia family. It can be propagated by taking stem cuttings and rooting them in water. However, keep in mind that the milky sap of pencil cactus can be irritating to the skin and eyes, so handle with care.

Top Ways to Root Cactus in Water: Step-by-Step Guideline

Follow these steps to successfully root a cactus in water:

Step 1: Choose a Suitable Cutting

Before you start, make sure you have a healthy cactus cutting. It’s important that the cutting has been allowed to callous for a few days. So, the cut end should dry and form a protective layer over the wound. It prevents root rot when the cutting is placed in water.

Step 2: Prepare a Container

You should opt for a transparent container such as a glass or plastic jar. The transparency allows you to monitor the root growth without disturbing the cutting. Make sure the container is clean and free from any residues that might contaminate the water.

Step 3: Add Water

Fill the container with distilled or filtered water. Avoid using tap water, as the chlorine and minerals present could be harmful to the cactus. Ensure that the water level is sufficient to submerge the bottom of the cutting.

However, it should be enough without letting it touch the sides of the container. It will prevent potential rotting.

Step 4: Place in Indirect Light

Find a location with bright, indirect light for your container. This could be near a window that receives filtered sunlight throughout the day. Avoid placing the container in direct sunlight, as the water can heat up quickly and damage the cutting.

Step 5: Change Water Regularly

To maintain a healthy environment for root growth, change the water in the container every week. This prevents the growth of algae and bacteria. When changing the water, gently rinse the cutting under a gentle stream to remove any accumulated debris.

Step 6: Observe Root Growth

Over the course of a few weeks, you should start noticing root growth emerging from the base of the cutting. Initially, these roots might appear as small white or translucent protrusions.

Step 7: Transplant to Soil

Once the roots have grown a few inches long (typically at least 1-2 inches), it’s time to transplant the cutting into soil. Prepare a well-draining cactus potting mix that’s suitable for your cactus species. Gently remove the cutting from the water and handle it carefully to avoid damaging the fragile roots.

Step 8: Acclimate to Soil

After transplanting, place the cactus in a shaded area for a few days. This helps the cactus acclimate to its new soil environment. Avoid direct sunlight during this period, as the cactus might still be sensitive to the change.

Remember, not all cacti can be propagated successfully through water rooting. It’s important to research the specific requirements of the cactus species you’re working with to determine the best propagation method.

Tips for Safely Rooting Cactus in Water

When you decide to propagate cactus in water, you must be careful. Hence, you should follow our tips to ensure successful water propagation:

Monitor Water Level

Keep a close watch on the water level in the container. The base of the cutting should remain submerged in water, but it’s essential to avoid letting the cutting touch the sides of the container. This can prevent the risk of rot and fungal issues.

Avoid Overcrowding

It’s best to root only one cutting per container. Overcrowding multiple cuttings in a single container can increase humidity levels, making it more conducive to fungal growth.

So, you should provide enough space to the cacti. It will ensure better air circulation and reduce the risk of infections.

Use Filtered Water

Using distilled or filtered water is crucial to prevent the accumulation of minerals and chemicals that could be harmful to the cactus.

Tap water often contains chlorine and other additives that can negatively affect root development. Using clean, pure water supports healthy root growth.

Maintain Adequate Lighting

Bright, indirect light is essential for the successful rooting of cactus cuttings. Place the container in a location where it receives plenty of natural light without being exposed to direct sunlight.

Too much direct sunlight can lead to overheating and potential damage to the cutting.

Patience and Observation

Rooting cactus cuttings in water requires patience. It’s a slow process, and you might not see immediate results. Regularly observe the cutting for any signs of root growth. Patience is key to allowing the roots to develop at their own pace.

Proper Callusing

Before placing the cutting in water, ensure that the cut end has properly calloused. This callus serves as a protective barrier against water infiltration and potential rot. Allow the cutting to sit in a dry, shaded area for a few days to encourage callusing.

Gentle Handling and Maintain Cleanliness

Handle the cuttings with care, especially when transferring them from water to soil. The fragile roots can easily be damaged, which could hinder successful transplantation and future growth.

Regularly clean the container and change the water to prevent the buildup of algae, bacteria, and debris.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I use tap water for rooting cactus in water?

It’s recommended to use distilled or filtered water to prevent the buildup of minerals and chemicals that can harm the cactus.

2. How long does it take for cactus cuttings to root in water?

Rooting times vary, but you can expect to see significant root growth within a few weeks to a couple of months.

3. Can I root any type of cactus in water?

While many cactus species can be rooted in water, some might be more successful with soil rooting due to their specific growth requirements.


Rooting cacti in water is an interesting and viable method for propagation. It offers certain advantages such as quicker root visibility and minimal soil-related issues. Plus, it requires careful monitoring to prevent rot and ensure successful rooting.

You should follow the steps outlined in this article and consider the provided tips. As you follow our tips, you can successfully root your cactus cuttings in water and enjoy watching them grow into healthy plants.

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