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How to Cut a Cactus to Transplant

Despite their spiny, forbidding appearance, cactuses charm many gardeners with their innate resilience and striking appearance. All species of true cactus propagate reliably from vegetative cuttings, but success depends on using the correct technique before transplanting the cutting into a rooting pot. The time of year, tools used and treatment of the cutting before transplanting all play a role in whether the cactus cutting roots or rots once potted. However, if you follow a few simple rules, your chances of successfully cutting and transplanting a cactus are greatly increased.

Harvest cactus cuttings for propagation in late spring or early summer when the plant is actively growing. Cuttings can be taken as late as August when working with indoor potted cactuses or in warm climates corresponding to U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 9 and above.

Use a utility knife or pruning saw for taking cactus cuttings, depending on the size of the cactus. Use a utility knife for smaller species or immature specimens. Use a pruning saw for larger cactuses.

Sanitize the utility knife or pruning saw with a 10 percent bleach solution before using it on the cactus. Dip the blade into a mix of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water for 60 to 90 seconds. Set the tool in the sun to dry completely before using it.

Select a 3- to 6-inch-long portion of the cactus for the best chances of successful rooting. Avoid taking very large cuttings since the rate of transpiration will exceed the amount of moisture the cactus is able to take in from the soil.

Make a clean, straight cut using the sanitized utility knife or pruning saw. Avoid making an angled cut since that exposes too much of the soft inner flesh and opens up the cactus to infection.

Place the cactus cutting in an out-of-the-way spot with dry, moderately bright conditions and excellent air circulation. Let the end of the cactus dry out naturally until the cut callouses over and appears hard and whitish in appearance.

Pot the cactus cutting to half its depth in a suitably sized container with excellent drainage. Use inorganic rooting medium such as pea gravel, coarse sand or perlite to root the cactus cutting.


Treat the calloused end of the cactus cutting with 0.1 percent IBA (indole butyric acid) rooting hormone, if desired. Most cactuses do not need rooting hormone, but it may speed up the process.


Wear gloves when working with cactuses to avoid injury to your hands.

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