Succulents are most def our fav, but let’s give the cactus pad a little love! It seems like cactus pad propagations are all over Pinterest and Plant Tok. They are so cute with their little “babies” growing out of the top of the pad, keep reading to get the full “How To”.
Propagating cactus pads is kind of similar to succulent topping, or when you grow a whole new plant from a cutting without roots.
Before You Get Started
It would be silly of us to not give a little warning before you jump into this propagation. Remember that cacti are very spiky and you do not want to get a spine in your finger. We recommend using rubber tongs to handle the cactus pads and wearing nitrile dipped gloves. The synthetic material that covers the fingers works much better than other gloves, like leather, at protecting your fingers. Long spikes might still get through, but you won’t have to worry as much about the small hair like spines. Pro Tip! Some cacti enthusiasts will even double layer their gloves.
Keep a gentle grip on your cactus, as holding the plant with a forceful grip can cause the spins to poke through the gloves.
Silicone tipped tongs are great to use for those extra spiky or larger cacti. The tong keeps more distance between yourself and the plant. The silicone tips are relatively soft along the edges and are less likely to damage your plant. Keep a light grip on the tongs so you do not bruise or cut your plant and then guide the cactus into place and shift the soil as needed.
Step by Step Instructions
Let’s grow! First we will need the following:
Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntias)
Silicone tipped tongs
Nitrile dipped gloves
If you already have a cactus pad, you are ahead of the game! If not, you will want to get your tongs ready and simply grab a cactus pad with the tongs and break off the main part. Prickly pear cacti are typically easy to do and you should get a clean break.
If you are having a difficult time pulling it off, grab a clean knife and cut a pad off. You will want to remove the entire cactus pad and then like the area where it was cut completely dry out and form a callous.
Once your pads have calloused, it is time to get potting!
Step 1. Fill pots with soil
Reminder! Use cactus soil for all of your succulents and cacti. This soil allows for better drainage and has the proper ingredients for desert plants to thrive. Pick a pot that is larger than the cactus pad because they will grow.
Step 2. Place pads in soil
You can place the pads in the soil two ways – your first option is to lay the pads flat – AKA parallel with the ground – in your soil. If you keep the pad flat on the soil the roots will grow out of the side of the cactus laying on the soil. The benefit of this method is that the pad will not fall over.
The next method is rooting it with the calloused part of the cactus buried in the soil. This is the way you will typically see it done on Pinterest. When you pot the calloused end into the soil ensure you secure the pad with extra dirt pressed up against the pad to keep it from falling over.
Step 3. Water that bb and wait
Give the soil a thorough soak, just like you would for a full grown plant. The cactus soil can stay fairly moist for a couple weeks, this will encourage your bb to grow roots more quickly. When the pads are large it can be hard to get the water under the whole pad, do not stress too much about this and just do your best drenching the soil.
Roots can begin growing anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after potting. It is really up to the conditions in your space, the particular plant you have, and how much you water. Typically, more water will give faster results when propagating.
Step 4. Root growth
This may seem a little funky if you are unfamiliar with cactus pads, but the roots will grow out of where the spines are. So if you pick your cactus up, you should see roots beginning to grow out of the areoles. Typically, larger pads will take more time to grow roots than smaller ones. If you have been watering a large cactus pad for weeks and you do not see roots, do not give up. Perfection takes time.
One your cactus develops a good root system, AKA roots long enough to grow into the soil and are covered pretty well, it is time to cut back on watering. Cacti are desert plants and are extremely drought tolerant. If they get too much water, the pads are likely to rot.
Your cactus pad should grow new pads each year! Typically new pads will not form until the spring after you root the pad. So, if you planted in June 2021, you should see new pads in 2022. The new growth with pop out of the top of the cactus pad!
Cactus Pad Care
Now that you are growing prickly pear cacti, you need to know how to care for that bb!
It is not necessary to prune your plant, but if you want, it can be cut back. Remove individual pads as a whole to keep the shape and size. Remove pads as instructed above to propagate.
Prickly pear cactus, and other forms of cactus, are extremely drought resistant. They naturally grow in areas that go long periods of time without rain, and then huge downpours. Try to mimic this watering process in your home with the Drench + Dry Watering Method.
Cacti are very hardy plants and will easily propagate! If you have not yet had success with propagations, try this method and do not give up! Happy growing!