Central Texas Gardener – Propagating Cacti and Other Plants from Cuttings

One of the pleasures of my weekend (usually when the kids are out of the house) is Jamaican coffee and Central Texas Gardener on KLRU.

A few weeks ago while biking back from a haircut at Byrd’s, I stopped at curbside gardens and empty lots in Zilker and Barton Hills to snap off cacti to see if I could root them for the ground. I also found a large agave which had been putting out daughter plants. Given how scarred and cut back it was from groundskeepers hacking at the surrounding grass with weed whackers, I felt like it was okay to dig them up and find them a safer home.

After leaving the plants out in the open air for a few days – the cacti longer – in order to callus the cutting, I stuck the cuttings in perlite. The agaves already had young roots so I just popped them in a mix of 1 part sand to 3 parts potting mix, with a handful of the perlite tossed in for the hell of it. While we were away, the perlite got too moist from the rainwater, and a few of the catci rotted, but most I just stuck back in mottled shade on the back deck to dry them out. When more rains were on the horizon, one afternoon before a storm, I stuck the tray in my shed next to a window, and frankly forgot about them for a couple of weeks. This morning I was pleased to see that the plants have all sprouted roots, just as easy as the guest host from East Austin Succulents said it would be. I also cut rosemary from a neighbor’s plant, stuck them in water in a shaded window, and when back from vacation, here they were with roots.

agave rooting - leaf growth
These agave were stuck directly into soil, and small leaves at the base are starting to grow.

Here is the pear cactus:

pear cactus rooting in perlite
After drying the cutting so it formed a callus, I just placed it in a recycled container filled with perlite.

A good reminder tip from the show is to wear work gloves when handling cactus (duh, but I tried it without and yes, was chewing spines out of my fingertips). Check out the perlite, clinging to the growing roots.

cactus cutting roots
Lots of strong, new roots and a healthy green color after a long while out of soil, with little water.

For this skinny cactus tip that I snapped off of a large, overgrown plant, I just let it rest on the top of the perlite to dry out the wound to a callus.

cactus cuttings on perlite
I just tossed it on top of the perlite to dry it out, so that the wound would form a callus. According to the show, you can leave these out for weeks out of soil, and I had no problem doing so.

And when I went to check out the callus, I found these:

cactus cutting new roots
The cactus starting rooting just resting on the perlite. It could not have been less efffort.

The tray I got from the recycling plastic pot bins at The Great Outdoors on South Congress on the side of their parking lot. I also got the perlite there as well, as these nice, natural colored large glazed pots that were sold at dirt cheap clearance. For those I’m going to do pots of succulents. Contact me on Twitter @jeffersonb if you want me to send a magazine story on how to do stacked pots (or strawberry pots) that I have in PDF format. If you’re interested in the gardener’s boots, she was wearing L.L.Bean.

Great Outdoors Austin glazed pots
These glazed pots were deeply discounted (I think I paid $48 for all four pots) and I’m going to grow succulents in them. I’ll set the smaller pot into the larger, to create some height.

Incidentally, we ran into these guys, who had a segment on their home garden on the show, while having dinner with the kids at the delicious Komé Sushi. They have a great blog post (and great blog, The Grackle, in general) on propogating rosemary, maybe inspired by one of the other segments on the show they were in.