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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.

Sweeping the Sleaze

Inspired by an email from my colleague Joel, a developer, I decided to remove the annoying, unused button clutter for social media sharing from each blog post. Sure, you can still follow me on Twitter, but I agree with the author of this article that

If you provide excellent content, social media users will take the time to read and talk about it in their networks. That’s what you really want. You don’t want a cheap thumbs up, you want your readers to talk about your content with their own voice.

I figure you all –  and by you all I mean probably my Dad and maybe a few Internet stragglers who ended up here somehow – can figure out how to cut-and-paste a link into Facebook or Twitter or anything else that strikes your fancy. Because at the end of the day,

The less noise, the less begging, the less secondary advertisement means the easier it is to focus, and the more likely it is that people will actually read your content.

So thanks for reading this, you.  It feels good to clean up.


What have I been doing with my life? Clearly nothing that involves updating my blog. According to the New York Times, we have the Facebook to blame for this. All the kids are off blogs and onto the Facebook. It’s the drug of choice. It’s normally difficult to keep up, but I’m feeling practically adolescent with my lack of authoring.

The family is in a new home. Now if we can just get the bathroom sinks delivered from the factory, I can stop having to explain that the beard I’ve grown is a matter of function. No bathroom sink means no shaving. I can’t bring myself to shave in the shower. Too big of a project and I have too many other projects on my plate. Like deciding whether or not I like Helvetica for the address label on the new mailbox. Or obsessively employing geometry in my (to this point successful) hanging of perfectly level and spaced artwork.

The neighborhood is great. I can count among my neighbors some new friends, and they seem to enjoy making good margaritas. They seem to enjoy making babies, too, which means the kids have other kids their age to play with. It’s a long way from the days of driving forty-five minutes across Los Angeles to eat a hot dog and have a beer. And as the summer days and Texas heat rapidly approach, it’s nice to know we’re just a hop, skip and a jump (did I just write something that hokey?) away from the cool waters of Barton Spring Pool.

I hear the girl talking to her dolls. My coffee is getting cold, so it’s time to chug it down, hug the wife and get on with another great day in Austin.


Life is good in the summertime in Austin, Texas. Work keeps me busy, life keeps rolling along, the kids are getting older, and the bugs are getting buggier.

The lake is still when I drive to work in the morning. Occasionally I see a rower, the wake of the boat making a perfect ripple across what had been the still surface of the lake.

Corporate Housing

Thankfully, I brought the Xbox with me to Austin, and have some photos ordered from Snapfish, so this corporate apartment in South Austin doesn’t feel like I’m under house arrest. I look out over the garden center of a Home Depot, and the complex sits right on the frontage road of a major Austin freeway. It doesn’t take much to get the mental picture, but I’m thankful to GSD&M; for putting me up here for sure. Oh, and I’ve also discovered the magic of Redbox, and the danger of being next door to a Chick-Fil-A.