Grafting cacti

The brightly coloured grafted plants you see in many stores don’t have chlorophyll, so they need to be on a stock that does have that essential chemical. Grafting allows energy to transfer from a strongly growing base to a slower growing grafted plant. This arrangement won’t last forever, however, because the base can get tired, so you might have to re-graft some years later.

Grafted astrophytum

Grafted astrophytum

Getting started

Start with a sharp blade, such as a razor blade, and be sure to sterilize it with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol before using it. See the photo of Colin carefully preparing a plant for grafting. A magnifying glass is useful too, especially with seedling grafting, as is a pair of small tweezers for manipulating the cut plants. Make sure your base cactus is well-rooted and healthy. (Some brave souls do use unrooted stock.)

Grafting steps: a seedling onto a small rooted base

1. With the sterilized blade, cut the base off as close to the growing tip as you can.

2. Re-sterilize the blade and cut the bottom off the seedling.

3. Don’t touch the cut ends with your fingers.

4. Put the cut ends of the seedling and the base together and work them gently together to get
air bubbles out.

5. When the two parts are comfortably together and appear to be adhering, put them aside and wait.
You’ll know in a few days if the graft will take.

6. Watch in case the sap oozing out of the base pushes the grafted top part off. You may have to
re-do step #4. (In the case of a larger base and graft, you can use a rubber band to stop this from
happening.)

7. You can put the grafted plant into a plastic bag or container to improve the moisture (for seedlings
especially).

8. That’s it!

Try grafting the following:

(1) Graft a slow-growing ariocarpus onto a harrisia base (plain four-sided cactus).
(2) Graft an astrophytum onto a pereskia base.
(3) Graft a Christmas cactus (schlumbergera truncata) onto a queen of the night (epiphyllum oxypetalum).
(4) Non-cactus succulents can be grafted too: one often seen in plant stores is a euphorbia lactea cristata
(“coral cactus”) grafted onto a plain euphorbia stock.

>>By Colin B. and Mike G.

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