Nowadays, grafted cactus are becoming more and more popular, especially in garden centers. They are cute, weird, and completely irresistible, making them just the perfect choice in adding a bit of pep and beauty to your space.
But what exactly is grafting and why do you need to do it? Read on to find out and as well as learn how to graft them.
What is grafting and how will it benefit your cactus?
Grafting cactus is basically a straightforward method where you attach a piece or even a whole cactus (called the "scion") onto a wounded piece of another cactus (the "rootstock") to create a single plant. This way, you won't just be able to create a whole new form of cactus but also increase the growth rate of a scion, as it will get the nutrients it needs from the rootstock, which can really be beneficial for slow-growing species.
Furthermore, the possibilities of grafting cactus are not limited to just any specific species. However, the top cactus commonly used are the Gymnocalycium mihanovichii (as the top cactus) and the Hylocereus spp. or Myrtillocactus geometrizans (as the base).
How to graft a cactus plant?
There’s actually a lot of ways to graft a cactus, but the most simple and effective way is the lateral method. And here's how to do it.
Step 1:Cut the head off the rootstock. Although you can cut it at your desired height, a minimum of two or three inches above the soil is recommended. Also, cut as precisely as possible using a clean, sharp knife.
Step 2:Create a scion by cutting off the head of the other cactus. As much as possible, ensure the cut where both the scion and the rootstock have the same diameter.
Step 3:Place the scion on top of the cut portion of the still, rooted rootstock so both are situated together.
Step 4: Use some rubber bands to secure. Do this all the way from the top, down, and around the pot and the cactus to hold the pieces together.
Once done, you can remove the rubber bands in just a couple of weeks, as the two cacti you grafted should have already been bonded together permanently by then.
Important: While grafting, you need to work fast and efficiently. If you leave your scion and rootstock out for too long, they might begin to desiccate.
Caring for grafted cacti
They actually don't require much attention at all, which makes them the perfect plants for people who have a tight schedule. Besides, caring for a grafted cactus is not that different compared to ungrafted ones.
1. Light Exposure
When it comes to light, grafted cactus prefers bright indirect light, as exposing it under the full sun for a long time will definitely harm it. So if you plan to grow yours outdoors, make sure to slowly acclimate your cactus to a brighter exposure to prevent it from burning.
Also, the rootstock of your grafted cactus is very sensitive when it comes to cold and frost. So make sure to move them indoors (ideally in a room with a temperature above 15C), especially when it becomes too cold.
2. Soil and Water
Like most cacti, one of the top reasons a grafted cactus dies is due to overwatering. So be sure that the soil you are using drains well enough (like a cactus or succulent potting mix with perlite) to prevent it from sitting in wet for too long and to allow it to fully dry out in between waterings. You can use a moisture meter to test the moisture level of the soil.
A wooden skewer should do the trick as well in testing the moisture level of the soil. This can simply be done by sticking it deep into your cactus soil, then remove and check to see if the skewer is moist or has moist soil sticking to it. If moisture is detected, do not water.
Like any other plants, grafted cacti only need to be fertilized at least once a month when they are actively growing and stop as soon as they enter their dormancy period, which usually happens in the winter months. You can use any standard fertilizer for your grafted cactus.
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Why is my grafted cactus turning brown?
There are actually several reasons why a grafted cactus starts to turn brown or discolored, but below are the most common reasons why.
An overwatered grafted cactus will usually show signs of becoming mushy, browning or discoloration.
- How to save it?Once overwatering is suspected, immediately check the roots for signs of root rot. If the roots are still white and healthy, then repotting the grafted cactus in a fresh, new well-draining soil should be enough to do the trick.
- How to avoid overwatering? Overwatering usually happens when the plant is watered without allowing the soil to dry out completely. So to prevent this from happening, it is advisable to water your grafted cactus only when the soil is dry. You may either use a moisture meter or insert a finger into the soil (about 2 to 3-inches deep) to check before each watering. Also, it is best to make sure that your pot has good drainage to allow any excess water to flow out of the pot.
An overwatered grafted cactus will usually show signs of becoming mushy, browning or discoloration. Photo credit: @truuliisa on Houzz
2. Rotting Stem or Root Rot.
If the stem of your grafted cactus starts to turn brown or discolored, it’s most likely that the plant is also suffering from root rot (brown or black, mushy or slimy roots), which is usually caused by overwatering or having poor drainage (or both).
- How to save it? If root rot is suspected, quickly (but gently) dig the grafted cactus out from its pot and remove or snip any unhealthy roots from the plant using a clean, sharp knife or scissor, and replant it in a new pot with fresh, new well-draining soil.
- How to avoid rotting stem or root rot?Make sure that the grafted cactus is planted in a pot with proper drainage (either a plastic pot or any fancy pots with drainage holes), wait until the top 2 to 3-inches of the soil is dry, and has a good flow of oxygen to help prevent moisture from building up in the roots of your plant.
Watch the video below to learn more about How to graft a cactus plant:
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