How to prune a cactus tree


Tips On Trimming Cactus Plants

General Cactus Care

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Image by alexstorn

Cactus are low maintenance plants that generally thrive with neglect and do not require a lot of pampering. It might surprise you to find that cacti can and do need to be pruned now and then. Cactus pruning is not always necessary and when to prune a cactus plant will depend upon why you are trimming it. A few notes on how to cut back a cactus for purposes of propagation, rejuvenation, and structural integrity will send you on the road to cleaning up your succulents properly.

Can You Trim a Cactus?

New succulent growers may ask, “Can you trim a cactus?” Most cacti really don’t need any form of shaping unless they have a great huge limb that looks ready to tip the plant over. The major reasons for trimming cactus are to remove parts to root for new plants, remove offsets or pups for the same reason, reinvigorate a plant that has gotten too tall or too leggy, and to take off damaged material.

Cacti come in a wide range of forms. Cactus pruning can enhance these forms while preventing overcrowding, which can increase the chance of disease, mildew, and unhealthy plants.

  • The Opuntias, Crassula, and Senecios have pads that serve as leaves and these are easy to remove and can be used to start new plants.
  • Columnar plants, like totem pole cacti or organ pipe cacti, may simply get too tall or spindly and require a judicious beheading to force branching or simply thicker stems.
  • Still other succulents in the family will produce flower stalks which are persistent and become ugly when dead. Removal of these will restore the beauty of the plant.

Trimming cactus has a variety of purposes, but the good news is that you can use many of the parts you remove to start new plants.

How to Cut Back a Cactus

The “how” of cutting back a cactus answers like a bad joke. The simple answer is, very carefully. Most cacti have some type of spine or prickle which can be painful to encounter. Use thick gloves and wear long pants and sleeves for the bigger garden specimens.

The tool will depend upon the size of the plant, but most will succumb to pruners. Only the largest will require a saw. As with all pruning, make sure the tool used is sharp and clean to avoid injuring the plant and decrease the chance of disease.

Remove limbs at the branch point but be careful not to cut into the main stem. Pads or leaves may just snap off or you can use pruners to remove them.

For a big job like cutting back a columnar specimen, use a saw and remove the main trunk at the point at which you would like to see branching or at the height you require the plant. Try to remove the stem at a growth point.

Plants like agave will need the old leaves removed to preserve the appearance. Cut them away at the base of the plant with shears.

What to Do With Pruned Off Parts

Now for the fun part. Almost all the material you remove is salvageable except for diseased or dead stems and leaves.

  • Pads will root if laid on top of soil and develop into a new plant of the same species.
  • Cut stems and trunks should be allowed to callus at the end for several days and then can be planted to create new cactus.
  • Any offsets or pups that you cut away from the base of a specimen are new plants in their own right and should be potted up immediately.
  • Dead flower stalks and leaves are compost, but some varieties of cactus produce leaves on the flower stem which can be treated the same way as the pads of other species. Most cactus parts will start rooting within a month.

Once you restore your initial cactus to its glory, you will have the pleasure of making more of the spectacular plant and can increase your collection or give them away to family and friends.

This article was last updated on

Read more about General Cactus Care

Did you find this helpful? Share it with your friends!

5 Signs That You Need To Cut Your Cactus

Sometimes, you need to cut your cactus to help the plant grow healthier. The signs that indicate that your cactus needs pruning include overgrown leaves and stems, mealybug infestation, rotting, dead stalks after blooming, and excess height.

Cacti plants are known for their different shapes, sizes, and colors. While most of them are green, some are white and some purple.  One of the best things about these plants is that they do not need a lot of care to thrive.  But what happens when you realize your cactus has overgrown and isn’t looking its best?  Well, you cut it back and manage its size.

So, when do you need to cut back/prune your cacti plants?  Generally speaking, most cacti plants require little to no pruning because they grow slowly and will take many years before they become large.  However, overgrown plants can benefit from a bit of pruning to get rid of old stems.

Typically, you should consider pruning your cactus when it is crowded, suffering from top-bottom rotting, showing signs of pest infestation, and after blooming.   Before you start pruning your plant, you must have a clear target in mind. What do you want to achieve with the pruning?

If you are still confused about whether you should prune your plant or not, read on to find out everything you need to know. We cover the basics of cactus pruning and how you should do it right.

Can You Cut Back a Cactus Plant?

The simple answer is “yes.”  As mentioned above, there comes a time when you need to cut back your cactus plant to manage its size and avoid overcrowding. In some instances, pruning can also help save your plant from death (in case of top-bottom rotting and pest infestation).

However, you need to keep in mind that most cacti species really don’t need any form of trimming and shaping unless they have developed a huge limb that looks to tip your plant over. The only time that most gardeners are forced to cut back their cacti plants is when they are removing parts to root for new plants.

Cactus pruning, if done right, can enhance the overall appearance of your plant and prevent overcrowding which can increase the chances of pest infestation and disease. Overcrowding can also result in mildew and unhealthy plants.

There comes a time when you need to cut back your cactus plant to manage its size and avoid overcrowding.

Columnar cacti plants such as organ pipe cacti and totem pole cacti can get spindly or tall and require regular pruning to force thicker stems or lateral branching.

The Opuntia has flat pads that serve as the leaves. In such a case, you can remove some pads and use them to start new plants. This is still a form of pruning/ cutting back.

The other plants in the family of cactus such as the Christmas cactus produce flower stalks when blooming. These flower stalks become ugly when dead, and the only way of getting rid of them is by trimming your plant.

Although trimming serves different purposes, the most significant part of it is that you can always use the parts you cut back to start new plants.

Signs That You Need to Cut Back Your Cactus

Now that you understand some of the reasons why cactus pruning is essential, you need to know when to do it.  In this section, we discuss the top five signs that you need to prune your plant.

1. The plant has become too large

Although most cacti species grow slowly and never reach destructive heights, there are a few exceptions. Members of the jungle cactus family grow relatively fast and can become too huge when the growth conditions are right.

As a result, you may want to reduce your plant size when you notice that it is becoming too large or one side is growing much faster than the other, and you want it to be asymmetrical.

To keep your cactus healthy, you should cut back the plant whenever it seems to be too large.

Typically, if you are pruning to reduce the size of the plant, consider cutting back the plant by at least a third each year. Regular pruning will eventually result in a slightly bushier plant with more spots for blooms to develop.

Keeping smaller sized plants makes things a little easier because you can position them anywhere in your house. You can fit them on your window sills without overcrowding the limited indoor space.

2. Pest infestation

While most cacti species have sharp spines that deter pests, certain types of pests can still find a way to your plant.  Some of the common pests that may attack your cactus include cactus bugs, mealy bugs, spider mites, cactus longhorn beetles, and scale insects.

Some of these insects multiply rapidly, and if you don’t take action to stop them early, the effect can be catastrophic. Most of them attack the stems, but others may find their way to the roots.

The moment you notice signs of pest infestation on your cactus, you need to take appropriate action to stop them.   If the pests are large, you can simply remove them by hand. But, if they are tiny such as the spider mites, you may be forced to call in a professional pest exterminator.

 The bad news is that some cacti pests are so tough and chemical-resistant such that even the most experienced pest exterminator won’t stop them.  If you have tried using an exterminator to get rid of bugs, but you don’t see results, pruning the affected part is the only solution.

Identify the part of the stem attacked by the bugs and carefully cut it back.  Make sure you prune all the affected sections of the stem to avoid re-infestation.

3. Top-bottom rotting

Rotting is a common cactus issue that you have to deal with promptly to save your succulent.  Rotting can start from the bottom (roots) and spread upwards to the stem. It can also start at the top and spread down.

When your cactus starts to turn brown and soft at the tip, you could be staring at tip rot, also known as cactus stem rot. Once your cactus starts rotting from the top, it won’t stop, and if you don’t act fast to save the plant, it will die.

If your cactus is changing the color and getting softer, you should prune the damaged parts of the plant.

Stem rot is caused by a fungus and pest infestation, or water penetrating through an open wound on the plant.  If your cactus is damaged in any way, it could be susceptible to stem rot.

Once you start noticing signs of stem rot on your plant, the most important thing you need to do is prune/ cut back all the affected sections of the stem to save the rest of the plant. If you don’t prune off the affected parts, the rot will continue to spread and eventually kill your plant.

Keep in mind that rot spreads pretty fast and you may not have a lot of time left to save the cactus. You can use pruning shears or a sharp knife to prune the affected sections of the stem.

4. The appearance of dead stalks after blooming season

The appearance of dead flower stalks just after the blooming season is another sign you need to prune your cactus. This is especially true for Christmas cacti that flowers massively.

If you notice dead stalks after the flowering season, you should cut back the unhealthy leaves and stems.

Do not prune before the flowering season to avoid losing the precious blooms. However, once the blooming season is over, you may notice that the flower stalks left behind appear ugly. Take time and carefully cut them back to give your cactus a new look.

Apart from getting rid of the dead stalks, pruning after the flowering season will also make your cactus bushier which will eventually lead to the development of more blooms the next time the plant flowers.  Ensure you cut back all the dead stalks and unhealthy branches.

5. Cactus is getting too tall for its pot

Lastly, you should also consider pruning when you realize that your cactus plant is getting too tall for its pot. Ideally, you should repot your cactus every two or three years, but this is not always the case.

Sale

D'vine Dev Terracotta Pots for Plants, 4.2 Inch 5.3 Inch 6.5 Inch, Succulent Planter Pot with Drainage and Saucer, 40-A-S-1

  • Classic Terracotta Pots – naturally smooth matte finishing.
  • Round Cylinder Design – porous terracotta clay material for succulent plants.
  • Dimensions – 4.2 inch, 5.3 inch, 6.5 inch, perfect size for small cacti, succulents and more.
  • Planter pots with drainage holes and detachable/perfectly fitting terracotta saucers included.
  • Hassle-Free Replacement, If there is any damages, simply contact us, problem solved.

Therefore, if you realize that your plant is getting taller for its pot, consider pruning it so that it doesn’t topple over.  In most cases, plants grown in light plastic containers tend to grow taller and thin.  Reducing the plant to an appropriate height helps it to become thicker and healthy.

If your cactus is too tall compared to its pot, you should consider pruning the plant.

Keeping Safe While Cutting Back Your Cactus

Ensure you observe safety measures when pruning a cactus.  Wear protective clothing such as long pants, sturdy shoes, leather gloves, and a long-sleeved shirt. You should also put on protective eye glasses if you are pruning a prickly pear because the glochids can become loose and blown into your eye by the wind.

Sale

GLOSAV Gardening Gloves Thorn Proof for Rose Pruning & Cactus Trimming, Long Leather Garden Gloves for Women & Men (Medium)

  • Sturady & Durable Thornproof Gloves: The palm part is made of full grain cowhide that is more wearable, it will protect your hands in the gardening work.
  • Heavy Duty Leather Garden Gloves: Genuine leather gloves is thron resistant that will protect your hands safe from rose thorns, thistles, brier plants and so on. Professional gardening gloves for rose. ..
  • Long Sleeve Gardening Gloves: Elbow length design with extended breathing cool pigskin cuff for thorn & scratch resistance, great for protecting your forearms from rose thorns, pine needles and the...
  • Suit for Strong & Thin Arms: It featured the adjustable cuff for fit & keep insects, dirt and debris out of your. Please check the dimensions to find your comfortable size.
  • Flexible & Comfortable: The fingers provide good dexterity, that make it easier to grip garden tools

Make sure your gloves are waterproof to protect you against the milky sap, which might cause severe inflammation and irritation if it comes in contact with your skin.  You might also need a water-based marker to help you mark the exact sections of the stem you need to prune.

Final Thought

That is it about pruning/cutting back your cactus plant. Keep in mind that these succulents are quite dangerous, and you need to be careful while pruning.

Now that you have a complete guide on how and when to prune your cactus, it is time to put on your gear and get down to work. Always give your cacti plants the face-lift they deserve so that they look healthy and beautiful throughout the year.

Last update on 2022-09-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

90,000 is it possible to carry it out when it is necessary to remove the top, how to do it at home, how to care for the plant after the procedure? Expert