Most of us have seen a grafted cactus somewhere in a home store in the last year. Because of their pretty colors, they are incredibly common. But their care needs to accommodate both types of cacti and you need to know what to look for. Look no further for your guide to the grafted cactus.
What is a Grafted Cactus
A grafted cactus is just two different cactus species grafted, or fused, together. Typically, you see these grafted cactus varieties with a green rootstock (the bottom part) and a colorful scion (the top part) that ranges between red, yellow, and orange.
What is the Purpose of Cactus Grafting
Besides looking really cool, cactus grafting allows a grower to combine the best traits of two varieties. Unlike people, plant descendants aren’t a great combination of the two parents. Actually grafting two plants together is one of the oldest horticultural techniques.
Instead, a grafted cactus allows the bottom cactus to photosynthesize for the entire plant and this lets the top part show its true colors. The variety of cactus typically used on the top of a grafted cactus are not nearly as bright in the wild and the type grafted on is typically a mutant variety.
How Big do Grafted Cacti Grow?
The grafted cactus that are typically available to collectors grow between two and three inches tall. So when you buy them in the store, they’re pretty much at their full height. Though if properly cared for, your grafted cactus can grow offsets. These offsets will not survive if propagated since they do not produce chlorophyll.
How to Care for a Grafted Cactus
A grafted cactus can’t be cared for like just any cactus. You have to watch both sections of these cacti for any symptoms of watering or sunlight being overdone or underdone. Since both are different species of cactus, you have to work with both individually.
Both types of cactus in a grafted cactus will tolerate partial sunlight. The top of the cactus is particularly vulnerable to too much direct sunlight and can easily be sunburned. If you have a southern window with filtered light or a northern window, that’s perfect.
These plants, like most cacti, do not like to be repotted. Since they are sold at full size, these cacti don’t really need to be repotted. If you feel like you need to repot your grafted cactus then do so as infrequently as possible and as gently as possible.
The grafted cactus should only be watered when the soil has dried out. The bottom varieties of these cacti are particularly susceptible to overwatering. Within days of overwatering, you’ll notice yellow, squishy parts on the base of the cactus. Overwatering is one of the main causes of death for a grafted cactus.
Does a Grafted Cactus Flower
A grafted cactus can flower though it is rare. The reason a cactus bloom is rare is because it is difficult to balance the needs of both varieties of cactus. In general, water more in summer and less in winter. In late winter, move your cactus to a darker location and reduce watering to allow it a dormancy period for 6-8 weeks.
When the cactus goes back into active growth and gets put back in the sun, you can fertilize lightly with cactus fertilizer. When in doubt, dilute the fertilizer to about half strength so that you don’t burn the cactus.
What is the Lifespan of a Grafted Cactus
The typical lifespan for a grafted cactus that you typically find at the home store is about five years. Part of the problem is that it’s difficult to balance the care of both cacti. Part of the problem is that the two parts of the cactus grow at different rates.
How to Graft Cactus
Start by choosing two healthy plants to graft together. Use a very clean and very sharp knife to cut the top off of the rootstock. Next cut the bottom off the scion and set it on top of the rootstock.
Support the union with rubber bands with cloth wrapped around them. Don’t use rubber bands without cloth or they could cut into the cactus. And make sure they are only tight enough to hold the two cacti together.
How Long Does it Take to Graft a Cactus
The length of time for a cactus graft to take is variable and there are a lot of factors. Typically, in 6-12 weeks, you can start to check and see if the graft has taken. During that time, watch closely for signs of rot or insect attack, especially at the union. For more in depth information on grafting a cactus, check out this cactus grafting article from succulent box.
Common Rootstocks for Grafted Cactus Varieties
- Myrtillocactus geometrizans (Blue Myrtle Cactus)
- Echinopsis peruviana (Peruvian Torch Cactus)
- Echinopsis spachiana (Golden Torch Cactus)
- Hylocereus undatus (Dragon Fruit)
- Cereus repandus (Peruvian Apple Cactus)
Common Scions for Grafted Cactus Varieties
- Lobivia silvestrii (Peanut Cactus)
- Gymnocalycium mihanovichii (Moon Cactus)
Most people have seen a grafted cactus before. They are some of the most popular types of cactus sold to home collectors because they are eye catching and pretty colors even when they aren’t blooming.
These unique cacti also require more specialized care because you have to accommodate both types of cactus. But if you want a complete succulent garden, you should definitely try one of these grafted cactus varieties.