Who doesn’t like adding good aesthetics to their space? Grafted cactus is a cute yet low-maintenance plant that is perfect to give your garden a much-needed lift. You can graft a cactus even if you are a beginner. Read on to find out about Grafted cactus in detail, with a complete process and care guide.
What is a Grafted Cactus?
A grafted cactus is formed when two different species of cacti are combined together to form a single plant. A majority of people often get confused by seeing the colorful top of these plants and perceive them to be flowers. However, not many know, they are actually grafted cacti. It is interesting to note that the top cactus is called the ‘Scion’. These mutant variations of standard cacti are colorful and attractive. The green bottom cactus, on the contrary, is known as the ‘Rootstock’. Mutant pups are grafted on rootstock plants, giving an altogether unique appearance to the cactus plant. A full-grown grafted cactus can reach up to a height of 2 to 3 inches, making them look tiny and compact.
Why to Graft a Cactus?
Grafting is done for a number of reasons. Sometimes, the mutant pups get detached from their mother plant. As a result, they die due to the lack of chlorophyll. To help them survive, grafting is done. By attaching them to rootstock plants, they get all the essential nutrients and grow happily. Another reason is their highly unusual look that makes them a must-have showpiece for any living room or garden.
Best Season for Grafting Cactus
For effective results, it is ideal to graft a cactus during their growing season. Spring or summer is appropriate to carry out the process. Avoid grafting during their dormancy in winters. Once done, give your little plant good care by giving minimal watering and indirect sunlight.
How to Graft Cactus?
Grafting a cactus is not only a doable activity, but it also brings out your creative side. If you are a beginner gardener, it is best to start with a small cactus that can be handled without any problem.
There are four methods to graft cactus:
- The Lateral or Flat Graft
- The Side Graft
- The Cleft Graft
- The Stat Graft
In all the above-mentioned techniques, the positioning of the scion is different. Out of all, the Lateral graft is easier as well as more effective.
Tools for the process:
- A sharp blade or a grafting knife
- Rubber bands (to bring the two species together)
- A pair of gloves
Steps involved in grafting:
- To begin with, cut the top of the rootstock plant by using a clean, sterilized knife or blade. Make sure to cut at least two to three inches above the soil. Besides, the wound should be neat and smooth.
- Now, take another cactus that you want to graft on top of it. Select a healthy segment and cut it off the cactus to create a scion. Ensure the cut part of both the scion and the rootstock have similar diameters so that the two can be easily placed.
- Put the scion on top of the wound of your rootstock plant so they can seal together. The contact takes place at the vascular cambium where the cut of the two species meets.
- Secure the sections together by using some rubber bands all the way from top to bottom and even on the sides of the pot.
- In around two weeks, you will observe the scion starts growing. You can remove the rubber bands at this stage as the two species have now become one small plant.
How to Take Care of a Grafted Cactus?
Grafted cactus does not prefer full direct sunlight. Instead, it performs well when placed in bright indirect light. So, when grown in outdoor settings, keep in mind to place your grafted plant in a spot that receives partial shade. When planted indoors, placing next to a window proves ideal.
Avoiding overwatering is a must for grafted cacti. These plants are drought tolerant and need less maintenance to thrive. You can also use a spray bottle to mist them occasionally. Water them once the soil has dried out and excess moisture is drained. More watering is needed in summers whereas less or no watering is required in winter months.
Soil & Fertilizer
A fast-draining soil mix is suitable for the growth of your grafted cactus. Most plants also like acidic to neutral soil. Fertilize your plant with a cactus fertilizer during its active growing season. However, do not feed during their dormancy period.
The rootstock of your grafted cacti is frost-sensitive. Thus, if you live in areas that get colder during certain months, it is better to bring them indoors with an ideal temperature of 15° C.
Grafted Cactus Types
Following are a few species of cacti commonly used as rootstock:
Gymnocalycium mihanovichii is a species of cacti commonly used as a scion. The Moon cactus is a popular grafted specimen. It has colorful yellow, red, or orange tops due to the lack of chlorophyll. As they cannot survive on their own, these cacti are grafted onto a rootstock plant. Also known as the Ruby ball cactus, this species is low-maintenance and thrives with little care. A full-grown Moon cactus can grow up to 4 inches (10 cm) tall. Once they reach their maximum height, they usually stop growing furthermore.
Moon Cactus Care & Why is the Moon Cactus Ideal to Graft?
- Light- The Ruby ball cacti prefer partial shade to survive. They cannot tolerate harsh direct sunlight as it causes sunburn.
- Watering- This variety of cactus needs occasional watering. During the summer months, water frequently. However, reduce it during Make sure to let the soil dry out in order to avoid the chances of root rot. Your Moon cactus may become squishy if overwatered.
- Soil & Fertilizer- The Ruby ball cactus grows well in rich, well-draining soil with low ph. The soil mix should be ideal to meet all the requirements of the bottom cactus. These plants do not ask for frequent fertilization. Fertilize every month during summers from April to September with the right cacti fertilizer to see them thrive.
- Temperature & Humidity- The scion section of your grafted cactus belongs to the hardiness zone of 11 to 12. Rootstock plants, on the other hand, are hardy in zones 8 or 9. During the colder months, it is recommended to keep your cactus in a setting with a temperature range between 50 to 60° F. In addition, grafted cacti prefer low humidity levels.
- Propagation- Most plant lovers wonder how to propagate Moon cactus? But as these plants are grafted, they are not suitable for propagation. In case you observe the top part getting detached from the bottom section, you can consider re-graft your Moon cactus.
As these colorful plants lack chlorophyll, they fail to prepare their own food through photosynthesis. Thus, the cactus needs to be grafted onto another cactus to gain the necessary nutrients and survive for years to come.
Cactus grafting is an effective method to save a dying plant. The best part is that grafted cacti demand little care and like to be treated just like ungrafted ones. The entire process is simple and can be done effortlessly. Give it a try.