Although cacti are low maintenance plants that generally do very well without much care, in some cases cacti can and do need to be trimmed from time to time. Before trimming a cactus, you must understand the reasons why you are considering trimming it.
Reasons for Trimming a Cactus
One of the reasons a cactus needs to be trimmed is because they have grown so much that they exceed the allotted space of their containers, pot or garden, so they must be trimmed to keep them at a manageable size within them.
There are also some cacti that, when they reach a size, begin to tilt dangerously for their stability.
Another reason to prune a cactus is because the cactus has some damaged part that can affect its growth and in this way its susceptibility to diseases can be minimized.
The other reason is simply because you want to propagate it or separate the pups so that they grow independently for which you will need to transplant the cacti.
When pruning tall or hard-to-reach cacti, using pole saws can be incredibly helpful. These specialized tools allow you to safely and efficiently trim the upper portions of the cactus without the need for a ladder or risking injury.
How to Trim a Cactus
Trimming a cactus can be an uncomfortable task especially since most species contain thorns that can cause damage or injury, however, there will be no problem if you work with the appropriate equipment and following certain recommendations.
- Wear thick gloves and in the case of large and tall species it is also advisable to wear long pants and clothing with sleeves.
- Cover the area around the cactus with an old sheet or newspaper so that you can pick up the remains of thorns and clippings more easily.
- As we always remember, you must properly sterilize the tools to cut the plant.
Pruning techniques may differ depending on the shape of the cactus.
You can also prune the roots of a cactus in a pot to keep it small and not outgrow the container or pot. Dead roots are dry and brittle or soft and rotten. You must prune them until only the healthy parts of the root remain.
Pruning Branched Cactus
- Study your cactus to determine an action plan. Identify the outermost branches you want to trim, and decide the order of trimming so that you have easy access to the stems with the pruning tools. Then move to the inner branches.
- Use pruning shears – on branches or large blades, a serrated knife – to cut the narrow area at the junction of the branches.
- Make the cuts at the joints between the segments or blades, not through the center of a sheet.
- Separate the healthy segments that you have chosen to transplant from those that you will discard.
Pruning Columnar Cactus
- Analyze the cactus to decide which parts you want to remove. Write down or mark stems that are too long, too crowded, or that cross each other.
- Select the appropriate tool for the stem size you are working with. A serrated knife works well for smaller diameter cuts and angle pruning saws are best for larger diameter stems. Use a long-handled pole saw for hard-to-reach stems.
- Cut the columns starting from the top but no more than one-third of the columns on a single floor. Make sure the cutting is slightly angled to allow water to run off and prevent rotting of the mother plant.
Tips on Trimming Cactus
The best time to trim cacti is between March and July.
If you follow these trimming tips, you can prevent possible damage to your cactus and at the same time, ensure the growth of a new shoot:
- Cut a cactus that is too long or too big at the narrowest point
- Make the cut at a slight angle so that the sap can run off unhindered
- Ideally, cut back unbranched columnar cacti to the end of the stem
- Cut away sick, putrid areas down to the light, undyed tissue
Then dust the cuts with charcoal powder to minimize the flow of sap and to disinfect the area. If you are shortening diseased plant parts, remember to wipe the blade with an alcohol-soaked cloth after each cut.
The ideal cutting depth should be such that at least 1 to 2 areoles are left on the shoot or stem. Where thorns or leaves thrive, there are usually buds capable of sprouting, without which further growth is not possible.
How to Replant Cactus Cuttings
You should know that almost all the parts that you cut from the cactus can be salvageable except the stems or diseased or damaged branches.
Cuttings will root if you place them on a suitable substrate. The cut stems or trunks, once the cuts have calloused over can be planted to grow a new cactus. The offsets that were removed from the base of the plant must be transplanted into a new container. Most parts of cacti begin to take root again after a month.