HomeAbout Cactus Kate | Propagation | Soil | Potting | Mother | Myths | Flowers | Rooting | Photos | Forum | Contact

Winter rooting of cuttings?
Actually they just hang out waiting for spring. Like we do.
This is what I did with a batch of late season tips. They had been cut in September, then allowed to dry in a shady location, stacked on shelves between layers of cardboard. You don't want them to touch because the spines puncture each other. This leaves a peppered appearance on the skin sort of like blackheads, only you can't squeeze them.

With nicely healed cut ends these were set in potting soil in an unheated greenhouse where they will receive good light. They'll spend the winter there healthy & happy. Cuttings are alive, they open their pores (stoma) at night to let in CO2 and H2O vapor. They'll live gently waiting for warmer soil temperature with the longer daylight of spring.

Can you root cuttings in winter?

No. Not really. You can't cheat nature by forcing it to be spring when it is winter. Don't believe me? Fine, go ahead with your science experiment Dr. Frankenstein.

What do you do then?
If cuttings are put in storage all winter they may or may not be OK. They may develop yellow, skinny tips from trying to grow in low light. Cuttings laying on a horizontal shelf may exhibit tips that bend upward trying to grow to find sunlight. Isn't that sad?
Potting soil is a compost/perlite/coir mix shown here
Indoor storage of cuttings requires enough light and possible rotating the cuttings periodically to prevent yellow tip, skinny tip, or skinny tips growing straight up from one laying horizontally. Cuttings may try to grow upward if bright light is overhead. Tips left in darkness will grow slightly from internal stored energies but will not make chlorophyll resulting in yellow tip.

(photo at right) The dusty stuff is sulfur. Its harmless�one of the products approved for use in organic foods. Anyway, you know how there are dust mites in your house? Many varieties also affect agriculture, too. Mites can blemish the skin.

Mites are most problematic during dry periods. Here is some good advice from California's UC Davis.
Dusty conditions often lead to mite outbreaks. Apply water to pathways and other dusty areas ...provide adequate irrigation. ...water to remove dust may help prevent serious late-season mite infestations.

Mites can be controlled with predatory mites. When I investigate that option�the supplier wanted $125 for a minimum order. I passed. They can also be controlled with water sprays, (careful use of) neem oil or sulfur dust.

I never use an insecticide because there are too many good insects around that would be harmed. Just spray with water. Keep the plant tips washed off. Mites & thrips attack cuttings in dusty, hot, dry conditions.

Neem oil can burn plants if applied in sunlight. Use it sparingly, apply after sundown.

The real problem is with cuttings because they are so vulnerable�you can't water them to wash off mites & thrips so tiny you can't even see them. Without roots the tip isn't growing so mites can turn the entire tip into a tan scab.

Take cuttings early in the season before hot, dry summer weather sets in that favors mites &thrips.

Are your cactus tips scarred
by a tan colored scab? Check with a 10X magnifier to see it there are mites or thrips feeding on that soft, emerging tissue.
Thrips feed by rasping the leaves and other tissues of plants to release the sap, which they then consume. ...alternative pesticides ...Sulfur, insecticidal soap, and diatomaceous earth ...

(photo at right) Thrips are so small you can't really see them. Just a dot! I use a magnifying head band to check for them.
Photo from: http://www.biocontrol.ucr.edu/
Two in a pot prevents loneliness. San Pedro are a social species that like having friends & family near by.
The table shown at right has 36 square feet of 5" pots with cuttings in them. Many are doubled up (fights loneliness). They are set in dry potting soil in an unheated greenhouse. They receive bright but filtered (not direct) sun.

Don't expect roots in winter

Just don't expect rooting until spring. They are better off planted because they get light, are vertical, and their butts are setting in dirt. They like the cut end to be buried.

I filled this entire 3'x12' table with potted cuttings set up in November. They are happy, healthy, yet dormant; waiting for the right season to light them up!

Dry soil, don't tamp it down
Set cuttings lightly in the soil without tamping down the soil so there is air circulation to prevent molding of the cut end. I've learned that from years of rooting cuttings.
Instruct the guardian cats on winter rooting care
Does it have roots yet?
Does it? Huh?
I wanna look!

I can't wait!
"Uh, oh! Nothing. It has been 2 whole weeks and no roots. Something must be wrong! When I planted those radish seeds they popped up in 2 days. Why is San Pedro so slow?"

"That guy with the website said I can't root cuttings in the winter but that's not what I want to hear. I'm going to write him and ask what to do. He must be wrong. Nature should do my bidding because I can't wait for spring. I want roots right now. I don't care what season it is, why should the dumb plant? Maybe I can set up artificial lights with a cycle to trick it into thinking it is spring to fool the stupid cuttings,? I'll bet that's it. And water it with some super plant food or Viagra or something."
That's a Clonex root. I took this photo on December 22 when the night time temperatures are down in the 30s. The cutting is not really rooting.

I don't worry about mold because the potting mix is made from compost so beneficial microorganisms are present. Mold, yeast, and fungus spores are everywhere. This cutting sits in dry mix�there is no water to feed a fungus that could cause rot.

When things go wrong you might have a cutting that doesn't root (during the correct season of course) while all the others in the batch do. That cutting's bottom may have a dark coating which could be a fungal growth inhibiting rooting. It happens to a small percentage. Clean the cut end with a brush, leave it in a shady place to air out. Paint with Clonex and try again. It'll root.

Only a few old, woody cuttings take a year. Really woody old sections may take a second year.
I only pulled this out to make a photo for you. The table filled with cuttings will sit undisturbed until March. I'll check these again in 3-months to take photos for you. OK?

Between now, Christmas, and then there is cold weather with short daylight. This is what I call the dormant period, despite the number of people who email me to ask why San Pedro takes the winter off.

Well, notice nature. It all takes the winter off!
After you satisfy your impatient curiosity just replace the potting soil. Set the cutting in gently, pouring soil around without tamping down. Bury the tip deep enough to prevent it from falling over.


Leaving soil loose allows air to circulate that prevents fungus/molds from growing on the cut end. Even a healed cut end can soften & become moldy if soil is damp.

Dry soil is essential. Cactus open their stoma at night to let in CO2 and H2O vapor. Cuttings do not need watering; especially since the cutting doesn't have roots! How would it "drink" water if you watered it?


A cutting first sends out what I call "root buds" that are tough enough to dig down searching for moisture. These then branch out fragile rootlets to absorb water.

After the root bud stage you don't want to lift a cutting completely out to check it because you could break those rootlets. Instead do the "tug test" where you gently lift the cutting upward until you feel the tug of those new roots. You'll notice the soil lifting up, or bulging; this signals time to begin giving small amounts of water. I start watering with a mister --only enough to wet the soil surface.

When you can lift the cutting and the pot picks up with it there are enough roots for normal watering. If the pots falls back to earth leaving you holding the cutting, well...then start over. Be patient, in 20 years you'll be a pro.
Unprotected sex
Tips can get herpes if they don't use condoms.

Just kidding.

Black soft spots like the ones were at right will heal up. They are caused by mechanical injury. Ever get a bruise? Or a hematoma? Mechanical injury.

Stuff heals. These marks will become tan colored scars becoming less noticed as new cactus tissue emerges from the growing tip. (Plants grow taller, they are not statues)

A customer in Michigan freaked out and I issued a call tag to have FedEx bring the specimen back. He probably bumped the tip during unpacking or repotting. The plant now looks fine with just a couple of tan spots on the side of the column.

He had been afraid it was a disease that could spread to his other plants. Oh...well...

Has it rooted yet? Huh? Has it?

You may obsess by expecting roots to pop out like germinating seeds. It is not like that. Roots may take weeks, months or a year (for old, woody cuts) depending on many factors.

You may lift up tips every few weeks or months to make sure they are OK (not molding). Then just set them back down. If you see rot on the side you have to cut it off and start all over (dry, heal, replant).

How do you prepare cuttings?
The cut ends can be painted with Clonex rooting gel. Brush Clonex on bottoms and up the side 1-2".
http://www.trichocereus.com/rot3.htm (scroll down). I do this as I harvest cuttings, setting them on a shady shelf with good air circulation. Never leave cutting out in full sun--they'll sunburn.

Clonex worth its weight in Clonex!
No, I don't get paid by the manufacturer. But the product works brilliantly. One year I tried to save money by purchasing some powdered rooted hormone (Hormodin). Whoa! It actually inhibited rooting, nearly ruining my efforts to root 900 cuttings. Never again. It choked the cut ends with dry white powder that just sat there like a barrier to life.

Clonex is good stuff that has proved itself to me over the years. It is based on the class of chemicals, auxins, present in plants that regulate plant growth. By the way, I water my San Pedro with another growth regulator�MaxiCrop seaweed concentrate.  [Maxicrop provides... growth hormones, cytokinin, auxins, vitamins, and enzymes.]

Clonex is essentially natural; "...a plant hormone in the auxin family and is an ingredient in many commercial plant rooting horticultural products"

When Clonex treated cuttings are stored on shelves for a couple of months they sometimes do this cool thing where root buds start squirting out the bottom like a cluster of maggots. Yeah, many will just start air rooting with buds about a 1/4" to 1/2" or so.
Clonex is pricey at $40 a 250ml bottle. One supplier from Amazon.com shipped me two 125ml bottles when I paid for two 250ml ones. That merchant would not reply to email; acting as if I was making it up, or that I was too stupid to know the difference.  I photographed the box he shipped in, with the 2 half size bottles next to an old 250ml (correct) size bottle of mine. Mailed that to him. No good. American Express to the rescue! I shipped back the 2-half size bottles while AMEX filed a dispute on my behalf�based on copies of the photos & return shipping documentation. AMEX made them refund my money.

This is why I believe some merchants won't take American Express; to me it means they are frauds and can't qualify to be an Amex merchant. Amex also rescued me when a supplier once sent me 212 seedlings when I paid for 500! Amex had to force the refund--and I had immediately shipped back the 1/2 order by Priority Mail. You have to be careful when you buy online.

Angel Cat Guardians
Was it just a fur ball or was it an evil spirit?
"Hey! Are you going to leave us out here without a greenhouse cover? We're getting rained on! But the stars and moon are pretty."

You'll be OK.
Good night San Pedro.

Good night Peruvian Torch.

Thank you God�thank you Father.

Thank you for the farm, the cats, the plants, the compost, the worms, the wind, the sun, the moon, and all the splendid things that flow through life.

Thank you for the Angels.

Thank you for everything.

Good night moon!



Contact: Cactus_Kate@trichocereus.com
� 2003�2014 by CACTUS KATE� Sacred Trichocereus collection. All rights reserved for eternity in Heaven.