Some Questions About Christmas Cactus Propagation
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  #1  
Old 10-16-2021, 03:14 PM
Mountaineer370 Mountaineer370 is offline
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Some Questions About Christmas Cactus Propagation Female
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I have (had) a medium-sized Christmas cactus -- and maybe it's a Thanksgiving or Easter cactus, I don't really know. It's the kind that has the spiky leaves as opposed to the rounded leaves. (Well, I have one with rounded leaves, too, but this question is about my spiky-leaved one.)

A couple months ago, we had a bad storm here and the plants on my front porch got knocked off their bench, and this cactus was badly damaged. Many of the branches on one side got broken off, and the pot was broken. I repotted of course, and cleaned up the damage as best I could, but the poor thing looks pathetic and keeps dropping more and more branches as they dry up and die.

Yesterday, I had to bring my outside plants in as the nights are getting too cold, and this cactus now resides on my dining room table. Just since last night, another big chunk of branch fell off. I think it's a goner, but I would like to salvage a few cuttings from it so I can hopefully get a new plant started from it.

My preferred method of propogation is putting them in water, as opposed to soil. I have always had the best luck that way. In fact, I'm currently starting a new little jade plant that way from my jade that also got damaged, and it's growing good roots.

My main question here is this. The cactus is putting out buds on the parts of it that didn't get damaged too badly. Of course, those parts are the best ones for taking the cuttings to try to propagate. The rest of the plant does not look healthy. Is there any danger in trying to root cuttings with buds already forming? I'm a bit afraid that if I wait a couple more months for it to bloom and for the flowers then to die before I take the cuttings, the whole plant could further deteriorate and I may lost my chance to get healthy cuttings from it.

I know some of you have experience with these type of plants. Any thoughts?
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Old 10-16-2021, 03:50 PM
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These are extremely easy to propagate. Even a single stem segment/joint will root in water. Bigger pieces can be rooted in very loose medium kept just barely moist. By the way, they're flat stems called phylloclades ("leaf stems.")

They're epiphytes like orchids, and must have plenty of air at the roots. Large plants are difficult to repot without breaking into numerous pieces, so most people let them go a long time between repottings. The medium turns to mush, most roots and the base rots, and the plant falls apart.

Old plants develop old stems that are very prone to breaking, like yours. People with larger collections restart them every few years so they always have younger, vigorous plants. They are often grown with 3-5 cuttings in a 3"-5" pot / 7.5-12.5cm.

In your situation you could root in water or medium. Once rooted I would put broken pieces into small pots with fresh, loose medium. Keep it barely damp. High humidity promotes rooting and growth. Room temperature is fine.
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Old 10-16-2021, 04:21 PM
Mountaineer370 Mountaineer370 is offline
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Thanks so much for the quick reply. When I had to repot it a couple months ago, the soil it was in was compacted like concrete. I tried to loosen it a bit but I know I took roots off. The root system didn't seem very deep at all, maybe no more than two or three inches in a pot that was a good six inches deep. Anyway, I did the best I could with repotting it, but after all the damage to it from the storm, and then the stress of being repotted, and the possible bad condition of the roots, and I was afraid it just wasn't going to make it.

The one question I was hoping to have answered is whether it matters if the cuttings I take have buds forming on them? The situation with the plant is that the only parts of it that look healthy enough to try propagating are already in bud.
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Old 10-16-2021, 05:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mountaineer370 View Post
Thanks so much for the quick reply. When I had to repot it a couple months ago, the soil it was in was compacted like concrete. I tried to loosen it a bit but I know I took roots off. The root system didn't seem very deep at all, maybe no more than two or three inches in a pot that was a good six inches deep. Anyway, I did the best I could with repotting it, but after all the damage to it from the storm, and then the stress of being repotted, and the possible bad condition of the roots, and I was afraid it just wasn't going to make it.

The one question I was hoping to have answered is whether it matters if the cuttings I take have buds forming on them? The situation with the plant is that the only parts of it that look healthy enough to try propagating are already in bud.
I would just rub the buds off.
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Old 10-16-2021, 07:03 PM
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I don't think the buds will interfere with rooting. The plants will keep them or not based on the water balance. I would keep them now, expecting to lose them. But if the pieces root rapidly, which they might do, the plants might be able to sustain the buds. I've had non-budded pieces root in just a few days in water.
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Old 10-17-2021, 10:53 AM
Mountaineer370 Mountaineer370 is offline
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Thanks to both of you for the replies. After giving it some more thought, I will leave the buds as they are. If the cuttings are not getting enough nutrients, they will simply dry up and fall off. On the off chance that the cuttings develop roots quickly, maybe I'll have a few flowers on them. That will be unique. Either way, I think I can get four or five good cuttings to maximize the chances of having at least a couple that survive and can eventually be repotted to start a new plant. The plant has sentimental value to me, so I don't want to lose it entirely. The jade I mentioned above is a plant I first got fifty years ago, and things have happened in that time where it got damaged and I had to restart it from cuttings. It's probably on its third or fourth generation now. So, hopefully, this cactus will survive, though it will be a lot smaller for a while.
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