Cacti are succulents, but when it comes to reproduction, the process is quite different than other succulents. While cactus can produce both sexually and asexually, the best part is you can also germinate and propagate it at home. However, there would be a few requirements in doing so. In this article, I will tell you in detail about how does the cactus reproduce.
Cacti are succulents that are found in various dry areas— like deserts. They are characterized as succulents due to their fleshy stems adorned with spines. These fleshy and engorged stems have a unique ability to hold water for longer durations. Thus cacti can even survive in deserted locations. Most of the cacti look beautiful when they blossom. They also grow in unique, distinctive shapes and textures. Today, cacti have turned to be one of the prime interests of plant lovers. Cacti have been successful in adding to the visual appeal. Since they grow in unique shapes, they have been favorites to adorn the indoor plant collections. An added advantage is that cacti are low-maintenance plants. As they have the natural ability to store water in their engorged stems, they don’t demand regular watering. Thus being a low maintenance plant, more and more people wish to grow it in their homes. But for this, we would need to know how the cactus reproduces?
Cacti are succulents that are found in various parts of the world. The reproductions of these plants are an interesting topic to ponder upon. However, the process of their reproduction is way different than any other succulent. Let us check out the ways how cacti reproduce.
How Does Cactus Reproduce?
Cacti know how to survive in all conditions. Thus they have no constraints to reproduce. Wherever we find naturally grown cacti, we never find them alone. They are always found in a group implying they reproduce irrespective of other factors. This also implies that they reproduce largely; that is, they multi-pollinate.
It is said that cacti have the capacity to reproduce thousands of times in their lifetime. Like any other plant, cacti have the ability to reproduce both sexually and asexually. Some cacti reproduce sexually by self-pollination. Thus they don’t need much external support to reproduce. However, some cacti reproduce asexually through propagation. Thus, these cacti need some external help and support their propagation.
Thus cacti may reproduce either by seeds (sexually) or by cutting, grafting, or propagation (asexually).
Sexual Reproduction in Cacti
Most of the cacti are flower-bearing plants. Thus they have both female and male parts required for sexual reproduction. Like any other plant, they follow the process of pollination to reproduce sexually. It could be cross-pollination or self-pollination.
The Procedure Of Pollination
The process of sexual reproduction in plants is named pollination. In any sexual reproduction, the mating of the male and female cells is inevitable. The same happens in the case of cactus too. The female cells are known as gynoecia, and male parts are known as androecia. Male parts release pollens- a yellow powdery substance aimed to mate at ovules in carpals of the female part (gynoecia).
The seed is the root for creating offspring when pollination occurs; this leads cacti to bear fruits with seeds to create new offspring. Thus the demography of fruits and seeds are the determining factors for the offspring.
The flowers in cacti generally have both female and male sex cells known as Gametes. In this case, the pollination is simple. However, in many cases, cacti rely upon external pollinators for reproduction. Thus pollination can also occur through wind transfer or by having symbiotic relationships between birds and animals. Even rodents may also help in pollination.
The advantage of cross-pollination is the genetic diversity of the cacti. In a lifetime, a cactus may produce millions of pollens and seeds; however, quite a few of them stay to germinate into new offspring.
Asexual Reproduction in Cacti
Not all cacti are sexually reproducing. Some cacti reproduce asexually, as well. There are various ways that cacti may naturally propagate or reproduce asexually.
Some of the common ways are:
- Many of the cacti are divided into globular or cylindrical segments. The top segment/ pad falls off to the ground. This pad waits for a good water supply like rains to turn into a new offspring. This is one of the common ways of propagation. Purple Prickly Pear is an excellent example of this.
- In some cases, birds or animals go through a spread of cacti and brush against them. This friction also leads to the falling of a segment. In some cases, due to this friction, a segment gets stuck in the fur of the animal. They fall off at some distinct places after traveling on that animal. This way, the offspring is naturally propagated in distinct places, thus leading to genetic diversity.
- In some cacti, it is seen that offspring are grown on the parent plants and fall off later naturally when they overweigh. They even fall due to friction. This phenomenon is seen on cacti like Teddy bear cholla (Opuntia bigelovii).
Cactus Can Be Germinated And Propagated In-Home—100% Success Rate
Asexual reproduction in cacti can happen naturally. An interesting fact is that various techniques are available to asexually reproduce them in our homes. Artificial propagation techniques have also taken shape for successful reproduction with increasing popularity and demand for cacti for indoor plant collections.
Why is artificial propagation important?
From far-fetched deserts, cactus have begun to stay in our homes. This implies that they no longer stay in their habitats. Thus, it is not easy or possible for them to produce naturally—either sexually or asexually. Thus the need for artificial propagation arises to retain their existence with us. Thanks to the successful techniques of propagation that could give 100 % results in creating a new offspring. Let us look into various ways of artificial propagation that actually works.
Some key requirements for artificial propagation
Before we can opt for techniques for artificial propagation, some parameters need to be taken care of. They are:
- Right soil mixture for the pot: Cacti require a well-drained soil mixture. Thus a mixture of coarse sand with nutrient-rich soil is the suitable mixture. You may also add ingredients like coconut coir, pumice, etc., to increase the effect.
- Watering of plants: The newly propagated cactus may require regular water to ensure turning mature. However, ensure you never supply more water to it. Cacti generally need water just sparingly. This can be very well understood by the fact that these bloom in deserts, where there is almost no water.
- Use suitable vases for the cacti. Choose the size and shape as per the size and growth of the cactus.
- Beware of poisonous Cacti breeds: Cacti are characterized by distinct shapes and structures. However, this doesn’t mean all cacti are safe. In fact, no cactus is entirely safe.
Techniques Of Artificial Propagation
To germinate a cactus artificially, a proper method and technique is followed, to take care of the reproduction of this plant.
- Germinating Cactus from Seeds: This method of artificial propagation is probably the simplest of others. You can get seeds of cacti from the fruit that you can harvest in new soil. You can see a new cactus growing soon when this is done at the right time and weather. If you don’t have a cactus, you can either borrow or buy seeds from the market.
- Cactus Cutting: We have seen how a top segment or pad falls off the parent to form a new offspring. The same procedure is done manually is termed Cactus cutting. One can cut a stem, shoot, or a bigger part of the cactus to make it into a new offspring. This procedure is followed in the propagation of plants like roses in our homes. Certain care needs to be taken to the cut part until it gets the power to turn into one. The steps to be followed are:
- Cut off the part which is healthy and seems ready to turn into a new one.
- Apply cinnamon powder to the wounds to ensure they stay good.
- Please keep it in a plate of sand for almost five days till it is ensured that it has turned into a separate cactus.
- Cactus Grafting: Grafting is the process of a severed piece of one cactus (scion) to a severed piece of another cactus (rootstock). This can be done to reduce the challenges like pests. Try avoiding them during the heatwave. Make sure you do it in spring.
- Transplantation of Cactus: As we have seen, the size of the bowl or pot is important; the same is considered here. Transplantation is nothing but transferring the cactus to a different—bigger—bowl/pot, ensuring its continuing growth. This is a common procedure that needs to be done when the cactus overgrows the pot.
From the previous lines, we have checked out some poisonous cacti. Having spines is the basic characteristic of cacti. Thus spines don’t add to the poison. Cacti indeed use spines as a defensive mechanism. When we get pricked with spines of cacti, it gives us a lot of irritation and pain. However, it may not always be dangerous. Some cacti use this for reproduction too. The spine stays in the prey for some time and falls off somewhere to turn into an individual cactus.
Spines of some cacti are notably dangerous, and they are dangerous even ingested and are also seldom corrosive.
Some of the commonly found cacti that are dangerous are:
- San Pedro Cactus,
- The Prickly Pear,
- Peyote Cactus (Lophophora Williamsii)
- The Barrel Cactus, etc.
Final Wrap Up
Cacti add to the popular interior decorative plant collection. However, it is important to understand that not all cacti are safe. In fact, no cacti are safe. The thorns can hurt any time if you get careless with them.
Some cacti can produce sexually, and some other reproduces asexually. All the cacti have their ways of reproducing naturally. However, these are subject to them in their natural habitats only. Thus artificial propagation has gained popularity. It is not tough to propagate cacti at home. It is all about some basic skills and care taken.
While you decide to propagate them at home, placing them in restricted areas is always good. This way, we can ensure safety.