New Beginnings For a Cactus and a Daughter

Mexican Fence Post
Mexican Fence Post

A Tale of New Beginnings: The Mexican Fence Post Cactus and Rachele’s Journey

This is a story about new beginnings – one for a new cactus and another beginning for my second-oldest daughter, Rachele.

Believe me when I say that both stories are connected in a way.

The Connection Between a Mexican Fence Post Cactus and a Daughter’s Departure

This cactus, above, is a Mexican Fence Post (Pachycereus marinatus), which has been happily growing in my front garden.

What may not be initially obvious is that 11 years ago, I started this cactus from a 2 ft. piece of one (called a ‘cutting’) given to me by a client from their large Mexican Fence Post cactus.

Well, exactly 1 year ago, I repeated the favor for our neighbors.

Mexican Fence Post

Sharing the Beauty: Providing a Piece of the Mexican Fence Post Cactus to Neighbors

Look carefully at the photo above and compare it with the first one. Can you see where we cut off a piece of the cactus?

Our neighbors had recently re-landscaped their front yard and wanted a cactus like ours. Of course, they knew that they would have to start out with a much smaller one – but they were unprepared for how expensive it would be to buy one at the nursery.

Our cactus had been growing so well, we decided to offer them a piece (cutting) off of our Mexican Fence Post. So, my husband, daughter and I gathered together to take a cutting from our cactus.

Here is how we did it…  

Mexican Fence Post

How to Properly Take a Cutting from a Cactus

We selected a good-sized length of cactus and while I held onto it, my husband took a pruning saw and started sawing it off at the bottom.

Multiple layers of newspaper and gloves are helpful to use to grab onto cacti with short thorns. For cacti with longer thorns, you can use carpet remnants. When you cut out a piece of cactus, it will be much heavier then you are expecting – so be prepared.

Mexican Fence Post

My husband and daughter wheeled the cactus cutting over to our neighbor’s house using our wheelbarrow.

Mexican Fence Post

Preparing the Cactus Cutting for Planting

We then placed the cutting in a dry, shady spot for 2 weeks in order to allow the cut site to ‘callus’ over, which would protect the cacti from rotting when it is replanted.

*Exactly 3 days after helping us with the cactus cutting, my daughter, Rachele, left for the Navy and basic training.  It was a sad goodbye for us, but a new beginning for her.

After 2 weeks had passed, the new cactus was planted in its new location with a wooden stake for support.

No water was applied for the first month after planting, in order to make sure that the entire cut end had callused over.

One month after planting, the cactus was watered deeply, monthly, until November.

my second-oldest daughter, Rachele

*Whenever I looked at the newly-planted cactus, thoughts of my daughter and how she was doing in her new Navy life always crossed my mind.

new cutting

One year later, the new cutting is doing so well and has even grown two new sections.

You can see the parent cactus in the background.

Now, I may not be located as closely to my daughter as these two cacti, but like the new cactus, she is growing and doing so well in her new career with the Navy.  We are so proud of her!

You can read more about Rachele’s adventures, here.

How to Propagate Cactus Via Cuttings

Propagating cactus via cuttings can be done with many species of cacti. Here are a few guidelines to follow for success:

1. Propagate cactus during the warm season, when the threat of frost is over.

2. Make the cut at the joint where the segment attaches to the parent plant. For prickly pear cacti, you can cut a segment that consists of 1 – 3 pads.

3. Place the new cutting in a dry, shady spot for 2 weeks to allow the cut site to ‘callus’, which protects the cacti from rot when it is replanted.

4. Plant your new cactus in full sun with well-drained soil.

5. Don’t water for a month after planting.  Then water deeply, monthly until fall.

6. Provide temporary shade for the first summer. You can do this by placing a plastic patio chair over the top or using shade cloth.

Soon, you will begin to see new growth on your cactus.

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
12 replies
  1. Аигуль Аитуова
    Аигуль Аитуова says:

    Здравствуйте как можно получить отростки я люблю кактусы.

  2. Roz patterson
    Roz patterson says:

    … my son is all grown up with a little family of his own now. Many years ago I asked him to babysit my precious cactus ( the little cactus was a birthday gift to me 26 yrs old … Now I am 66) it is 12′ high filled with emence growth. He asked to keep it because it gives him a bit of Mum in his home. Beautiful cactus like yours. All the best to your daughter and family in this coming year. Thank you for such a dear story!

  3. says:

    Hi Libby,

    I am glad you enjoyed the story. The time my daughter was in the Navy was difficult, especially when she was in basic training and couldn’t communicate with us as often as we’d like. But, later it was much better getting to see her and talk to her regularly. I hope your son is doing well.

  4. Arey
    Arey says:

    I was recently given a Totem Pole Cactus in a large pot but during the ride home it fell so two parts on the top fell so they are cut…should I apply the same guideliness? I live in Mesa, AZ. Thank you!

  5. Bree Logie
    Bree Logie says:

    Has a new cacti started growing on my mother plant from the location in which you cut the arm? I just bought a 4 metre fence post cactus and in broke in half when I pulled it down. I am worried that it won’t grow from where it was cut? Thanks would love to see a picture if it has new growth now. Bree from Australia

  6. says:

    Hello Bree,

    It will grow from where it was cut. The new growth will occur slightly off to the side and will grow upward. They do so well and my Mexican fence post cactus has give ‘birth’ to many new cacti. I hope this helps!

  7. Di
    Di says:

    My Mexican fence post cacti have reached astounding heights and will need to be trimmed somehow, sometime in the near-ish future. I have no idea how to go about this. As a low-income family, I can’t hire a professional arborist. The two cacti flank the picture window in front of our home, and now reach a few feet past the top of our roof. I understand trimming cuttings from the sides, but what do you do about the tallest pieces, which are in the center? If we “trim” those down, it’ll look hideous, won’t it? Any suggestions? Thank you in advance.

  8. says:

    Hello Di,

    You can’t really prune off the top without it looking awkward AND because it will stimulate a new ‘arm’ where you cut it off. Your best bet is to prune the tallest pieces back to the base of the cactus and allow the shorter ones to remain. It’s best to do this in spring or fall. I hope this helps.

  9. Di
    Di says:

    Thank you so much. That makes sense. Sounds like one of those things we should’ve known before we started. Yours are lovely, by the way. In a perfect place, with space to grow. 🙂

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