Cactus and Tender Succulents forum: Rooting cuttings of 'desert gem'

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Alberta, Canada (Zone 3a)
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Draconiusultamius
Mar 7, 2018 1:29 PM CST
Yesterday, I went to Walmart and to the gardening section to look at plants. While I was there, I saw those coloured 'desert gem cactuses' (Mammillaria vetula subsp. gracilis). I noticed a pot which had the remains of a cactus scattered around it and upon closer inspection, I saw that the poor thing appeared to have died of stem rot.

Thumb of 2018-03-07/Draconiusultamius/c93be3

I was the one who picked all the 'stems' off the main cactus as I wanted to give it at least some chance of survival (they pretty much just fell right off). As I still felt bad for leaving the plant there, where it was almost bound to just die, I took two stem segments (I would have purchased the pot and taken the cuttings out and returned the pot with the main stem, but my mom said no more plants, especially not ones that are seemingly dead), which I don't think is an illegal action anyways since I've gathered tomato stems, apple leaves, and other little bits from various grocery stores which people tend to throw away and the people working there don't care. Whistling Now I need to figure out how to root them. I don't have any cactus potting mix, but I do have some very dry potting soil that doesn't retain moisture at all and some regular potting soil. I'm thinking of mixing them in a pot and just putting the cutting in. I've never rooted a xerophytic cactus before and I'm worried that they won't come out right.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Apr 12, 2018 12:56 PM CST

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I'm sorry it took so long to respond to this question (by now water under the bridge) but here are a couple of thoughts after seeing the picture and hearing the story....

The plants in the picture have been spray painted green to deceive you about their natural color. It appears the whole series is painted that way. This is unfortunate but not uncommon. It's not great for the health of the cacti. They need to see the sun in order to make energy, and they need to have open pores in order to breathe. If they "break through" the surface layer at the growth points and keep going, the new parts will be the natural color and they will be able to breathe and make energy. Ironically the only way those plants will survive is if they lose the color that (apparently) made them sale-able in the first place.

To root a piece of a cactus like that, I would pot it up in a relatively small container (wider than deep, with a hole at the bottom) and let it sprout roots over the course of however many weeks or months it might take. You have to be patient. Try not to bury the stem too much, you basically want it sitting on top of the soil. If you bury succulent stem, you often end up with rot that spreads upward. Use soil with good drainage (say 50% perlite or pumice). Provide strong light (indoors your sunniest possible location, right next to a window). Water well only when the soil is dry at depth. If you can get the paint off the plant somehow, even better.

Hopefully that answered your questions, even if it didn't come in time for you to root your cactus pieces. Next time around you will be prepared, anyway. Smiling
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Apr 12, 2018 1:01 PM (+)]
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Apr 12, 2018 7:54 PM CST
I'm not sure how this one slipped by. I didn't see it before. Sighing!

I absolutely LOVE this particular cactus in its original color. It is so striking. Hopefully, you managed to save a piece. What I really wanted to tell you is that you can't save every sick plant in the universe and that they don't actually have feelings so, although sad, the plant won't care, one way or the other. Smiling

I know, heartless! I have been there. I see plants in the store and think "Ah... I can save you!" But, you can't. Another Sighing!

Don't get caught helping plant pieces into your pockets, its still shoplifting, dead or otherwise. My grandmother used to borrow/steal/abscond with pieces and leaves. I was mortified! Rolling on the floor laughing (I won't even tell you what my grandfather did - have you ever heard of watermelon plugging? He did it in the grocery store!)

PS: I left all the spray painted Haworthias in the Home Depot today.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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[Last edited by DaisyI - Apr 12, 2018 7:55 PM (+)]
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Alberta, Canada (Zone 3a)
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Draconiusultamius
Apr 13, 2018 9:48 PM CST
Daisyl, your story made me laugh so hard!

Honestly, if it were up to me, I would have gone to Walmart, purchased the thing, taken most of the pieces, returned it a week later saying that the plant fell apart after I took it home technically (true as the pieces were on the plant when I first saw it, it was the base that was rotted through), and asked to exchange or refund the purchase. Rolling my eyes.
I know I can't save all the plants and I know the plant doesn't care, but I do. I'm going to be that one person who keeps a sign in my window saying that I will accept all unwanted plants if their destination is the trash bin. My reason is pretty selfish, as it's a means to getting free plants. I pretty much intend to hoard plants and insects in the future. nodding

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