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Growing Your Own Cactus Family: How to Care for and Propagate Cactus Pups

November 25, 2023
4 minutes read
A variety of cacti in different stages of growth

Welcome, fellow cactus enthusiasts! If you're reading this, chances are you're a prickly plant lover just like us. Whether you're a seasoned cactus connoisseur or a budding enthusiast, this comprehensive guide will help you navigate the exciting world of cactus propagation. So, let's dive right in and start growing your own cactus family!

Understanding Cactus Pups

Before we get our hands dirty (literally), it's important to understand what cactus pups are. No, they're not tiny, spiky dogs, but rather the baby cacti that sprout from the base or sides of the mother plant. These pups are a clone of the parent cactus, carrying the same genetic material. Isn't nature amazing?

Now, you might be wondering why cacti produce pups. Well, it's their way of ensuring survival in harsh desert conditions. If the parent plant dies, the pups take over and continue the lineage. It's like a royal succession, but with less drama and more spikes.

Identifying Cactus Pups

Identifying cactus pups is a bit like playing a game of 'I Spy'. They usually appear as small protrusions from the parent plant, often looking like miniature versions of the mother cactus. However, not all cacti produce pups, so don't feel bad if your cactus is a lone ranger.

Some cacti, like the Saguaro, don't produce pups at all. Others, like the prickly pear and the barrel cactus, are prolific pup producers. So, if you're eager to start a cactus family, these varieties might be a good starting point.

How to Propagate Cactus Pups

Now that we've covered the basics, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get propagating. Don't worry, it's not as daunting as it sounds. In fact, it's quite a straightforward process. Just follow these steps, and you'll have a thriving cactus family in no time.

Remember, cacti are desert plants. They're used to tough conditions and minimal care. So, don't stress too much. They're more resilient than they look!

Step 1: Removing the Pup

First things first, you'll need to remove the pup from the parent plant. This might sound like a daunting task, but it's actually quite simple. All you need is a sharp, clean knife or a pair of tweezers. Make sure to wear gloves to protect your hands from the cactus spines.

Once you've got your tools ready, gently twist the pup away from the parent plant. It should come off easily. If it doesn't, you can use your knife or tweezers to help. Be careful not to damage the parent plant in the process.

Step 2: Letting the Pup Dry

After you've removed the pup, it's important to let it dry for a few days. This allows the cut end to callous over, preventing infection and rot. Think of it as a cactus band-aid.

Place the pup in a dry, shaded area and wait. Patience is key here. Don't rush this step, as it's crucial for the pup's survival.

Step 3: Planting the Pup

Once the pup has dried, it's time to plant it. Fill a small pot with cactus soil mix and make a small hole in the center. Then, place the pup in the hole, cut end down. Don't worry if the pup doesn't stand upright. It will straighten up as it grows.

After planting, give the pup a good drink of water. Then, place it in a sunny spot and wait. In a few weeks, you should see new growth. Congratulations, you've just propagated your first cactus pup!

Caring for Your Cactus Family

Now that you've started your cactus family, it's important to take good care of them. Cacti are low-maintenance plants, but they do have some specific care requirements. Here's what you need to know.


When it comes to watering cacti, less is more. These plants are adapted to survive in dry conditions, so they don't need a lot of water. Overwatering can lead to root rot, which is a common cause of cactus death. So, be stingy with the water. Your cacti will thank you.

A good rule of thumb is to water your cacti once a week in the summer and once a month in the winter. However, this can vary depending on the size of your cacti and the conditions in your home. When in doubt, wait. It's better to underwater than overwater.


Cacti love sunlight. They thrive in bright, indirect light. However, they can also tolerate direct sunlight. Just be careful not to burn your cacti. If they start to look bleached or yellow, they might be getting too much sun.

Try to provide your cacti with at least 4-6 hours of sunlight each day. If you don't have a sunny spot in your home, you can use a grow light to supplement natural light.


Cacti need well-draining soil to thrive. They prefer a sandy or gritty soil mix, which mimics their natural desert habitat. You can buy a pre-made cactus soil mix, or you can make your own by mixing regular potting soil with sand or perlite.

When planting your cacti, make sure to use a pot with drainage holes. This will prevent water from sitting in the bottom of the pot, which can lead to root rot.


Why isn't my cactus pup growing?

There could be several reasons why your cactus pup isn't growing. It could be due to insufficient light, overwatering, or poor soil. Make sure to provide your cactus pup with plenty of light, water sparingly, and use well-draining soil.

Can I propagate a cactus pup that has fallen off the parent plant?

Absolutely! In fact, this is a great way to propagate cacti. Just make sure to let the pup dry for a few days before planting it.

How long does it take for a cactus pup to grow?

It can take several weeks to several months for a cactus pup to start showing new growth. Be patient and give your pup plenty of care and attention.


And there you have it, folks! Everything you need to know about growing your own cactus family. Remember, cacti are resilient plants. They can survive and thrive with minimal care. So, don't be afraid to get started. With a little patience and care, you'll be a proud cactus parent in no time.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a pair of gloves, get your hands dirty, and start growing your cactus family today. Happy planting!

About me
Liz Walker
Liz Walker
Hey there! I am Liz, a dedicated gardener and nature enthusiast with over two decades of hands-on experience.
Through my articles, I share insights ranging from organic pest control to creating stunning garden designs.
My aim is to inspire you with the joys of gardening, providing practical advice that makes nurturing your green space both fulfilling and enjoyable.
More about Liz
Liz Walker
Liz Walker
Hey there!

I am Liz, the founder of MyAeroGardening. 
Through my articles, I share insights ranging from organic pest control to creating stunning garden designs.
My aim is to inspire you with the joys of gardening, providing practical advice that makes nurturing your green space both fulfilling and enjoyable.
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