Love it, or hate it, grafting is a useful technique for propagation, salvage of plants that would otherwise be lost to damage or disease and to facilitate the cultivation of plants that would not survive on their own roots.

Grafting can be applied to both cacti and other succulents (in particular Euphorbias and stapeliads) There are several methods of grafting, the most common technique is illustrated here being applied to a surviving piece of a collapsed Mammillaria haudeana.


All photographs by : John Ellis


Getting ready to do the graft The materials to be used:-
  • A Trichocereus to be used as the stock plant

  • The salvaged piece of Mammillaria to be grafted onto the stock plant (this is called the scion)

  • A sharp razor blade

  • Methylated spirits

  • Rubber bands

Cut the top off the stock Sterilise the blade by dipping it into the methylated spirits (this must be done prior to every cut). Cut the top off the stock plant, this must be done with a single, clean cut. The stock plant should be a vigorous species (usually Trichocereus) and must be in full growth. The cut surface should be nice and juicy.
Chamfer the ribs of the stock Chamfer the top of each of the ribs on the stock plant. This stops the cut surface from becoming hollow as it dries, causing the graft to be pulled apart.
Cut another thin slice Cut another very thin sliver from the stock plant. Leave the sliver in place on the top to protect the cut. This will ensure the upper surface is flat and remains clean until the graft is made.
Repeat the process for the scion Repeat the above process for the scion. Ensure the final cut is clear of any rotten material in a plant being salvaged. (The brown marks here are not rot, they are merely discoloured parts of the plant).
Put the scion onto the stock Slide the thin slivers from both the stock plant and the scion. Gently press the scion onto the top of the stock and rub the cut surfaces gently together to ensure there is no air trapped between them.
The vascular bundle When grafting cacti, ensure the vascular bundle of stock and scion (the circle shown arrowed in the photograph) overlap in at least one place. If the two vascular bundles are significantly different in size, ensure they cross one-another. If they don't (even if the smaller one is completely contained within the larger one) the graft will fail.
Use rubber bands to apply a gentle pressure Finally apply gentle pressure to keep the cut surfaces pressed together. The most usual way to do this - though it takes a little practice - is to use rubber bands as shown.

The grafted plant should be put in a warm, dry place out of direct sunlight for a few days until the graft has taken and the cut surfaces have healed over.

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