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Cactus Grafting: Lophophora williamsii to Trichocereus candicans as a Rapid Propagation Technique
A host cactus such as Trichocereus candicans can be used for grafting purposes to accelerate growth patterns for cactus such as Lophophora williamsii. Once a person gets the hang of it, it is very easy. A single graft can be done in under 5 minutes.
Buttons grown in this manner can be expected to increase in diameter at the approximate rate of one inch per year, not to mention the multiple side pups which are also growing at the same phenomenal rate!
It is desirable to use a host plant such as Trichocereus candicans for grafting purposes to accelerate growth patterns for cactus such as Lophophora williamsii. Trichocereus candicans is preferred as a host plant over San Pedro or others for the following reasons:
1. Candicans is a smaller plant with a smaller root system and more button grafts may be accomplished in a far smaller space.
2. Candicans plants do well in medium sized pots for many years and the entire collection can be lightweight and portable.
3. The respective diameters of the two plants are more closely matched for easier grafting.
Once a single button of Lophophora williamsii is grafted to a limb of Trichocereus candicans, it will undergo phenomenal growth. New Lophophora williamsii heads will grow out of the side areoles of the primary grafted head. Once these side growing “pups” reach the size needed to match the limb diameter of a Trichocereus candicans, these may be cut off and grafted to a new limb. Since the growth energy of the host plant is blocked and terminated with a button head, the formation of a new limb from the base of the plant usually happens quickly. As soon as this new limb reaches sufficient height and diameter, one of the pups may be cut off and grafted onto the end of this limb. The goal is to constantly keep blocking any vertical growth of the Trichocereus candicans limbs. This accomplishes two things:
1. Faster forced growth of the button grafts and the formation of three or more side pups at the areole points are achieved.
2. Rapid formation of new limbs for new grafts using these pups is also created.
The Trichocereus candicans attempts to bypass the energy blocking grafts by forming new limbs. After the formation of a new limb, three inches or more may be cut off the top of it. This limb is now ready to receive a graft.
Once a graft has “taken” and button growth is evident, any Trichocereus candicans limb with a button previously grafted to it may be severed several inches or more below the button and set aside in a warm shady spot for two weeks so that the wound may have time to callous up. Then this same limb may be placed in a pot. The Trichocereus candicans will develop new roots and the whole process begins over again. From a single button head grafted onto a single Trichocereus candicans limb, the growth system will take off at an exponential rate. Starting with only a few buttons of Lophophora williamsii, within a few years these could turn into a hundred.
Cut a button off as straight and flat as possible with a brand new carton knife blade (available at hardware stores) and do the same to a Trichocereus candicans limb. Position the cut on each plant so that the diameters of the cuts are equal or that the button cut is slightly smaller in diameter. Put them together and weight the top of the button with a small piece of rock slate. If this is not enough weight to firmly press the button down, add another rock to the top of the slate. Experimentation and practice will eventually get it right. Let them stay like this for at least 7 days, after which the rocks may be removed. The graft may not actually “take” (where you can see signs of growth) for another 2 -3 weeks.
Even poorly done grafts with only one half or less of the surfaces attached have been seen to work. These take longer to become established, but once the connection is made, they will take off as well as the others.
All plants should be shaded. A white bed sheet stapled to a lightweight wood frame works well. This allows them to get plenty of light for growth without burning them. They love intense heat (80° to 100°F). It is at this time that growth is most spectacular.
They will flower for most of the summer if they are regularly watered. To insure pollination, touch the pistils and stamens from one flower to the next with a soft tipped brush. You will be rewarded with many hundred seeds by the end of the summer. Two or three weeks after the flower has gone, a tiny red fruit bearing seeds will appear. Pick this out with tweezers, making sure to remove the entire fruit at the base. The plants generally begin flowering when they are two inches in diameter or greater. The seeds may be planted or make excellent gifts.
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