Paul Nickerson

Desert Rose: Prune and Propagation

In Potting, Propagation on January 15, 2012 at 11:09 pm

I recently did some drastic pruning on my Desert Rose (A. Obesum). I bought the plant a while back as a rescue from a local nursery and have let it grow with little training until now. The plant developed a very prominent, Y, “slingshot” formation. The goal if this hard prune was to develop a better shape of the overall plants, while using the cuttings as propagation stock.

Being advised by a number of bonsai fanatics, I lopped off one of the branches, and truncated the other. I am hoping to use a Dremel to soften the hard edges that resulted from the prune.

The lengths of stock were cut into three-inch sections, each containing a couple nodes. They were potted in a well draining soil and are kept moist. A. Obesum is a relatively easy plant to root from cuttings.

Just for the sake of it, I tried a method typically used with ficus to develop a more developed caudex. Some of the segments I cut length-wise twice, creating a cross that could be opened up when potted. This should create a more flanged caudex. We’ll see how it goes!

  1. I just got a desert rose this morning. The flowers are stupendous, but I have not found any information about how often they bloom. Can you tell me?
    Also, I have 2 varieties of cactus that are reaching for the sky and am wondering if I can propagate them. Both of them have doubled in height since last summer. Is it just a matter of cutting some of the shoots and transplanting them?

    • I have heard that Desert roses typically bloom in the summer. This is mostly true when they are in greenhouses due to the day-lengths and such being true. One of the things I love about desert rose is how easily it can be pruned due to the abuse it can handle. I have found that a short while after I prune my plants, if I water and feed them heavily, they will bud from the cut ends. One method of forcing blooms that I have head about it allowing the plant to dry a bit more than usual, tricking it into thinking it is in a dry, winter season. It can also be beneficial to move the specimen to partial shade during this time. After a while of this treatment, heavily water and fertilize the plant (Much like forcing Amaryllis). This will spark new growth, and in turn blooming. I have not personally used this method, but it sounds like it should work. Let me know how it goes!

      As far as the cacti are concerned, if they are pad cacti, such as Prickly Pear, all you need to due is cut the pads from the main plant, and bury them about an inch into some cactus potting soil. Keep the soil slightly moist, and you will soon see the growth of new pads. I just recently did this with a piece of a cacti I cut from a plant in Cape May, NJ, I’ll put some picture online shortly.

      If the cactus is more of a truncated or barrel type, the main stalk can be cut into sections for propagation. Cut the main body of the cactus into sections about 4-5 times longer than the diameter of the stalk. These sections should be allowed to sit and callas for a couple of days at least (Don’t forget which side is up!). We had one sections sit in the greenhouse here for a few months before we finally got around to potting it, and it is currently growing fine. Once calluses have formed, bury the base of the cutting a few inches into the ground so it is securely standing firm in the pot. Water the cutting one the same rotation as the main plant, and you should see growth in a short while. If is best to take these cuttings from barrel cacti after the main plant has had an increase in watering, this will make the cutting more likely to develop new growth prior to drying out due to an increase internal water content. Another note, rooting hormones always make everything easier!

      I am really looking forward to hearing about how this works out for you! I’ll post some picture of the cuttings were did so you can see exactly what I am talking about. Thanks you very much for the question. Happy Planting!


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