Pencil Cactus Roots | 7 Small But Important Things To Know |

Pencil cactus roots absorb nutrients and water from soil to the plant. Therefore healthy roots are required for their survival

So I thought of writing about the importance and best practice to take care of pencil cactus roots.

pencil cactus roots

What do healthy pencil cactus roots look like?

You may usually spot the healthy roots of a pencil cactus in tan whilst covered with soil.

When your pencil cactus comprises a healthy root system, it would be beneficial for the plant to thrive. Ideally the root system of the pencil cactus needs to be both vigorous and firm.

Pencil cactus root problems

Root rot is the major problem which you would have to encounter when growing these beautiful pencil cacti

They are quite vulnerable for the root rots . Over watering could be the biggest culprit when it comes to root rots of the pencil cactus.

You need to avoid over watering them. Over watering could take place when you try to water the soil of the pencil cactus even when it is moist.

In addition to over watering, pests’ attacks or serious pathogens could also attribute the pencil cactus to have root rots.

You could remedy this by snipping the damaged roots. In addition to that, you could consider enhancing the drainage of the pot and applying correct watering processes.

Pencil cactus without root

Chances Are that you could spot some pencil cactus which does not contain any roots. That could happen due to several factors such as over watering and due to fungus attacks.

Once those fungus infect the plant severely, they could deteriorate the pencil cactus root system as well. Finally the plat will die due to the damages.

However, you can still try propagating them to form new plants from the remaining plant.

pencil cactus roots

Root rot

Lets talk about root rot furthermore. As aforesaid over watering could be the biggest culprit of creating root rot.

Once you supply an excess amount of water for the plants, it will create a soggy and damp condition in the soil and consequently it would attract the unhealthy fungus and bacteria.

Once a root rot has happened in your plant, it could be bad smelly too. That is due to the deteriorating root system of the plant.

In addition to that, pest’s attacks and serious pathogens could also affect the pencil cactus to have root rots.

You could attend to this by doing necessary pruning and in enhancing the drainage of the pot etc.

To remedy this, you could follow the following guidelines and report them.

Before proceeding with this, it is very important that you wear safety goggles, long sleeved shorts, long pants, closed toe shoes and appropriate gloves which cover the wrist also.

Unless you will have a risk of getting exposed for the toxic milky sap they release when they are interrupted.

  • You may take off the cactus gently from its pot.
  • Get rid of the old soil and from dirt around the plant simply tapping it.
  • If it is essential, you could brush the leftover dirt around the roots.
  • Now you could snip the rotten roots.
  • You could usually spot them in black, brown colors. They would further be stinking too.
  • Once you cut the rot roots, you may leave them to become callous for some days and then repot them.
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pencil cactus roots

Propagate pencil cactus from roots 

  • First and foremost, you need to protect yourself from the milky toxic sap which they release when you cut them

You need to wear safety goggles, long sleeved shirts, long pants, closed toe shoes and plastic gloves which could cover up your wrist.

  • As the second step, you need to obtain a 6 inch to 12-inch cuttings during their actively growing season

It could be either spring or summer season. I am sure you know that you need to always use equipment which is sterilized and clean.

  • The equipment you need are pruning shears, scissors etc.
  • You could hold the branch tip with one of your hands whilst using  the other hand to cut it.

I would recommend placing the stem base into a disposable plastic container with filled water to half of it. 

Unless, you will have a greater chance of exposing yourself to the toxic milky sap the stem releases.

You could simply swish the stem into water gently so that the sap could depart from the cutting when you leave it in moist.

  • Next, you could place the stem cutting on its side in the shade or you could use the newspaper layers to keep it.
  • You could leave those cuttings to dry for about one week’s time. You could take as much as cuttings you wish to propagate them. 
  • Do not forget to take care of the mother plant which started to release the sap. Dispose all those plastic containers where nobody can reach them.
  • Clean the pruning shears with warm water and with soap. After that you need to rinse them also whilst using running water.
  • Then you need to wash the gloves also whilst following aforesaid methods. Alternatively, you could dispose of them as well.
  • Not only that but also, you need to wash all your protective wears whilst following the aforesaid methods.

When you are going to plant the cuttings, you need to wear clean gloves and start the proceedings.

  • First select a pot which is about 3-4 inches in size. You could change the post size depending on the cutting size.
  • If you get longer cuttings you need to go ahead with taller pots.
  • After you select the pot, you could fill it with moist and with a soil mix which has a very good drainage.
  • If at all, you could make a potting mix on your own by blending peat, perlite, and vermiculite with even parts of each.
  • You could use a clean stick and make a hole which is slightly larger than the diameter of the pencil cactus in the potting mix.
  • After that, obtain the cutting and locate it in the hole smoothly. Do it so gently that it will not start to bleed once again.
  • After that, make sure that the plant is well established in the potting mix whilst making the soil around the cactus firm.
  • Locate the potted cutting in bright and indirect sunlight. Ideal temperature should also be around 75-degree Fahrenheit.
  • Wait until the soil mix dry at least halfway down and only then you need to add water. After about one month’s time, you could check on the results of the propagation.
  • Wear your gloves once again and tug smoothly on the cutting tip and check whether the roots have formed.  
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Within one weeks or within a couple of weeks’ times you could move them to a brighter sunlight corner

Before you do that, you could expose them for morning sunlight. Commence watering them whenever the soil mix is dry and continues with the usual caring treatments with the cactus.

pencil cactus roots

How long should pencil cactus roots be before planting

You need to wait until the roots become minimum two inches in length before you plant them in a new potting mix.

Usually, it will take about once months’ time for the root’s formation.

How to keep pencil cactus root healthy

Watering for root

Pencil cactus usually grows in drought conditions, and they require only a minimum care . Further they conserve water in their stems and in roots as well.

As such you do not need to water them often. However, it is important that you water them moderately .

If in case they run short of water, they would tend to become wrinkled, and it will further tend to get brown tips as well.

On the other hand, if you had watered the pencil cactus with an abundance of water, you may see how the plant becomes mushy and soft.

As such you need to make sure that you water these cacti only when their soil is dry and keep a tab on the conditions of the soil in between the watering sessions for the plant.

You need to water your pencil cactus once every three weeks or once every two weeks during the summer season.

Having said that, you need to always ensure that you place your finger in the soil and check whether the soil is dry and only then you could proceed with watering them.

During fall, you may minimize watering them and in the winter season also, you could further cut down on watering.

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Fertilizer for root

You could feed them with a diluted houseplant fertilizer once a year during the spring season and that would enhance the optimal growth of the pencil cactus.

Moreover, you could use a controlled release fertilizer or even one which has a low nitrogen component as well.

Consider that you have a mature and a well grown plant, then you could use a 20-20-20 houseplant food at quarter strength.

Pot and soil for root

Best is to use terracotta pots to grow pencil cactus. Reason behind that is, they evaporate water rapidly when compared to other material.

The most recommended pot for these cacti would be unglazed terra cotta pots which have enough draining holes.

In addition to that, make sure you use a sandy potting mix which is specifically designed for cactuses and for succulents.

this plant do not like to be in wet soil for too long. As such if you use unglazed porous clay would force the abundant water to evaporate faster.

Usually, terracotta pots are made from porous clay and hence why they would suit the pencil cactus best.

Apart from that, make sure that you select a pot in which your pencil cactus could stay firmly and comfortably. Ideally, the pot size needs to be 1-2 inches wider than the plant’s width.

pencil cactus roots 3 1

Repotting for roots

You need to make sure that soil is dry in condition before you start off repotting them. If the soil is dry, you could take the cactus out smoothly and get rid of the older soil simply by tapping it.

Make sure you are wearing the glove and all the aforesaid safety clothes in case they release the milky sap. After that you could snip roots if they are rotten.

After that you could place the pencil cactus in a new pot which is slightly larger in size and keep adding the potting medium until the cactus stays firm in the pot.

Pencil cactus roots coming out of pot

They do. That is a sign they send out to indicate that you need to transplant them. This is what you could call the cactus that has become root bound. 

Many cacti tend to stay in the same pots for years. However once they form roots out of the pot, you need to report them.

Related question

Do pencil cacti have deep roots?

They could sometimes have deep roots and in that case you need to choose pots as appropriate.

Do pencil cactus like to be root bound?

They could thrive in slightly root bound pots.

Can you cut pencil cactus roots

You could, however, ensure that you are wearing the protective clothes as aforesaid. 

Credit to: Jarhead Bonsai
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About author

I’m Dr. Chamika, As a hobby love talking about plants and showing you that taking care of indoor plants. My website is knowledge I’ve learned over the years and continue to learn about growing succulents. If you’re a succulent lover, then you have come to the correct place.