Cacti are thorny plants, which resemble a ball of spines or with bizarre shapes grown in home gardens or in glass houses. Cacti have a riotous variation in shape and colour, and the exotic beauty of their flowers, will enchant anyone. They are succulent plants adapted to dry conditions and the most convenient aspect of growing cacti as houseplants is that they are hardy and will survive for great lengths of time without watering.
Grafting is a common method used to propagate cactus. And it is the only method for growing red, yellow and brown varieties. Grafting one piece of cactus stem (scion) to a rooted stem of another (stock) also opens up a bewitching world of shapes and colours for the cactus grower. It can be used to speed up the growth of seedlings to the flowering stage. More than these, this graft-art gives the gardener a chance to create new plants not found anywhere in nature. A pot grown, wild variety with triangular stem (usually Acanthocereus) is selected as the `stock' plant (Fig.1). A horizontal flat cut is made on the stock using a sharp sterilised blade leaving a stump five inch in size (Fig.2). The projecting sides on the top are also trimmed to convenient size (Fig.3). A healthy growing, exotic variety like the Melocactus, Mamilaria or the red coloured Gymnocalycium is selected as the `scion' (Fig.4). A flat horizontal cut is also made at the bottom of the scion (Fig.5). A central ring of the growing core can be seen on the cut surface of both the stock and scion. An exact matching is essential to get the best result while grafting. When the stock and the scion are ready, the scion is placed on the cut surface of the stock with the central ring of growing core of both superposed by applying a slight pressure, to squeeze out air bubbles which might affect the cut surface (Fig.6). The graft must then be secured with weighted strings or rubber bands stretched over and under the graft and tightened to the spines on the stock and scion (Fig.7). While grafting a seedling, it is carefully taken out of the pot and the roots are sliced off and are placed on the stock already prepared.
Next 15 days
The grafted plant must be kept dry without watering and out of direct sunlight for about 15 to 20 days. After 15 days, if the scion does not move from the stock when a slight push is given, the strings, rubber bands etc can be removed. After 20 days, the plant can be watered without wetting the graft surface. It can be exposed to direct sun light for a short period, which can be increased slowly depending upon the growth of the scion. JACOB VARGHESE