What are cactus ‘suckers’ or pups? Is it better to remove them? Do they affect flowering?

Let’s talk about cactus pups o cactus suckers. Some call them “branches”, others call them “new heads”. Some, more prosaically, call them “children” of the mother plant or “pups”. In all cases, they are new “protuberances” that sprout around the body of the main plant.

In cacti, as well as in agaves, this is a common phenomenon, and in some species, it never happens, in others it very easily happens, even with young plants. Attention: we are not talking about true seedlings born under the stem of the mother plant from seeds that have fallen from the latter, but about authentic new bodies that are attached to the main stem and sprout from the latter, and then grow steadily in size. The correct term is “suckers”, and anyone who grows cacti or has looked at this plant family in a nursery or botanical garden will have seen one or more suckers. Why do cacti produce suckers or pups, which genera are more likely to suck and are less so? And again, the most frequently asked question: is it true that pups steal energy from the mother plant and reduce flowering? Can the suckers themselves blossom? Another frequently asked question: is it better to leave them attached to the mother plant or remove them? Can they be used as cuttings to obtain new plants identical to the mother plant, and in the event of disease of the latter, can they be detached to save it and reproduce it? In other words, how to propagate cactus pups?

In this article, we take a closer look at the subject and answer all these questions (…).

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Spots on the stem and rot, here’s what you can do to save sick succulents and cacti

Circumscribed dark spots, yellowish spots, dryness, discoloration of the stems, reddening, small cuts: over time, signs of various kinds and of varying size may appear on the stem of our cacti. In some cases there is nothing to worry about, because they are small wounds caused for example by the thorns of a nearby plant, or because they are simply the signs resulting from the aging of the plant. In other cases, however, it is necessary to intervene immediately, because that spot is perhaps due to some fungal pathology destined to expand until it seriously disfigures or kills the plant. But how to distinguish a harmless thorn prick scar, for example, from dangerous rot? How to understand if that discoloration of the stem is caused by the sudden exposure of the plant to direct sun or by a lack of nutrients, or by the beginning of a fungal attack? And how to intervene to contain the damage or save the plant when the damage has already been confirmed?

This is what we will see in this article, with the help of a series of photographs that portray different situations and different pathologies. Some photos were taken by readers of Il fiore tra le spine and portray their plants: I thank these readers for agreeing to share their photos with me, thus collaborating in the creation of the following article. (…)

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