The Arizona Snowcap is one of my favorite cacti. Not only does it look beautiful, but it’s also really easy to care for. It was the first cactus I ever owned. Despite my lack of skill or knowledge at the time, it managed to thrive, basking in the glorious sun of my lounge room window.
The Arizona Snowcap seems to have a lot of other (more scientific) names, because I’ve also seen it referred to as mammillaria gracilis snowcap, mammillaria gracilis monstrose, and mammillaria gracilis cv. buenavista, among others.
Arizona snowcap propagation
Another thing I love about the Arizona Snowcap is just how easy it is to propagate. Given it has a lot of offsets, and these offsets are easy to knock off accidentally, this characteristic can come in handy.
The first time I bought one back from my local nursery, one of the offsets got knocked off by accident. I simply planted it in another pot and it started to grow. Years later, I finally got around to putting this simple propagation guide together.
What you need before you start
When propagating any plant, it’s always best to ensure you have everything you need before starting. You don’t want to get halfway through and realize you don’t have an important tool, then have to run down to the hardware store just to get it.
Fortunately, when propagating the Arizona snowcap cactus, this isn’t likely to happen. That’s because you don’t need a whole shed full of equipment to do it.
In fact, here is everything you will need:
- Cactus/succulent potting mix
- A pot with a drainage hole
- Watering can
- Clean knife
The best place to propagate your Arizona Snowcap is outdoors, or somewhere indoors you don’t mind getting a bit dirty (putting down a mat can help with this!).
Step 1: Fill your new pot with soil
The first step to propagating an Arizona Snowcap is pretty easy – simply fill your chosen pot almost to the top with soil (leave about an inch, or 2.5cm of space at the top).
It’s best to choose a pot with a drainage hole, as Arizona Snowcaps don’t like a lot of water. This being said, I’ve kept mine in a ceramic pot without a hole, and it did really well because I watered it sparingly. It’s not ideal, but you can do it – just make sure you don’t overwater the cactus or the roots will rot.
As for the soil, make sure it’s well-draining. A cactus or succulent mix is your best option. If you don’t have any, you can try combining a regular potting mix with mineral grit like pumice or perlite.
Step 2: Wet the soil and poke a hole in it
Once the pot is full of soil, wet the soil completely. This will soften it up and make it easy to poke a hole in it, ready to plant an offset into.
Because Arizona Snowcaps don’t like a lot of moisture, this initial round of water will be the only one you’ll need to give it for at least a week.
Step 3: Cut an offset from the cactus
Once the pot is ready, it’s time to cut some offsets to propagate. Place one finger on top of the cactus to keep it steady. Next, either snap away an offset with your hand or cut it away using a knife.
I prefer using a blade to just my fingers because it makes for a cleaner cut. Just make sure the knife is sanitized before use, as you don’t want to infect the plant. I’ve also seen people use tweezers to break the offset, so you can try that instead if you’ve got a pair handy.
While the Arizona Snowcap has lots of little white spines, you can still handle it without gloves. It’s not poisonous, and the spines aren’t razor sharp. They are a bit uncomfortable to handle, though, which is why I’d recommend putting on gloves (or using tweezers).
Step 4: Plant the offset in the new pot
Once you’ve cut away the offset, you can go ahead and place it in the hole you made in the soil of your new pot. Pat the soil down around the cactus to ensure it is snug inside its new home.
If you want to be really careful, it can be a good idea to let the offsets dry out for a couple of days before planting. This gives the cuts time to heal over and reduces the chance of infection or rot when planted. I’ve never done this, though, and the propagation has always worked just fine. Just make sure not to overwater it after planting.
Stick to the ‘soak and dry’ method – in other words, soak the soil completely, then wait until it is bone dry to water again. When in doubt, err on the side of not watering the newly-planted offset for a few extra days.
Step 5: Return To Regular Care Routine
After 4-6 weeks, your little offset will grow roots. From that point on, simply follow the regular care instructions for Arizona Snowcaps. I’m guessing you know these if you already own the cactus, but if you don’t, the general idea is to give it plenty of sun and water sparingly! Before long, the propagated cactus will be growing offsets of its own
As long as you don’t overwater it, give it plenty of sunlight, and plant it in the right type of soil, you shouldn’t have any trouble propagating your Arizona Snowcap. The old or ‘mother’ plant will heal over in a couple of days, too, so don’t worry about the cuts you’ve left by snapping away the offsets. You can give the newly propagated cactus to friends or family, or simply enjoy more of these eye-catching beauties in your own home!