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Cactus grafting is another form of propagation which should be avoided if possible, unless it is essential to save a plant, but growers should know the various methods of grafting. Some plants have to be grafted-crests and variegated plants, but generally it should only be used to save cuttings which are too small to root. Grafting should not be used to force slow-growing plants, since it tends to change their characteristics.
The success of grafting depends on the condition of the stock plant used, and it must be in full growth. It is a good idea to behead the stock a few weeks before grafting-this causes the stock to swell to almost bursting point. The best time to graft is in late spring-early summer or otherwise-during the maximum growing period. The necessary grafting tools are two sharp clean knives and rubber bands or wool. There are 3 kinds of grafts generally used. The flat, the cleft and the side.
THE FLAT GRAFT To start, cut the top of the stock plant; this should be made in the soft, new growth. The spines should be trimmed off and the edges should be bevelled, for often the centre of the stock will sink-creating a hollow in which air will be trapped when fitting the scion on. All this rough work should be done with the rough knife. Then with the good knife take a thin slice from the top of the stock plant, but leave on top. This will prevent the stock from drying out
while the scion is being prepared. The scion is prepared in the same way. The thin slice on top of the stock is removed and the scion is placed on immediately. Move the scion slightly back and forth over the stock surface to exclude any air and help form a seal.
The scion must be pressed down firmly on the stock and secured in such a way that firm pressure is maintained and no shifting can occur while the two parts unite. This can be achieved by the use of rubber bands stretched over the graft and around the pot. The new graft should be kept in a cool, shady place for a few days until the graft has taken. During this period no water should come in contact with the fresh cuts. The length of time for uniting depends on the kind of plant that is being grafted, and the health The cleft graft is very simple to make. The stock is prepared in the same way as before. A long "V"-shaped notch is cut in the top of the stock and the stem of the scion is then cut on two sides to form a wedge, which is inserted into the split of the stock. The cut surfaces should be perfectly flat to obtain a perfect fit. To keep the scion in place it is necessary to fasten securely and this can be done by using two, long, thin cactus spines. They are thrust into the stock through the scion to the opposite side. To stop the stock from spreading wrap raffia or wool around the graft. Secure it firmly, and treat in the same way as before. Remove the binding on the first signs of new growth.
SIDE GRAFT The side graft is the best for the more slender type cacti, e.g., Zygocactus, Aporocactus. Cut the stock on a slant and remove a thin slice with a razor from the base of the Zygocactus. Then lay the scion on the stock, pin them together and bind.