The good luck cactus, or African milk tree, is a great and easy-to-care-for plant. What’s even better is that it’s easier to propagate! There are some things to keep in mind, however, for both your health and the health of your plant.
Good luck cacti can be propagated by 1) cutting the stem, 2) letting the cuttings callous, 3) planting the cuttings, and 4) providing aftercare. For successful propagation, avoid 1) small cuttings, 2) unhealthy plants, 3) low light, and 4) excessive watering.
One might think propagating good luck cacti is no different than propagating cacti in general. But what if I told you this plant wasn’t a cactus and produced a toxic milky sap as a defense mechanism? Find out more by scrolling on!
Good luck cacti bleed toxic milky latex when cut, so it is crucial to wear gloves and eye goggles when propagating them. Cut the stem using shears or a sharp knife. Each cutting should be no smaller than 4 inches.
Since it has no offsets and rarely blooms flowers to generate seeds, stem cuttings are the way to go when propagating the good luck cactus (Euphorbia trigona). With a clean pair of shears, cut off the stem that you would like to plant.
Be sure to wear gloves and eye protection during this process. Euphorbia plants produce a toxic and irritating milky sap that can cause severe pain, irritation, and even blindness.
The thorns on the stem can make it difficult to propagate as well, so gloves truly are a must!
Euphobia plants are triangular, having 3 sides. As such, it might be easier to cut them with a sharp knife. But be sure to clean all the tools you used afterward.
Pro Tip: Set the good luck cacti cuttings in cool water to ensure they don’t bleed sap all over your workplace.
Ideally, the cuttings should be at least 4 inches or more. The bigger the cutting, the more likely it is to produce new growth.
Good luck cacti tend to grow quite rapidly throughout the year. However, I recommend propagating them during their most prolific growing seasons: spring and summer.
To minimize the chances of rot when propagating good luck cacti, cuttings should be allowed to be callous for 5–7 days before planting.
Now, people often plant their cuttings immediately after cutting. You can certainly do this too.
As a result, many people view this as an optional step. Personally, I recommend doing this for higher chances of successful propagation, especially in certain cases.
For instance, if you tend to overwater or don’t have access to a well-drained potting mix, it’s best to let the cuttings dry first.
Cuttings are freshly wounded. So they are less likely to suffer from excessive moisture and rot if you let them callous over first.
Set the cuttings in a bright place with good ventilation and let it callous over for at least a week. This is the easiest step and all you have to do is continue with your daily life for a while!
With their bottom ends facing down, plant the good luck cacti cuttings an inch into well-draining soil to propagate. The cuttings can be covered with cinnamon powder or rooting hormone underneath before planting.
Once you gather your cuttings, they’re ready to be planted!
First, prepare the potting mix and the planter. Good luck cacti, or African milk trees, have shallow roots and can be grown in 4-inch deep containers. Feel free to use bigger pots for larger cuttings.
When it comes to planting, it’s important to place the cut bottom end of the cutting into the soil.
The ends can also be covered with rooting hormone to help give it a boost. Cinnamon powder is a great choice if your cuttings aren’t calloused and acts as a fungicide.
Be sure to cover at least an inch of the bottom end with soil and lightly press the soil down to help the cuttings stay in place.
Grow the good luck cuttings at 50-79°F and water them weekly for successful propagation. Give them bright indirect light to encourage faster growth.
Fun fact: The name good luck cacti is a misnomer. It may look like a cactus, but this plant is actually a succulent.
What's the difference between Cacti vs Succulents? (The 4 Differences).
Because of this, they often require more water to produce roots. If the cuttings are calloused, you can water them immediately after planting.
Otherwise, these cuttings can be watered every 7 days and left in bright indirect light.
Grow them in temperatures above 50°F but below 79°F. After all that, all you’ll have to do is wait! It doesn’t require much maintenance and it’s easy to care for.
Keep it away from any pets or children, as it is root-less and very easy to dislodge from the soil.
Check out the 16 Low-Maintenance Cacti.
Successful propagations can be identified once the good luck cactus has grown new stems and roots after a month. But if there is little to no growth and the bottom has rotted, the cuttings have failed to propagate.
You can tell the propagation is doing well once it produces new growth and stays firmly in the soil. This is called anchoring, a good sign that your good luck cactus has grown roots!
Normally, you can spot this new growth after 4 or 6 weeks. New leaves or stems should start to form on the sides. After just a few months, you’ll have an entirely new good luck cactus!
However, if you’re seeing little to no growth or the cuttings still wiggle freely in the soil, this could indicate it hasn’t propagated.
Check the bottom of the stem to see if it has rotted or developed any roots. The roots should be firm and tan rather than black and mushy.
When it comes to failed propagation, sometimes, it’s not your fault. Some cuttings don’t grow at all!
For more on propagating plants, check out How to Propagate Monstera!
But what if a mistake was made during the propagation? Continue reading to find out what mistakes to avoid!
The 4 most common good luck cacti propagation mistakes include the 1) use of small cuttings, 2) unhealthy plants, 3) lack of light, and 4) excessive watering.
Thorns or toxic milky sap aside, Euphorbia trigona is pretty easy to propagate. Failed propagations don’t happen often. When they do fail, sometimes it’s not your fault. However, there are some factors you have control over which can prevent failure!.
Good luck cacti cuttings less than 2 inches are unlikely to propagate successfully. For the most success, propagate multiple large cuttings at once.
It isn’t impossible for a small cutting to propagate successfully, but it is much more difficult to do.
Cuttings that are less than 2 inches may not even take off at all. To recover from its wounds, the African milk tree will produce new stems and leaves near the cut end.
By using larger cuttings, the plant will have a larger surface area and more energy to develop growth.
Additionally, unless it’s a life and death scenario, it’s best to leave your small good luck cacti alone and only propagate them once they’re over 6 inches high.
To increase your overall success, try to propagate at least 3 cuttings that are at least 4 inches.
Good luck cacti that are dehydrated or dying have lower chances of propagating. It is crucial to propagate only the healthiest stems, as these are more likely to survive.
It’s no surprise that a healthy plant will have a better chance of growing rather than a sickly one.
A dehydrated or pest-ridden African milk tree will be much harder to propagate. Try to save what you can, but keep in mind that these cuttings might not survive.
Once you’re done cutting away any rotting or unhealthy stems, use the healthiest part of the plant to propagate. In this case, I’d highly suggest letting it callous over to give it a leg up.
Propagating good luck cacti in bright and filtered light will encourage strong and healthy development. Success rates are lower when cuttings are deprived of light.
Lighting is an important consideration in propagating good luck cacti.
It can tolerate different lighting but ideally, it’s best kept in a brightly lit area. Without enough light to photosynthesize, it will be much harder for the plant to grow.
Honestly, this is true for all plants. However, it’s even harder for your African milk tree cuttings to cope with this since they don’t even have established roots!
Over time, this lack of light could lead to its death if not addressed promptly. So if your propagation is facing slow or stunted growth, increase the amount of light it receives.
Keep it in front of an east-facing window with sheer curtains for the most success.
Euphorbia trigona, or good luck cactus, is a succulent and can easily be killed by overwatering. Wait for the soil to completely dry before watering again to ensure successful propagation.
Worried plant owners might feel better when they water their good luck cacti cuttings daily. Doing this, unfortunately, is the easiest way to stop them from propagating.
This might sound counterintuitive. But remember, this plant is not a cactus. Euphorbia trigona is actually a succulent.
While it may need more water than drought-tolerant cacti, this does not mean good luck cacti can be watered daily. This can cause it to become soft, mushy, and unable to grow.
How often you’ll need to water your cuttings depends on the soil and where you live. Ideally, it’s best to let its potting medium completely dry out before watering.
How tall do good luck cacti grow?
In the wild, good luck cacti can grow over 10 feet tall. Indoor Euphorbia trigona can reach similar heights. However, the plant must be kept in a heavy pot to keep it stable. Without proper support, the plant can topple over and have its stems snap.
Can you propagate a good luck cactus without leaves?
The good luck cactus does not need leaves to photosynthesize and is still perfectly healthy without them. In some cases, however, it may be ideal to propagate it with leaves. With more foliage, a cutting is more likely to absorb sunlight and form new growth.
Can a rotting good luck cactus be propagated?
Rotting good luck cacti can still be propagated. Sometimes, it might be necessary to propagate it and start anew if the plant is badly damaged. Cut away the rot and propagate the healthy stems.
Good luck cacti are propagated through stem cuttings. This can be done by cutting the stem, letting the stem cuttings callous, planting the cuttings in well-drained soil, and providing aftercare. The milky sap of this plant is toxic, so gloves and eye protection are necessary.
Successful propagation of good luck cactus cuttings can be identified by their consistent growth after a month. The plants will be healthy and have developed roots. An unsuccessful propagation, however, will lead to cuttings having no roots and little-to-no growth.
Beginner home gardeners commonly make mistakes in propagating good luck cacti such as using small cuttings, propagating unhealthy plants, growing them in low light, and watering them excessively.