Method of reproduction: How to Grow and Care for Saguaro Cactus

saguaro reproduction

There are two ways to reproduce the saguaro cactus: sexually and asexually. Though these two are the main categories, asexual reproduction can be divided into many categories. The saguaro cactus is a rare plant and can live almost 200 years.

What Is the Saguaro Cactus & its Reproduction?

The Saguaro Cactus is a unique and beautiful tree in the world. The plant’s age reaches 150-200 years, its height is 15 m, and its diameter is up to 1 m. It is one of the largest cacti, columnar cacti, and has a long lifespan. The saguaro can reproduce by sending out roots either from the top or from the bottom. A matured cactus usually weighs six tons or more when filled with water and requisites a strong internal support skeleton of a connected rib.

Sexual reproduction, on the other hand, is a process that involves pollination and fertilization. The flowers are pollinated by bees or insects in order to produce seeds. 

In addition, the great number of reproduction in the saguaro cactus usually occurred through seeds.

How Many Ways does Saguaro Reproduce? 

The saguaro cactus species reproduces in two ways – vegetatively (asexually) and sexually. This asexual reproduction can be done in ways like:

(a) Cuttings. 
(b) Seedlings.
(c) Suckers.
(d) Offsets.

Inversely, sexual reproduction occurs by flowering,  pollinating, self-fertilizing, and seedlings.

  Do Saguaro Cactus Reproduce Sexually or Asexually?

Though saguaro cacti reproduce both ways, the final number of saguaro cactus is low. Because it grows very slowly and the first blooming time is in three decades.

Lucero Rodríguez-Rodríguez from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley said that Saguaros reproduce through cross-pollination with other saguaros; however, they are not able to reproduce until they are 30 to 45 years of age.

How does Sexual Reproduction Happen in the Saguaro Cactus?

natural pollination & self- pollination

Like other normal plants, the saguaro cactus also spreads its number through flower pollinations, pollen, or sperm reaching female eggs. For that pollination, saguaro flowers rely on natural wind methods, and on birds and insects.

In this section, I am sharing all types of the sexual reproduction processes of the saguaro cactus.

# Pollination

  1. A nurse tree is necessary for a  saguaro cactus to grow.
  2. On the saguaro cactus, the white flowers bloom from late April through June.
  3. These flowers are pollinated at night because they are open at night only.
  4. Bats, birds, doves, quails, and cactus wren are the main pollinators of saguaro.
  5. Saguaro cactus flowers attract a large number of bees. 
  6. Very tasty cactus honey, causing a state of euphoria. 

White-winged doves are especially important pollinators of saguaro flowers whereas hummingbirds are important pollinators of organ pipe flowers. As a result, these Sonoran Desert columnar cacti have more generalized pollination systems involving both nocturnal and diurnal vertebrates and insects than their relatives farther south in Mexico and Venezuela, many of which rely exclusively on bats for pollination.

Pollination Biology of Sonoran Desert Succulents and Their Pollinators: Evolution and Co-evolution at a Biogeographic Boundary

# Self-pollination

The saguaro flowers can be pollinated by strangers or by self-pollination. Self-pollination can be done by wind thrust or by a paintbrush. Swipe the brush onto flowers stems. The next part for fertilization is on nature’s hand. Wait and let it be.

# Number of Seed  Produce from Sexual Reproduction

After the age of 30, it started to flower.  Hundreds and thousands of millions of seeds are produced during a saguaro’s lifetime. Besides, it produces 3,000 anthers per flower, each anther must hold a lot of pollen.  40 million seeds that it will produce in its lifetime

The Saguaro cactus is propagated mainly by seeds. But the saguaro rarely blooms indoors.

# Best Time to Sexual Reproduction

Different cacti have different blooming times over the year. The springtime, April to June, is the best time for the saguaro cactus to start flowering and by nature, fruits are available in summer.

Early spring is the pollination period of the saguaro cactus

How Many Ways Does Asexual Reproduction Happen in the Saguaro?

There are several ways that an organism can reproduce without the need for sexual reproduction. One way is through vegetative (asexual) growth

Saguaro Asexual reproduction can be divided into four different types: 

  1. Suckers.
  2. Propagating Cactus Offsets.
  3. Cactus Cuttings.
  4. Seedlings.

# Reproduce Saguaro Cactus by Suckers

The sucker is a non-sexual method of saguaro cactus reproduction. The roots come out from the bottom of the plant, which very much resembles the mother plant. Proper environment and care are enough to grow suckers. 

# How to Propagate Saguaro Cactus Offsets

A cactus offset is the part of the plant that grows above ground. It can be either a stem or a branch. The offset can be used to propagate the plant by cutting it into pieces and planting them in soil.

Saguaro can be propagated from its offsets.

Propagating a Saguaro Cactus Offset:

1) Cut the offshoots from your original saguaro cacti and plant them in your pre-selected place or pot.

3) Wash off any dirt and debris before placing it in a pot.

4) Fill the bottom of your pot with peat moss or sand.

5) Spread some water on the offsets until it is just below the top of its roots.

 There is no fixed number of how many times a cactus may produce offsets in its lifespan. It may produce more than one at once.

# How to Separate Cactus Offsets

  1. Use a sharp sterilized knife to cut offshoots. Just cut and remove it from the mother plant.
  2. Next job is letting the babies heal its wound. Protect it from too much humidity and too direct sunlight.
  3. After 2 to 3 weeks later, offset will be cured. Now safely pant it in your pre-prepared soil mix.
  4. Don’t forget to make soil substrate to be wel-drained so that the babies’ roots can’t be rotted.
  5. Continue watering until the baby gets matured.

 Spring and summer are the optimum time for offsets planting.

# How to Reproduce Saguaro Cacti by Cuttings

Propagating by stem cuttings is probably the most common and easiest route. Cuttings are collected from the mother plant. And let the cuttings dry and callous.

  1. Let dry out saguaro cutting and spread cinnamon powder on the cuttings.
  2. Leave it for 5 days in a dark place, don’t keep it in a moisturized place.
  3. Within the healed period it will be prepared to be potted. Plant the healed cuttings with the callous facing down.                                                                          
  4. Wait for a few days. It will start to grow roots. 
  5. Now transfer it to a new pot. Prepare your soil and repot it.
  6. Sprinkle some water on the substrate and soil. Make sure that the soil is loose enough so that water doesn’t log at the bottom.

Ideally, the great time saguaro cactus cuttings, after the cactus dormancy period is finished, is in the spring and before the summer.

# Propagating from Seeds

Saguaro propagation from seeds is a lengthy process because it starts from the very beginning.

By the way, you don’t need any legal permission to collect saguaro seeds as stated on the Tuscon website.

1. Collect the saguaro fruit, detach the flesh from seeds. Wash out your seeds into water.

2. Dry the black seeds under the sunlight. Store them at room temperature.

3. Prepare your soil with sand, peat moss, and perlite. The pot should be small in size like 2 inches by 4 inches.

4. Make some small holes in your soil  (about 1/8 inch deep into the soil) and bury the seeds into the holes.

5. Splash some water on the top of the soil, make sure water doesn’t log.

6. Germination will happen on its own within a few days.

“If seeds sitting in pots for 15 days and haven’t germinated yet, do something differently,”

7. Baby cactus should be kept in a seedling pot for at least 2 years. And, then replant it to the ground.

How to Increase Your Success Rate with the Saguaro Cactus Method of Reproduction 

  1. You should use a mixture of seeds and cuttings in order to increase the chances of survival.
  2. Cacti adapted their leaves over time to become areoles. These spines help the plant grow and survive.

How Can I Make My Saguaro Cactus Grow Faster?

Some common criteria make your saguaro cactus grow faster.

  1. Provide your saguaro with bright and direct sunlight.
  2. Plant your saguaro cactus facing south-oriented.
  3. If your saguaro is in a pot, then rotate it after a few days so that it grows evenly.

What Kind of Soil Does a Saguaro Cactus Need?

Like other desert cacti,  saguaro cactus need well-drained , loosy soil mix.. Soil mix can be made with coarse sand, grit, peat, perlite, coco peat (small amount), brick concrete, and quartz stone.

  • Granular sand- ⅓ of total soil
  • Quartz stone- ⅓ of mixture
  • Peat or perlite – half of rest ⅓ of mix
  • Coarse Bricks
Soil natureloamy
Soil PH levelNeutral
Soil temperature55 to 65 degrees F
Soil MoistureLoose, well-drained

Where Do Saguaro Cactus Grow?

  1. Some level of elevation (4000 feet)  determines whether the saguaro cactus will grow or not.
  2. The freezing point is another consideration of where Saguaro cactus grow.
  3. But, the south slopes are an ideal place for its survival.

Propagation of the Saguaro Cactus from the Arms 

Collect the saguaro cactus arms and plant them in your suitable place. 

  • For the first arm to branch out, it takes 75 years. So your collected branch must be thick, big, and matured.
  • One matured saguaro arm can produce 6 to 10  brand new roots from the arms.
  • The arms demand more water than the mother cacti. So, provide more water, and don’t forget to make your soil well-drained.
  • Pour water on the soil surface more often.

How Many Times Does a Cactus Reproduce in a Lifetime?

Not specific,  how many but a number reproduction occurs in a healthy saguaro’s life.

It could be 40 million in a lifespan, like flowering, offsets, pups/suckers, buds, and seeds. But, the right weather conditions are a very prime factor for a saguaro to optimum level reproduction.

How to Care for Saguaro Cactus Indoors?

  1. Though saguaro is a desert plant, it can be planted at home. Just need the right environment and knowledge of how to care.
  2. Place your saguaro cactus facing towards the south because it needs a bulk amount of light.
  3. In addition, it needs hot temperatures and humidity , and never like a freezing zone. Make sure that temperature does not drop below 60 °F.
  4. Don’t over judge that as saguaro is a desert cactus it would not need any water. Again, don’t pour too much water on it.
  5. Use your common sense. Does it need water or not? Should I wait a few more days for watering? Check the moisture level in the substrate. Test the soil 4 inches deep with your fingers.
  6. Without watering or not getting water properly, they can survive in the desert. If it gets proper nurturing and watering, they must gift you flowers, fruits, and big plants indeed.
  7. Fertilize it before the blooming and fruiting period. Its flowering time is in spring and followed by fruit in summer.
  8. Don’t need any water or fertilizer in the winter dormant season.
  9. In winter, move the plant to a cool place. The cactus can easily tolerate temperatures up to 7 degrees.

Note: Fill a large planter (2 by 4 inches)  about three-quarters (¾) full with a mixture of cactus and peat soil if the plant starts inside.  The peat moss will help the soil retain nutrients without hampering proper drainage.


Saguaro cactus is a rare and royal plant. It can tolerate extreme weather conditions, drought, and heat. It is a symbol of painstaking and longevity. For indoor reproduction, you need to take care of it some extra until it grown-up.

Anwar Hossain

My name is Anwar Hossain. I am a cactus lover, researcher, and cactus blogger.

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