CCccrrraaassshhhh - need help w/my totempole cactus

Gilbert, AZ

My beautiful, yes, I'll say it, my BEAUTIFUL totempole cactus crashed down after the rains last week. Usually I go out and cover the ground with tarps after the first day of a rain so that the cactus doesn't draw up too much moisture. I forgot to do that this time...and then the wind started to blow. CRASH!

So far I've just let it lay there thinking that the roots needed time to dry out. I went out today and moved some of the wet dirt away from the roots by hand and with a paint brush and found that ground is still very wet - lots of clay in the soil here. My goal is to prop this baby back up! I know that any broken roots need time to callus over, as do the pieces that broke off, before I can do anything.

It'll break my heart if I lose this guy! Ideas? Suggestions?

Thumbnail by Crista Thumbnail by Crista Thumbnail by Crista Thumbnail by Crista
Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9a)

It's a beauty! I don't have any advice or suggestions. I just hope mine doesn't do that if it gets that size.

Phoenix, AZ

It looks like its in great shape after falling, like he's just taking a nap. Good luck getting him upright :)

Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Crista,

Lifting that plant is going to be very tedious . Each arm being somewhat independant , simply attached at the base of each arm. In order to lift it , you will need to atttempt to lift it as one piece . As can be seen you have what, 15 arms, each being ???? pounds. It appears to be what, 9 to 12 feet tall ? If I were going to attempt that I would wrap the entire plant with 2 inch nylon webbing strap like heavy movers use . Then I would put a HEAVY , THICK sheet of plywood undeneath the whole thing attaching ropes to or underneath the plywood . Then you would need a high point somewhere on the other side of the plant away from the direction it fell to hoist it up . OR you would need some heavy high-lift jacks to lift/tilt it into place .

Not a small job for the average home owner today . Other option would be to hire a professional cactus mover (not cheap) but they would have apropriate cranes, hoists , etc.

Sad to say it , easiest option is to cut plant into various segments, cutting various arms at the bases and rerooting the arms (not terribly difficult) . But much easier, each arm can be lifted independantly . There is a LOT of weight there, not an easy job.

On the upside , create a totem pole forest/grouping . Give away christmas presents in advance (save you lots of money come next december) .

Good luck

Gilbert, AZ

You're right lonediver, this thing is going to be a bugger to get back up. I'm as worried about how to handle the roots without them breaking, and then starting to rot, as I am how to handle the multiple arms and the weight of the thing. You're right, I think I'll try and find a professional cactus mover and see what they say. Argh!

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

What a beauty!!!! So sorry it fell over :(

Tucson, AZ(Zone 9a)

Oh man- what a terrible shame! That's a great specimen. I hope it calluses off and revives. It looks like you now have a couple of cuttings (fallings?) to start.

Payson, AZ(Zone 7a)

So sad, but here is what I would do. Cut off all the arms except the two main ones that are mostly connected to the roots. Put these two arms back into the ground and then wait for the others to scar over and re plant them close to the parent or move them elsewhere. You probably won't be able to tell the difference in a couple of years. Also, I would put some BIG rocks around the base of the parent plant, this will give it some support.
Good luck

Tempe, AZ(Zone 9b)

I'd cut it into sections and plant a forest in the same area. Some pieces might die, but that's okay. Do let us know what you decide.

Gilbert, AZ

After a lot of research and talking to people who know cactus transplants, I think we have a "Plan A": Wrap tow straps around the entire cactus to hold the arms together, then using another tow strap that's hooked to the bumper of our jeep gently pull it up. We've got a frame used on a boat for water skiing to put between the cactus and the jeep as a fulcrum, so we can put a higher angle on the pulling strap than the height of the jeep bumper. I think the mechanics of it will result in an vertical pull rather than a lateral pull to bring the cactus to verticle. Will have a group of strong guys to guide the cactus as it's pulled up, then to hold it in place while we get supports built around it. I'd like to have the support frame built in two halves prior to lifting this thing up so all we'll have to do is hammer the two parts together.

Plan B will be to cut it into sections, but at this point I just can't go there. Will let you know how Plan A works!

Mesa, AZ

Good luck, fingers crossed!

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

Im certainly pulling for you as I know many others on DG are.

Tucson, AZ

oh, no! I hope this beautiful specimen can be saved in its entirety, Crista.

Grand Junction, CO(Zone 6a)

When I saw the pics of the totem pole cactus I could have cried...How is it doing? Were you able to erect it? I can't find any evidence that it would survive outside in zone 6 but would love to have a start to put in a pot and put it out on my patio in the summer if you should have any...please let me know and I will gladly pay for shipping.

Are there anymore zone 6 folks out there???

Gilbert, AZ

Thank you all for your kind words. I decided to wait to pull this feller upright until the spring rains are over and it gets warmer. I'm thinking that if there are root breaks I don't know about it'll reduce the chance of rot if the soil is dry and the heat has started to trigger growth. In the meantime, I try to cover the rootzone every time it rains -- the rain this weekend got ahead of me as it started in the night, but we got the roots covered early in the morning after the rain started. Drier ground will also make the scaffold I'm going to need to erect around it more stable. For now it's napping!

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