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Cacti and Succulents: Need ideas for replanting totem pole cactus

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Crista
Gilbert, AZ

February 7, 2013
10:39 AM

Post #9411194

My totem pole cactus crashed down following our recent rain and wind here in the Phoenix area. I've let it lay now for about a week and have pulled the dirt back from the exposed roots. My biggest concern is trying to prevent any breaks in the roots from rotting...then trying to figure out how I'm going to get the darn thing put back in position.

Do you think I need to dig down to expose more of the larger roots still covered with dirt? I'm a little concerned with what will happen to the roots, and whether they'll break, when we try to push the cactus back up to its original position. This cactus had been established for about 10 years so it had a pretty good root system. The native soil is a clay mix and still pretty wet --- Should I wait to move the cactus up until the soil is dry and the weather is warmer? I'm thinking that I'll need to build some sort of structure for support around the cactus once it's up.

I'd be grateful for any ideas or suggestions on how to handle this.

Thumbnail by Crista   Thumbnail by Crista   Thumbnail by Crista
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cactusloverlady
Menasha, WI

February 7, 2013
5:25 PM

Post #9411551

Hi, I can only suggest what I do for trees when I plant them. I dig a hole twice as big around and deep as the root system and back fill with soil. Then place metal stakes deep in the ground away from the root system so as not to tear any existing roots when you pound them into the ground. I would use at least 4 stakes. Once replanted, use some sort of nonabrasive material to tie to the plant and stakes for support. I have used old pantyhose in the past to tie branches up with. It's a pretty tough material. I'd leave the support stakes for quite some time until the plant is stable on it's own roots again. I'm wondering if rocks placed around the base of the plant would also help keep the soil firmly in place. It would certainly help with any erosion. I would plant as soon as you can and trim any damaged parts you can. Good luck, it looks like a very nice cacti. cll
Crista
Gilbert, AZ

February 7, 2013
8:12 PM

Post #9411701

Cactuslover, thanks for the ideas! Each of the "arms" of this cactus weigh at least 100 pounds, I'm guessing, based on the weight of the pieces that broke off. I plan on building a scaffolding around it once it's up because the root system won't provide the support necessary when our summer monsoon winds come -- they can be up to 65 mph.

GermanStar

GermanStar
Fountain Hills, AZ
(Zone 9b)

February 8, 2013
1:52 PM

Post #9412328

I'm not sure it will even be possible, but I wish you the best. That pic is about enough to make me tear up a little. What a gorgeous cactus!

Xenomorf

Xenomorf
Valley of the Sun, AZ
(Zone 9b)


February 8, 2013
8:04 PM

Post #9412697

The cactus can be re-planted 6 inches deeper than it was without hurting anything. It will add stability.
Crista
Gilbert, AZ

February 9, 2013
8:49 AM

Post #9413032

Xenomorf, good idea to replant it deeper. Do you think I need to wait for the soil to dry out more? Do you think I need to trim/cut off the existing roots to reduce the chance of one breaking that is currently soil-bound? I guess I have an image in my mind of a broken root beginning to rot and then killing the whole plant.

Xenomorf

Xenomorf
Valley of the Sun, AZ
(Zone 9b)


February 9, 2013
6:57 PM

Post #9413613

I would wait until the dirt is not mushy anymore...Maybe a little damp. We used to trim the dead ends off the roots on rescued Barrell Cacti to reduce the amount of rot.
Totem Pole Cacti seem to grow new roots very easily when the weather warms up, which it will be doing in 2 or 3 weeks.

Looks like you have the rarer form of Totem Pole - the "Obesa" form, as opposed to the "Mieckleyanus" form.
http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/showimage/43876/
Actually the "Spiralis" form is the rarest of the three.

GermanStar

GermanStar
Fountain Hills, AZ
(Zone 9b)

February 9, 2013
8:19 PM

Post #9413673

[quote="Xenomorf"]I would wait until the dirt is not mushy anymore...Maybe a little damp. We used to trim the dead ends off the roots on rescued Barrell Cacti to reduce the amount of rot.
Totem Pole Cacti seem to grow new roots very easily when the weather warms up, which it will be doing in 2 or 3 weeks.

Looks like you have the rarer form of Totem Pole - the "Obesa" form, as opposed to the "Mieckleyanus" form.
http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/showimage/43876/
Actually the "Spiralis" form is the rarest of the three.
[/quote]

Serious? I have had a regular 2' Senita in the ground for two years, and still waiting for it to establish...

Xenomorf

Xenomorf
Valley of the Sun, AZ
(Zone 9b)


February 10, 2013
6:56 PM

Post #9414774

GermanStar,
Exactly!
I've noticed that the Non-Monstrosed Pachycereus schottii (Senita) does not root as quickly or easily as the the P. schottii f. monstrose (Totem Pole).
But the prime time is when the weather starts warming up in March & April for both.

This message was edited Feb 10, 2013 7:57 PM
Illig1
Redwood City, CA

February 10, 2013
8:16 PM

Post #9414833

What a gorgeous cactus! You certainly must do whatever is necessary to save it.

Re planting deeper, I always wanted to do that with heavy columnar cactus with small root systems (bought field grown mail order) but was told it would lead to rot. I found this perplexing since rooting cacti often involves burying a portion underground rather than simply laying them flat on the ground.

Zenomorph, You're extremely knowledgeable in these matters. I take it you have experience doing this? I'm very interested to hear since I would like to buy more columnar cacti and burying them lower would greatly aid the stabiization process.

Xenomorf

Xenomorf
Valley of the Sun, AZ
(Zone 9b)


February 11, 2013
5:31 PM

Post #9416018

Illig1,
I have about 9 different Columnar type cacti in the yard, which I planted them 6-9 inches deep. None of them have rotted because of it (or fell over).
I have also potted up at least 50 columnar cuttings and rooted them the same way. The only ones that rotted (about 3) were either not sufficiently calloused on the cut end and/or were planted at the wrong time of the year and/or the dirt remained wet too long.
Your dirt drainage and dry out time must be fairly quick though in order to prevent rot.

I don't know what your rainfall is in Redwood City compared to Phoenix, but I'd imagine you get more rain and cooler temps which *does* factor in.
Illig1
Redwood City, CA

February 12, 2013
8:21 PM

Post #9417270

Thanks for the info, Zeno. Have you planted an already-rooted columnar cactus below the soil line? I'm not sure why that makes a difference but the seller made me think that deeper planting of an already-rooted plant was problematic.

Xenomorf

Xenomorf
Valley of the Sun, AZ
(Zone 9b)


February 13, 2013
7:49 PM

Post #9418394

Yes, I Have.
Crista
Gilbert, AZ

February 15, 2013
11:46 AM

Post #9419989

Okay, getting out to trim the ends of the roots that remain in the soil so that they won't break when we push the cactus back to vertical. Will have to wait for the root ends to callus so it's nice that we still have some cool weather. From what I've read the biggest danger from rot is not the depth that the cactus is planted but ensuring that no "raw" roots are underground.

Our plan is to wrap tow straps around the entire cactus to hold the arms together, then using a 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, so we can put a higher angle on the pulling strap than the height of the jeep bumper, so I think the mechanics of it will result in an vertical pull rather than a lateral pull. 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.

We're well over a week away before we do this.

GermanStar

GermanStar
Fountain Hills, AZ
(Zone 9b)

February 15, 2013
1:19 PM

Post #9420078

That sounds like a good plan. Be prepared with either some versatile makeshift brace material and/or some manner of solid support structure before you start, and please keep us informed. Fingers crossed!
cactusloverlady
Menasha, WI

February 16, 2013
11:26 PM

Post #9421543

Tons of good luck to you. Such a beautiful plant is worth any effort. cll
Crista
Gilbert, AZ

February 18, 2013
6:07 PM

Post #9423683

I'm thinking that I (translate DH!) will be able to build a 2x4 frame in halves so that once we've got the cactus up we can bring the frame around it and nail it together. It ain't gonna be pretty, but it'll hold it firmly. Oh, the HOA is gonna love me! Will keep you posted.

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