How to Propagate and Care for Paper Spine Cactus

The Paper Spine Cactus (Tephrocactus Articulatus var. Papyracanthus) is a unique plant that is quite hardy and easy to care for and propagate, as long as you understand the type of care that most Cacti require. While Paper Spine Cacti have a distinct and unique appearance, their care requirements and propagation closely resemble the Opuntia Cactus.

Paper Spine Cactus can be propagated through leaf cuttings placed in soil and will thrive in warm, sunny, and dry conditions as long as you are mindful not to overwater them. 

If you give your Paper Spine Cactus the conditions it needs to thrive, you will have a very hardy Cactus that produces many pups or segments you can propagate to share with others. 

Tephrocactus Articulatus

Tephrocactus Articulatus var. Papyracanthus is affectionately known as the Paper Spine Cactus due to the thin spines on the Cactus that resemble paper or cardboard. Paper Spine Cactus are related to the popular Opuntioideae, “Opuntia” family, so their care needs and propagation methods are very similar to Opuntia Cacti. 

How To Propagate Tephrocactus Articulatus?

In the wild, Paper Spine Cactus will propagate when segments of the Cactus will fall off or blow away with the wind, and they will naturally produce roots in the earth. Pieces of the Cactus may also stick to animals and fall to the ground. This makes Paper Spine Cacti relatively easy to propagate, although it may seem very daunting. 

Which Part of the Cactus Can Be Propagated?

For best results, you should propagate a segment of the Cactus that may likely fall off the plant naturally. This means you will probably have to wait until your Paper Spine Cactus is mature to propagate it successfully. Paper Spine Cacti are very easy to propagate once you have a healthy segment to remove. 

Step 1: Materials

Start with the materials needed to propagate your Paper Spine Cactus, including:

  • Thick gardening gloves to protect your hands
  • A pair of sterile pruning shears, scissors, or a knife
  • A new, shallow pot with drainage filled with cactus soil for your cutting

Step 2: Take Your Cutting

Prune or gently break off a piece of your Paper Spine Cactus. If you are attempting to break a portion of your Cactus, take care not to damage the mother plant. In this case, pruning will give you more control, but if you do not have any materials to prune, you should be able to break that segment of the Cactus free. Leave your new cutting for 1-2 days to allow the wound to callus. 

Step 3: Root Development

Place your new cutting upright with the “wound” touching the soil. You may need to lean it against an object for support. Place your cutting in a sunny location where it will receive warm, dry temperatures, and no other care is required. Your Paper Spine Cactus cutting will form roots. 

How Long Does a Cactus Cutting Take to Root?

propagating cactus
Paper Spine Cactus cuttings should start to form roots within six weeks to a few months. It may begin to develop roots as early as one week, but in most cases, it will take a couple of weeks for roots to form.

For this reason, it’s best to propagate your Paper Spine Cactus in the spring or early summer months to give it plenty of time to develop roots before the growing season ends.

Can You Propagate Cactus in Water?

While it isn’t impossible to propagate a Paper Spine Cactus in water successfully, it can be tricky because Cacti are very susceptible to rot.

When it comes to all propagation methods, the goal is to get roots to form before the plant begins to rot, and propagating in water increases the risk of rot. However, since Paper Spine Cacti have no trouble growing roots in the soil in nature, that is the method of propagation that is most likely to succeed.  

Should I Remove Cactus Pups?

Sometimes the segments of Paper Spine Cacti are referred to as pups, as they are new growth on the Cactus that could result in a new plant. Removing pups or segments from your Paper Spine Cactus is unnecessary unless you notice that the growth is inconsistent and your Cactus is at risk of tipping over. 

You can easily solve this by ensuring that the amount of light your Paper Spine Cactus receives is distributed evenly, preferably from a source from the top of the plant, as they would in nature. To salvage the plant, you may also want to remove the pups or segments to propagate new plants if the mother Cactus suffers from root or stem rot.

Otherwise, you can remove the pups only if you’d like to produce new plants from the cutting. 

Paper Spine Cactus Care

Paper Spine Cactus grow naturally in warm, dry, desert-like conditions, so these are the conditions that you will want to replicate for a healthy and happy Paper Spine Cactus. Paper Spine Cacti will grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) tall and produce many pups (also called segments, paddles, or leaves) that you can propagate when given the optimal growing conditions. 


Make sure that you are giving your Paper Spine plenty of sunlight. A south-facing window is ideal if kept indoors, and when introduced gradually, your Paper Spine Cactus can live outdoors during the summer, depending on your climate. 

On the other hand, your Paper Spine Cactus may do quite well in a west-facing window as long as you monitor it for overwatering. How much you water your Paper Spine Cactus will directly depend on the amount of light they receive. 


Paper Spine Cacti, like other different Cactus varieties, will store water in their plump, succulent foliage. This means that they do not need a surplus of water to thrive. Therefore, at a minimum, the soil should completely dry out before watering your Paper Spine Cactus. 

However, you should try to wait a little longer to reduce the risk of overwatering and rot. During the winter, when the light is less intense and days much shorter, most people will refrain from watering their Paper Spine Cactus altogether to allow it to be dormant. 

Soil and Pot

Paper Spine Cactus will need a well-draining soil mixture and a pot with sufficient drainage holes. Cacti generally appreciate an unglazed clay or terracotta pot because it will leech excess water from the soil.

When it comes to soil, a Cactus blend is preferred, with plenty of perlite, pumice, bark, and gravel to prevent the roots from sitting in a dense potting soil mix, which can lead to root rot. 

Paper Spine Cactus Problems

Rot and Root Rot

Root rot plant
The biggest problem that you may encounter when it comes to your Paper Spine Cactus is rot due to overwatering. This can range from root rot when the roots turn brown and start to rot, or the Cactus itself may rot from excess water. 

Make sure you are not watering your Paper Spine Cactus too frequently, and water in proportion to the amount of light it receives. Less light means your Cactus will need less water. Don’t let water pool on the foliage, as this can cause the foliage to rot, which will leave it vulnerable to fungal or bacterial problems. 


Paper Spine Cactus is a plant that doesn’t attract too many pests. However, while it isn’t typically prone to pest problems, you may find mealybugs on your Cactus.

To treat mealybugs, you can use rubbing alcohol or neem oil. You may have to treat your Paper Spine Cactus several times for a month to ensure that the treatment has eliminated the mealybugs and while treating your plant, make sure you isolate it from other plants. 


While the Paper Spine Cactus has a very unique and distinctive appearance that may lead you to believe it would be difficult to care for and propagate, the truth is that it can be pretty easy to care for. 

Paper Spine Cactus can be propagated through leaf cuttings placed in soil and will thrive in warm, sunny, and dry conditions with very few problems as long as you are mindful not to overwater them. Use sterile tools and thick gloves when removing your cutting and allow it to develop a callus for a few days before placing into soil.

When given bright sunlight, mostly dry conditions, and well-draining soil, this Cacti will flourish and produce many segments you can propagate to create more plants.