Why is my Cactus growing small cactus on its side

“Why is my cactus growing small cactus on its side” – the question that might have piqued your curiosity as you observe your cactus sprouting tiny companions from its sides. This fascinating occurrence is a testament to the adaptability of these remarkable desert plants.

In the following discussion, we will explore the reasons behind this unique cactus behavior and what it means for your plant.

The branches coming from your cactus plant are called “arms” or “pads.” Cacti are known for their distinctive thick, fleshy stems that store water, and their spines, which protect them from herbivores and help them conserve water in their arid habitats.

Also Read: Why is my Cactus Bleeding?

Some cacti, such as the saguaro cactus, can grow many branches, or arms, out of their main stem as they mature. These arms can be used for photosynthesis, or for storing water.

The small cacti on its side are actually clones. Cacti often reproduce asexually putting out these growths, when they are well-nourished and well-lit.

Cacti are a diverse group of plants belonging to the family Cactaceae, and they are native to the Americas, primarily in desert and arid regions.

Reasons why your cactus may be growing a small cactus on its side:

Growth Patterns

Cacti exhibit various growth patterns when it comes to branching. Some cacti, like the saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), develop multiple arms that grow upward from the main stem.

Other cacti, such as the prickly pear (Opuntia species), produce flat, paddle-shaped pads that emerge from the stem, giving them a branching appearance.

Some cacti, like the barrel cactus (Echinocactus and Ferocactus species), may have a single columnar stem without any visible branches.


Cactus branches typically originate from specialized structures called areoles. Areoles are small, cushion-like areas on the cactus stem from which spines, flowers, and new branches emerge. They can vary in size, shape, and color depending on the cactus species.


Cactus branches serve various functions. They can provide additional surface area for photosynthesis, allowing the plant to produce more energy from sunlight.

Additionally, branches can store water, which is crucial for survival in arid environments. The fleshy stems of cacti are capable of storing large amounts of water to sustain the plant during dry periods.

Growth Rate

The growth rate and development of branches in cacti can vary greatly depending on the species, environmental conditions, and age of the plant. Some cacti may grow multiple branches relatively quickly, while others may take years to develop noticeable branching.

Pruning and Propagation

If you wish to control or shape the growth of your cactus, you can prune the branches. Pruning can be done by carefully removing sections of the stem or by cutting off entire branches.

Cacti can also be propagated from cuttings, where a section of the stem is removed and allowed to callus before being planted in suitable growing conditions.

What can you do with the new Cactus growing on the side?

You have several options for what to do with the new cactus growth on the side of your existing cactus:


You can choose to propagate these offsets to create new cactus plants. Here’s how:

  • Allow the offsets to grow until they are large enough (typically a few inches tall).
  • Carefully separate them from the parent plant by cutting or twisting them off.
  • Allow the cut ends to callus for a few days to prevent rotting.
  • Re-pot the offsets in individual containers with well-draining cactus soil.
  • Provide the newly potted cacti with appropriate care, including light, temperature, and watering.

Leave Them as it is

If you like the way the offsets look and want to maintain the appearance of a cluster or clump of cacti, you can simply leave them attached to the parent plant. Over time, they will continue to grow and form a dense grouping.

Gift or Share

You can give the separated offsets to friends or family who are interested in growing their own cacti. Many people appreciate receiving cactus pups as gifts.

Sell or Trade

If you have multiple offsets, you can consider selling them or trading them with other cactus enthusiasts. There is a market for unique cactus varieties and healthy plants.

Plant Them in Your Garden

If you live in an area with a suitable climate, you can plant the cactus offsets in your garden or landscape. Be sure the climate and soil conditions are appropriate for cacti.

Start a Collection

If you have different cactus species or varieties, collecting and growing cactus offsets can be a rewarding hobby. It allows you to explore various types of cacti and create a diverse cactus garden.

Remember that cacti are generally slow-growing plants, so patience is essential when dealing with offsets. Carefully consider your goals and the space you have available when deciding what to do with the new cactus growth.


In conclusion, the sight of small cacti growing on the side of your established cactus is a testament to your successful care and nurturing of these resilient plants.

Whether you choose to leave them as part of a unique cluster, propagate them to expand your cactus collection, or share them with others, these offsets represent the fascinating life cycle of cacti and their ability to adapt and reproduce in various conditions. Embrace this natural phenomenon and enjoy the beauty it adds to your cactus garden or indoor space, knowing that your green thumb has fostered the growth of these remarkable desert plants.