I have some small cactus (one year old) and they are have been producing a lot of new pads. If I remove the branching pads, the main stem will have more energy to develop itself (my main focus is to have a single, big stem), right? Plus, I can start doing propagation with the pads.

Is there some kind of negative effect from removing the pads? Some species (like the example bellow) don't seem to grow very tall, and removing the branches seems to be the only way of having a big plant.

Example Catus pads

  • 4
    The branching pattern is natural and healthy. Do you really want a single stem? You would eventually have to support it.
    – J. Musser
    Dec 29, 2016 at 18:54
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    I agree with the previous comment, this type of plant is much more attractive if left to grow naturally. Choose a different variety that gets taller, like Aeonium, Trichocereus peruvianus (also known as Cereus peruvianus) or Twisted Cereus
    – Bamboo
    Dec 29, 2016 at 19:53
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    Hmm Ok, Thansk for the comments! I think I first need to transpant my cactus, I Just did it to one now and there's a lot of roots, then I will look for similar cactus described by @Bamboo Dec 29, 2016 at 21:57
  • I should just say that Aeonium is a succulent, not a cactus, but there is a green and a purple leaved version - Aeonium arboreum 'zwartkop', needs sun to colour up properly, quite a striking plant - the other two mentioned are cactii..
    – Bamboo
    Dec 29, 2016 at 22:09

2 Answers 2


Pruning can be healthy for your cactus, if done right. Removing pads that are growing too close to each other helps to prevent overcrowding and gives the rest of the cactus more energy to grow. This type of pruning is recommended as most cacti (with pads) grow somewhat 'thicker' in gardens and optimal growing conditions make overcrowding of pads a common issue.

Pruning to style your cactus — while not necessary — can be fun and give you some good looking results. However, you have to keep in mind that the shape and size of a cactus has some natural per specie limitations. You could get a cactus to grow taller by removing lower pads but depending on the species it might not look — or be — healthy as a tall plant. As a rule of thumb; if it does not have a 'trunk' (only pads growing on top of each other) then it will be fragile when forced to grow taller then it naturally does.

If you are intent on growing it as a tall cactus, try keeping the weight at the bottom of the plant. Keep the bottom pads bigger than the weight they have to carry, this way it doesn't become top heavy. Example:


No, there should not be any negative effects from removing pads as long as you use a clean pruner.

Yes, the pads can be propagated (used to start new cactus plants), and this can be useful as you then have some cacti to 'experiment' on.


It depends. You don't say what specific species of plant you have, I'm assuming it's not the one pictured. Opuntioids have different growth habits from large, single stemmed, many branched plants to recumbent chains of tiny pads, and everything in between.

I can guarantee that the plant pictured will get to 4 feet tall at most. Any taller and they will eventually topple over. That plant (Opuntia microdasys) is very common in the Phoenix, AZ area planted as an ornamental.

One Opuntia that will make tall plants is Opuntia ficus-indica. There are others, they just aren't really common.

All that said, save a pad or two and root them, then prune the original plant to your hearts delight.

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