Close Up Of Cactus Spines
cactus spines
(Image credit: struvictory)

Cacti are popular plants both in the garden as well as indoors. Well-loved for their unusual forms and known for their spiny stems, gardeners can become unnerved when faced with broken cactus spines. Read on to learn what to do, if anything, for a cactus without spines and find out if these spines will regrow.

Do Cactus Spines Grow Back?

Spines on cactus plants are modified leaves. These develop from living spine primordia, then die back to form hard spines. Cacti also have areoles that sit on bases called tubercules. Areoles sometimes have long, nipple-shaped tubercles, on which spines grow.

Spines come in all kinds of shapes and sizes – some are thin and others thick. Some are ridged or flattened and some may be feathery or even twisted. Spines also appear in a range of colors, depending on the cactus variety. The most dreaded and dangerous spine is the glochid, a small, barbed spine commonly found on the prickly pear cactus.

A cactus without spines may have been damaged in the area of these areoles or spine cushions. In other cases, spines are removed from cactus plants on purpose. Of course, accidents happen too and the spines may have been knocked off the plant. Will cactus spines regrow though?

Don’t expect spines to regrow in the same spot, but the plants may grow new spines within the same areoles.

What to Do if Your Cactus Lost its Spines

As spines are an integral part of the cactus plant, it will make every effort to replace damaged stems. Sometimes things happen to the plant that causes broken cactus spines. If you find your cactus lost its spines, don’t look for them to regrow in the same spot. However, you may ask will cactus spines regrow in other spots? The answer is often yes. Spines may grow from other spots in the existing areoles.

As long as there is continued growth overall on a healthy cactus plant, new areoles develop and new spines will grow. Be patient. Some cacti are slow growers and it may take a while for this growth and the production of new areoles.

You may be able to speed growth somewhat by fertilization and locating the cactus in full morning sunlight. Feed with a cactus and succulent fertilizer on a monthly or even on a weekly schedule.

If your cactus is not located in full sun, adjust it gradually to more daily light. The right lighting encourages growth of the plant and may help the new spines to develop.

Becca Badgett

Becca Badgett was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for ten years. Co-author of the book How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden, Becca specializes in succulent and cactus gardening.