Raising Cacti & Succulents from Seed
One of the great benefits of growing cacti and succulents from seed is the large availability of different species and the relatively low costs of seeds compared to plants. Personally I get the most pleasure from raising my own cacti and succulents. Germinating cacti and succulents from seed gives you the opportunity to see your plant grow from seedling to full grown flowering plant.
I offer a nice selection of cactus seeds, succulent seeds and seeds of other exotics.
There are many ways of germinating cactus and succulent seeds that have been proven successful. Here I will describe a method that I have found successful for most species. The process of germinating cactus and succulent seeds will be explained using a step by step protocol. First I will present a list of essential equipment and other things needed for sowing seeds. For the Lophophora and San Pedro lovers I offer a complete Seed Germination Kit to easily grow your cacti from seed.
Seed Sowing Preparations
- Step 1: Filling the sowing containers with the soil
- Step 2: Sowing the seeds
- Step 3: Germination of the seeds
- Step 4: Transplanting the seedlings
- Germinating soil mix (riversand / fine regular potting soil / 1-3 mm grit (1:1:1))
- 1-3 mm grit
- seed tray and transparent top (a plastic bag or lid)
- germination room or greenhouse with indirect bright light or artificial light where an approximate temperature of 25 °C can be maintained (20 °C at night)
- plastic plant containers with drainage holes
- small transparent plastic (sandwich) bags
- water sprayer
- watertight container
- watering can
- plant labels
- watertight marker
Seed Germination Preparations:
Prepare the germination soil mix by mixing riversand with regular potting soil and 1-3 mm grit (1:1:1). Make sure that your sowing medium is very loose and airy. I usually take a fist full of the mix I just made and make a fist with it. When you open your hand the mix must loosely fall apart. If it sticks together like a ball then the medium is to tight and you should add some grit to loosen it up.
If you want you can sterilize the sowing medium for 2 hours in a high pressure cooking pot or use a microwave and sterilize for 15 minutes at 180-200 °C. You also have to sterilize some 1-3 mm grit to put on top of the sowing medium. Grit can be sterilized in the same manner as the sowing medium or it can be boiled for 10-15 minutes in a cooking pot filled with water. After sterilization keep the cooking pots closed and let the medium and grit cool down overnight.
Clean the containers with hot water.
Step 1: Filling the containers with the germinating mix
Prepare and clean a table for the sowing and keep ready all the equipment you will be needing. Use 1 container per species of cactus. Fill the plastic containers for 50% with sowing medium and slightly press it down. Now fill the container with sowing medium up to approximately 1 cm under the edge of the container. Add 0,5 mm of (sterilized) grit on top of the sowing medium.
When all sowing containers are filled as described, put them in the watertight tray filled with water. Seal the tray in a plastic bag or with a large lid to prevent infected air coming in and let the containers soak up the water for about two hours. Take the containers out of the water and let the excess water drip out. Now fill the tops of the containers for approximately 0.5 cm with grit (1-3 mm).
Step 2: Sowing the cactus or succulent seeds
Divide the seeds equally on the top layer of grit. Naturally, one species of seeds per container. Slightly press the seeds in the grit but also make sure to do this in a sterile way, for example by putting your hand in one of the clean sandwich bags. Put a plant marker in each container and write the name of the species and the date on it. Now put each container in one of the transparent sandwich bags. NB. with the opening of the bag facing upward. In this way water leaking out of the containers will stay in the bag and no insects can crawl in through the drainage holes. Now close the bags and place them at approximately 23 °C under medium light conditions. Do not use to bright illumination and certainly do not use direct sunlight because this will burn the seedlings. You will know when your seedlings are burned when they start to turn reddish brown. When this happens immediately reduce the light intensity.
Step 3: Germination of the seed
Most seeds should germinate after about 14 days but this varies with the species of cactus or succulent. After germination carefully open the bags to check for possible infections and to see if most seeds have germinated. If all seeds (or most) are germinated you should make 2-4 small holes (for example with a big needle) to let the seedlings slowly adjust to dryer air.
It is very important now to check the containers at least once a week. Each week 2-4 new holes must be made into the bags and after approximately 2 months you can remove the bags completely. Keep checking the seedlings on a regular basis for infections with insects or fungi. When the bags are removed the soil will dry fast so make sure to let the containers absorb some warmish water. Do not let the containers dry but also do not keep them soaking wet after the seeds have germinated.
Step 4: Transplanting the seedlings
Transplanting seedlings into fresh soil is needed when (1) the soil is completely dried out or (2) the seedlings have no more room to grow because they are packed together to much or (3) when a major infection with fungus or algae has occurred. The seedlings do not have to be transplanted in sterilized soil. Just use the same soil mix I described earlier and they should be ok.
As the seedlings grow try to increase the light intensity but be careful for burning because young cacti and succulents are very sensitive.