Growing cacti from seeds

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Growing cacti from seeds

Postby GoldenWattle » Wed Jul 21, 2010 4:35 pm

I've had two unsuccessful attempts at growing cacti from seeds. I've been told it's supposed to be very difficult to achieve germination. The first time I sowed the seeds in a special cactus potting mix (fairly course) and the second time I used Debco Seed raising mix.

I bought the first packet from K-mart - the brand was either Yates or one of the more common brands that do veggie seed packets. The second batch of seeds was obtained from a gentleman in Hopper's Crossing who recently sold his cactus seed importing business after 20+ years. I used less than half of the seeds I received from him.

I kept the seedling trays in a mini greenhouse on both attempts. I think I let the soil dry out too much on the first attempt. The second time around, I kept the soil moist and retained humidity in the mini greenhouse. I discarded the soil from the first attempt in my compost heap. I still have the second batch in the mini greenhouse.

I hazard to guess it's been 3-4 months since I sowed the second batch of seeds. I assume that if the seeds were going to germinate, they would have done so by now. I don't know if my second attempt was affected by damping off. I saw a growth on soil that looked a bit like a spider web on one of the pots which I removed as soon as I noticed it.

If I'm to make a third attempt, I'd try mixing perlite with the seed raising mix (to aerate the medium) and keeping a pot on top of the tropical fish aquarium with a plastic dome to retain humidity. The heat from the aquarium should accelerate germination.

When I had my first attempt, I assumed that being a desert plant, cacti must germinate in dry soils. I thought the same would be true of native plants until I did a workshop on taking cuttings of native plants. So my mistake with attempt number one was not watering enough. I read a suggestion about using cinnamon on the surface of the soil to prevent damping off, so I might try that. Any other advice gladly accepted...

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Re: Growing cacti from seeds

Postby greg.l » Wed Jul 21, 2010 4:56 pm

First off, 3-4 months is nothing when growing things from seed. Many plants take 6 months or more and my personal record is 20 months, all gardeners need to practise patience, it is a virtue that will help you in other aspects of life as well. For a seed raising mix, I use a 50/50 mix of sand and pine bark fines with osmocote. Making your own mix for seed raising and potting is much better than using pre-mixed bags. I haven't grown cactus from seed, I can't say I am a great fan, but growing unusual things from seed is very rewarding and very chancy. I grow heaps of stuff from seed. When it works you get some great plants and a feeling of accomplishment, when it fails just chalk it up to experience and try again.
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Re: Growing cacti from seeds

Postby GoldenWattle » Wed Jul 21, 2010 7:25 pm

greg.l wrote:Many plants take 6 months or more and my personal record is 20 months, all gardeners need to practise patience, it is a virtue that will help you in other aspects of life as well.


Knowledge is power Greg. :D Patience isn't a problem. As long as I know there's still a chance of success, I don't mind continuing to nurse the seed trays. :mrgreen:

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Re: Growing cacti from seeds

Postby shortly » Tue Aug 03, 2010 7:03 pm

I know this is an old thread but.
It does help if you know which species you have, some need cold stratification, all benefit from a 12 - 36 hour soak prior to sowing. I'm not a fan of the mixed/un-named seed from the big names, i prefer to know what i'm growing.
I have had the best success using the ziplock bag method. I use sifted cactus media in a clean pot, sow the seeds & wet the pot to field capacity + a bit and place in the ziplock & seal it up. leave in a warm light spot.
Don't be in too much of a hurry to remove them from the bag, once you have fully formed cotyledons you can open the bag for fresh air. Once you have a good strong shoot formed you can remove them but they will still lots of TLC for a while.
Hope this helps
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Re: Growing cacti from seeds

Postby GoldenWattle » Fri Aug 06, 2010 3:38 pm

shortly wrote:I have had the best success using the ziplock bag method. I use sifted cactus media in a clean pot, sow the seeds & wet the pot to field capacity + a bit and place in the ziplock & seal it up. leave in a warm light spot. Don't be in too much of a hurry to remove them from the bag, once you have fully formed cotyledons you can open the bag for fresh air. Once you have a good strong shoot formed you can remove them but they will still lots of TLC for a while.
Hope this helps


Sounds like you've done this before... AND successfully. Do you mind if I ask how long it took for germination to occur?

I think the mini-greenhouse and the ziplock bags pretty much accomplish the same thing.

I'll eventually try again if I can remember where I stored the remaining seeds. I'll try soaking them as you suggested. Unfortunately, I've got mixed seeds, so wouldn't know if the cold stratification would be required... I'll worry about cotyledons if I ever manage to get the seeds to germinate... :?

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Re: Growing cacti from seeds

Postby shortly » Fri Aug 06, 2010 8:06 pm

Yeah its my preferred method of seed raising, ziplock bags on a hot sand bed. i normally squeeze 20 - 40 species in each year depending on how financial i'm feeling (how much the boss will let me spend).
Ive had cactus seeds germinate after soaking in as little as 3 days and as long as 35 months so don't toss your seed just yet, it really depends what your species is & how old the seeds is etc etc.
I like the baggie method because it doesnt tie up space for long periods of time & if anything happens to fail, its only 1 bag & not an entire batch.

There are a few sources of cactus seeds around that you can get known species from if you want to have a crack, its a good way to collect a range of species you probably wouldn't otherwise find, but be warned, it's very addictive but very rewarding.
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Re: Growing cacti from seeds

Postby GoldenWattle » Mon Aug 09, 2010 9:30 am

shortly wrote:Ive had cactus seeds germinate after soaking in as little as 3 days and as long as 35 months so don't toss your seed just yet, it really depends what your species is & how old the seeds is etc etc.

There are a few sources of cactus seeds around that you can get known species from if you want to have a crack, its a good way to collect a range of species you probably wouldn't otherwise find, but be warned, it's very addictive but very rewarding.


What species did you get to germinate in 3 days? Where did you source your seeds? I wouldn't be upset if it became an addiction, but I think I need some success first. I'm trying to look at this from the Karate Kid school of life... start with the wax on, wax off, paint the fence up-down, sand the floor, etc before I attempt the leap kick from the perch. Waiting 35 months from the outset is the leap kick and I haven't done the wax on, wax off yet...

A friend of mine told me she didn't want to wait until Christmas for me to give her a cutting of a bay tree (as opposed to buying one from a nursery) - it wasn't instant enough for her. I'm probably somewhere in between. I'm not giving up on my tray, but I'd like to sow some more seeds which will germinate faster and provide incentive to keep at it.

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Re: Growing cacti from seeds

Postby shortly » Mon Aug 09, 2010 8:04 pm

The ones i've had germinate in 3 days have all been seed from easy species from my own collection, things like mamm boolii, mamm prolifera and assorted epi's,the ones that take forever are or are just downright difficult are easy to pick, they are the ones with huge price tags.
Most general (cheap) cactus seed i have bought or traded usually germinates between 1 and 6 weeks which is where you should probably be aiming.
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