Growing From Seeds
To be successful you must try to imitate the conditions in which the
plants grow naturally. Cacti are nearly always found under scrub or
small bushes, on rocky slopes or on level ground where the soil is porous.
This is because :
(1) The slope and porous soil provides adequate drainage.
(2) The scrub provides shade for the seedlings and young plants.
(3) The rocks radiate warmth at night and the crevices between them
trap pockets of humid air.
1. WHEN TO SOW : If you do not have a heated propagator, the
best time to sow is in Spring, i.e. from March until the end of May.
Do not sow later than this as the seedlings will not be large enough
to withstand the following winter. If you have a heated propagator or
warm window-sill (Do not use the airing cupboard) you can sow at any
time of the year, but January and February are the best months.
2. COMPOST : We can recommend the following composts.
(1) Equal parts of Fisons Levington potting compost and coarse lime-free
or (2) One part John Innes No. 1 or 2 and 1/4 part coarse lime-free
3. SOWING : Fill the seed trays or shallow pots to within 1/4”
of the top and level the surface, removing any lumps. Water with a watering
can fitted with a fine rose. Scatter the seed thinly on the surface
of the damp compost. Large seeds can be spaced out and lightly pressed
level with the surface using a pencil. Cactus seed need light before
they will germinate, so do not cover the seeds with compost and do not
put the container in a dark cupboard.
4. TEMPERATURE : Temperatures of between 60-70F are best for
germination. Once the seedlings are 2-3 weeks old normal growing temperatures
5. GERMINATION : The percentage of seeds that germinate depends
on the species, age of the seed and temperature, but there should be
signs of germination within 2-3 weeks. A few seeds may be slow to germinate,
and seedlings may not appear until 2-3 months after sowing.
6. WATERING : If possible, water with a fine mist spray, or
place the container in a saucer and water from below. Never let the
compost dry out, particularly before germination has taken place, or
the germinating seeds will be killed. Conversely, do not allow the compost
to become waterlogged either, else the seeds will rot. After germination
keep the soil moist - not too wet, not too dry. During the first winter
the seedlings can be kept completely dry in a minimum temperature of
7. CARE OF THE YOUNG SEEDLINGS : Keep the container in an airy
place to prevent ‘damping off’. Shade the seedlings with a single thickness
of tissue or newspaper for the first two months, then avoid direct sunlight
for a further 6 months. After that time treat as adult plants. Try to
ensure the seedlings remain a healthy deep green (or occasionally brownish)
colour - a bright red colour indicates that too much light has been
given, thin, spindly pale green seedlings results from too little light.
8. TRANSPLANTING : Do not transplant seedlings until they begin
to touch one another in the container - this will depend on the rate
of growth of individual species. If in doubt, leave the seedlings in
the same container for 1 year, and do not transplant until the spring
of the second year. They will not come to any harm even if they look