How to grow a cactus from seed
Do you love house plants?
Cactus plants make great plants for the home. They don't require much care and attention, and they don't care if you forget to water them for weeks or even months!
Growing cacti from seed is easier than you might think. The main challenge is that they are very slow growing!
It can take many cactus plants two years just to grow to over a centimetre in diameter.
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Finding Cactus Seeds
You can find cactus seeds from any shop that sells seeds. Cactus seeds from gardening stores usually come as a mixed selection. If you plant these seeds you'll end up with a mixture of many different types of cactus - some long and thin, others short and fat! These mixed seeds are good for beginners, as there are normally a few very easy to grow species in the packet, so you'll usually end up with a few cactus seedlings.
If you have a bit more experience of raising plants from seed then why not choose specific varieties of cactus to grow from seed? There are a number of specialist online retailers that sell packets of cactus seeds for individual species. Cactus plants are very variable (a bit like dogs), so you're bound to find a species that you really like the look of.
Some cactus plants do actually flower. It's possible that the cactus plants you grow from seed may one day have flowers on them! Cactus flowers are very pretty. Sometimes they are fragrant. The flowers often last for a few days or even a couple of weeks.
Growing cactus plants from seed
Once you've got your cactus seeds, you should carefully plant the seeds 2 - 3mm deep in a 3 inch plant pot containing compost such as John Innes Seed Compost. Any compost that is intended for growing seeds will be just as good. To improve drainage it is recommended to mix the compost with some sand or potting grit. The main danger with cactus seedlings is from overwatering, so you'll have much better results if the soil is well drained.
Once the seeds have been planted, the pot should be watered and placed in a warm place such as a propagator or warm cupboard.
Once the seedlings have started to sprout, they should be kept in a warm sunny position and watered only when the compost has completely dried out. As with most cactus seeds, germination is sporadic and can take from between 2 weeks to 4 months, so keep a close eye on your plant pots! Not every seed may germinate. Cactus seedlings are very slow growing but if sown early in the year and kept in a warm sunny position through the Summer, the seedlings should reach 1cm in diameter in their first year.
Once the seedlings have germinated and are about 2 - 3 months old, it is a good idea to cover the surface of the compost with a layer of coarse sand or grit, as this prevents small black flies from laying eggs. These small flies are a big problem because their babies are fond of eating cactus roots! Sand or grit also reduces the likelihood of mould appearing on the surface of the compost, which can quicky cause small cactus seedlings to rot.
Eventually you can put the growing cactus seedlings into individual pots.
Cactus plants are very slow growing, so if you care for them they will last for years. I have quite a few cactus plants that I raised from a seed back in 1988!
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