SOWING CACTUS AND SUCCULENT SEEDS
We treat in this tutorial the main aspects related to cacti and succulents seeds sowing: environmental conditions, soil, seed treatments awakening, the first care. Recommendations for better success of germination and on the most common mistakes to avoid are also included.
In the sowing of any plant species, our goal is to be able to "activate" the seed, or re-create those conditions that, in the nature, would allow the seed to open, root and sprout. Certainly not an easy task, if you think that plants can come from completely different environments, and complicated by the fact that the succulents, by their nature, require particularly favorable environmental conditions.
The purpose of this tutorial is to accompany you to the sowing of your favorite plants, wishing you bought your seeds on SeedsCactus.com! But if not, it does not matter: this document is the result of several years of experience, trials and errors, successes and failures , all conducted and carried out in the name of passion for the world of succulents. It's open source, it has no pretensions of science and does not constitute the only way to get good results: in fact, we will be glad to receive suggestions on techniques and procedures for planting details, maybe personal to each of you.
We will treat all aspects of succession in sowing through a course divided into 6 parts: we start from the description of the environmental conditions to recreate, we will continue with the analysis of the soil of planting seeds, we will analyze specific treatments for stimulation and awakening of the seeds. So we will deal with the seeding itself, providing advice on what to do in the first few days and giving particular techniques depending on the species.
All information provided in this tutorial are summarized in schematic form in "Table of sowing", found at the end of this chapter: it is a true "encyclopedia of experiences", where we wanted to include, genus by genrus, our tips for a satisfying and productive planting . Well, at this point I think we can start. Ready? Let's go!
PART 1 - The environmental conditions
In order to germinate, the seeds require special conditions of humidity, temperature, aeration, soil, time / intensity of light and age of maturation: a long list of parameters to be controlled, no doubt about it. Let's analyze in detail one by one.
Reproducing these conditions, it is possible to sow at any time of the year. However, because sooner or later we will have to get used to our plants to the natural environment, it is good that the sowing takes place around the time when the seeds sprout in nature: we sow between January and March if we have a propagator, between April and May if we have a greenhouse and want to take advantage of the warmth and natural light.
PART 2 - The soil
We saw in the previous lesson that in order to promote seeds germination we have to keep the humidity very high, close to 100%. A so high humidity, however, favors the development of rots and molds, especially on soils rich in organic matter such as humus and plant remains. The risk of mold can be reduced by adopting a series of measures. For example, you can perform the so-called pasteurization of the soil (or disinfection): a disinfectant powdery specific and compatible with the development of plants is added to the soil. Other methods, more rustic but equally effectively, consist to pour on freshly boiled water or soil to keep the soil in an oven at 70-80°C (no more) for about an hour. We will also disinfect the tools that we will use for sowing: pots, trays, etc. with sodium hypochlorite and subsequent thorough washing.
- Method a: add to the soil a specific disinfectant powder
- Method b: put the soil in an oven for one hour at 70-80°C
- Method c: put the soil in an microwavw oven for 10min at W max.
- Tools disinfection: with sodium hypochlorite or other disinfectant and after thorough washing.
Organic soil attacked by mold
Composition of the mixture
On the effective composition of the soil, there are many opinions and schools of thought, all equally valid. The ultimate goal is to get a slightly acid soil (pH 6.5), not too rich in nutrients, very permeable to air and water, a fine structure. We will provide below some possible solutions that you can take depending on the availability of the materials in your areas of residence:
- Mix 1 - CACTACEAE – Lapillus (50%) – Pumice (40%) – Garden soil (10%)
- Mix 2 - SUCCULENT Lapillus (30%) – Pumice (30%) – Quartz sand (10%) – Garden soil (30%)
- Mix 3 - SOWING OF CACTACEAE – Lapillus (30%) – Pumice (30%) – Zeolite (20%) – Garden soil(20%)
- Mix 4 - SOWING OF SUCCULENT – Lapillus (25%) – Pumice (25%) – Zeolite (20%) – Garden soil(30%)
- Mix 5 - LITHOPS E MESEMBS – Quartz (45%) – Pumice sand (20%) – Zeolite sand (20%) – Garden soil(25%)
- Mix 6 - FOR HOYA – Pumice(30%)–Zeolite(10%)–Perlite(20%)–Lapillus(20%)–Ireland peat(15%)–Worm peat(5%)
In any case, we always place on the surface 1 cm of sand or pozzolana screened to eliminate the powder (1 mm sieve).
PART 3 - Stimulation and awakening treatments
These are operations that we're going to do to activate and stimulate seed germination, trying to break dormancy in which it is naturally fell for self-protection. Only a few part of the seeds species requires this step. We'll talk in detail about stratification, scarification and acidification.
In nature, the seeds are produced from the fruits by plant at the end of the summer, normally in the autumn they fall to the ground and remain there until the following spring, crossing the entire cold season. With this system we are going to recreate just a winter configuration: we place them in a refrigerator at a temperature between 1°C and 4°C after having moistened them and we will keep there for about two months, before proceeding with sowing.
This system tries to soften the outer wall of the seed, so that it is more easily traversed by moisture, one of the leading actors of germination. Seeds with hard seed coat are placed for two days in hot water or vinegar, or engraved with a needle, nail file, emery cloth. The incision should be at a point distant from the hilum, until you discover the embryo slightly.
Sometimes the seed dormancy can be interrupted by natural acids: one of the most widely used methods for neutralizing chemical inhibitors is spraying seeds with water acidified with lemon juice and subsequent drying after a few minutes.
PART 4 - The sowing
On the bottom of the pots (disinfected) must be installed about 1 cm of lapilli / pumice / expanded clay, which constitute the deep drainage. Then we can fill the jar with our soil (one of the 5 formulas described in Part 2) and spread on the surface 5 mm of non-calcareous sand.
Small and very small seeds (dimensions not exceeding 1 mm)
Place the seeds on the surface of the sand and spray water (preferably distilled). It is not necessary to cover the seeds with more soil.
Medium-size seeds (dimensions between 1 and 3 mm)
Place the seeds on the surface of the sand and cover with about 1 mm of sand, and then spray. It'simportant that the seeds are covered with a thin layer of sand, not soil.
Big size seeds (dimensions exceeding 3 mm)
Place the seeds on the surface of the sand pressing them lightly and cover with a layer of sand equal to their thickness, then spray water.
Narrow / oblong seeds
These seeds must be stuck in the ground with the hilum down and making sure that the upper edge is just visible above the last layer of soil. Then, cover with 3-4 mm of sand.
After performing all the operations, it is necessary to proceed immediately to the first wetting. It's important to remember that all the wettings of this phase will be performed from the bottom and ascend the moisture by capillarity throughout the substrate, through the holes on the base of the pots. It's therefore necessary to have a tray, which will be filled with a veil of lukewarm water (previously sterilized by boiling) and a systemic fungicide. After a few minutes you will notice the humidity emerge in pots: for the first two months we must make sure that n the tray remains always a veil of water and the surface of the pots is just moist. Never wetting from the top; indeed, we must take care to prevent relapse of any drops of condensation that may form on top of the propagator.
Attention: the completely dry of the substrate will result in immediate stop of germination, while overwetting will increase the risk of rotting.
All jars must be maintained at the temperature indicated in "Part 1" of the tutorial; to control the effective maintenance of the correct temperature, a thermometer maximum and minimum can be very useful. It's easy to note that we will sow in the same propagator plants that have similar temperature requirements.
If everything has been done the right way, germination should begin after 3-4 days for the faster species (eg, Astrophytum, Stapelia) or after 10-12 days for the others. Some genus, such as Opuntia or some sort of Mesembryanthemum, are absolutely unpredictable and can germinate after a week as well as after one year. However, if after a month there is no sign of life, it is necessary to keep the soil dry for a week, submit the pots to a cycle of stratification and start the process again.
PART 5 - Welcome to the world!
As with all living beings, the first impact on the natural environment is very delicate. Our newly sprouted seedlings are weak and can easily be affected by improper conditions. At this stage it's important that the grower pay more attention to a series of useful tips to eliminate (or at least reduce) unpleasant and annoying loss of shoots.
Aeration: a few days after the birth of seedlings, increase slowly and gradually aeration, having however avoid drafts.
Humidity: the humidity is gradually decreased. If the optimal conditions for germination predicted humidity close to 100%, at this stage we must limit it to no more than 50-60%.
Lighting: There are no fixed rules, but the observation of the seedlings will help us understand if the brightness is the right one. If the color of the plant tends to pink or red probably the brightness is too high, while it tends to white, to yellow or faded green is poor. In the this situation the seedlings tend to stretch and spin (etiolate).
Wetting: continue with the wetting of water (preferably distilled and sterilized) exclusively from the bottom. Once a month, we can use a systemic fungicide in solution in the water. We can start to spray from the top when the plants have a minimum age of 4-5 months.
Treatments: after the first 4-5 months of life is appropriate to some preventive treatments against rot and pests that may attack the young plants. There are specific products against collar rot, gray mold, insects or larvae, we can not mention the names of the products, but there is a wide variety to choose. Write us to dissolve doubts or ask for suggestions.
Fertilizing: in the same way, after the first 4-5 months we will start a mild fertilizer that will complement the nutrients naturally present in the seed and in the soil that the plants have already abundantly used and absorbed. The fertilizers, easily available on the market (the best product in our opinion is this one: Ferty 4), are particularly suitable but we must pay close attention to the concentration: at this stage we will have to adopt a concentration equal to that indicated on the product label and divided by 3, since an excess of fertilizer acidifies the soil and makes it easier to collar rot. In this phase, the fertilizer can be used once every 15 days; gradually that the plants will be larger, we can start to divide by 2 doses on the label and to use the fertilizer once every 20-30 days.
PART 6 - The first winter
We must control that the plants do not suffer excessively before the arrival of the first winter season of their short lives. In nature, most succulent enter into vegetative rest, and at this stage it will be necessary to accustom the plants to natural seasonal cycle. In the fall we will have to progressively reduce wetting to suspend it completely during the 2-3 more rigid months, except for some sporadic spraying (to be done in the heat of the day) if we notice an excessive wrinkling or a tissue turgidity loss. The ambient humidity must be very low (it should not exceed 20-30%) and the temperature should be maintained higher than 12-14°C, both of these factors are particularly critical for the survival of seedlings. It's also essential that they are in a bright and sufficiently ventilated area.