There are few houseplant enthusiasts that don’t have at least a couple of succulents or cacti in their collection. We all agree that succulents are fascinating and a great addition to the home, but if you really want to up your houseplant game you don’t just buy them. You grow them yourself!
Growing succulents from seeds is a rewarding and fun experiment for those with a little patience. If you’d like to know how to do so, the article below explains what you’ll need, how to do it and even how to obtain seeds from your own succulents!
Growing Succulents from Seeds: What You’ll Need
One of the things that make growing succulents from seed so attractive is that you probably already have most of the items you’ll need at home. As we’ll describe below, you might not even need to buy any seeds if you’ve got flowering succulents or cacti in your collection!
Now, the exact requirements for your succulent growing project vary quite a bit based on the method you’d like to use. Every succulent grower has their own way to go about it that they swear by, so you can always try some different things yourself. Our personal favorite is the vermiculite method, but we’ll discuss some of the other soil mix options below as well.
Your basic shopping list will be:
Some succulents and cacti are easier to grow than others. Most places sell packs of mixed cactus seeds, for example, which are a great option for beginners. These tend to be hardy and forgiving to beginner mistakes and luckily, growing cactus from seed is pretty much identical to growing other succulents.
If you have a bit of experience with growing succulents and cacti, you could consider going for something a little more challenging. The super slow growing mesemb Lithops, for example, would be a nice option if you can muster up the patience
We’ll go further into acquiring succulent and cactus seeds in the next paragraph.
The container you’ll be growing your succulent seeds in can be as simple or fancy as you’d like. The most important factor is that it keeps moisture in somehow, since our succulent seedlings are not tolerant to drying out at all in the first stages of their life. A simple plastic container with a lid would work well, but an actual seed starting tray is likely a little easier to use. These feature multiple small containers, an undertray for easy flooding from the bottom and a lid to keep the moisture in.
Now, this is what very few succulent growers agree on. We like to use pure vermiculite since it’s loose but still keeps moisture in quite well. However, other soil options include coco coir, coarse silica sand, finely smashed perlite, and even unscented kitty litter!
Just make sure the medium is not too coarse so as to not lose your tiny succulent seedlings, but not so fine that it can become too compact and impede growth (like play sand).
Grow light (optional)
If your windowsills are crowded, it’s possible to grow succulents from seed using just a grow light in a location that would normally be too dark. A LED light works best. It won’t emit enough heat to burn the seedlings but does help to keep them well-lit and warm.
And honestly, that’s it for the basics! Some like to keep some kitchen paper handy to lay out the seeds as well as toothpicks for seed placement (since they’re so small), but that all depends on how you’d like to go about planting.
Acquiring Succulent Seeds
Buying succulent seeds
As we mentioned in the previous paragraph, different cactus and succulent species differ in how challenging they are to grow and care for. Another factor to keep in mind that can really influence your success is the quality of the seeds you buy.
First off, avoid fancy looking cheap seeds from China. The photos displayed on most product pages are fake (blue Lithops, anyone?) as is the actual product in many cases. If something actually arrives, they tend to be just little seeds for common species of weeds! While they might germinate, it’s not going to be what you’re after at all.
Instead, if you’re going to buy seeds, look for a reputable company with good reviews. There’s Amazon, Etsy, eBay, and independent websites so you should usually be able to find the seeds you’re looking for in one place or another.
Harvesting succulent seeds
If you already grow succulents and they’re doing well, there’s a good chance they’ll be putting out flowers. Species like Haworthia, Echeveria and Gasteria (and many more) tend to bloom quite often and you can actually harvest their seeds once the flowers die off. This involves pollinating the flower to make sure seeds form, and then performing some rather delicate operations possibly involving tweezers to get the tiny seeds out.
A bit of a task, but very rewarding if your seeds end up flourishing!
The video below shows how to do this with Echeveria seeds: note how they’re so tiny a paintbrush has to be used to collect them.
Another nice way of acquiring succulent seeds that involves getting to eat some tasty food is to buy prickly pear fruits. Anyone that eats these regularly knows it can be a pain to get around the seeds, but this has its advantages: you can actually save and plant them. Make some yummy lemonade or jam and experiment with growing cactus from seed at the same time. This also works with dragon fruit (Pitahaya) and the Peruvian apple cactus’ delicious bearings.
How to Grow Succulents from Seeds: Step-by-Step Guide
If you’ve acquired your succulent or cactus seeds, selected your preferred soil type and found a suitable container to start the seeds in, you’re ready to go. The steps below will outline how to actually go about sowing the seeds and caring for the seedlings through the first steps of their lives.
Step 1: Sowing
Now, first off, planting your succulent seeds is not going to be an outdoor project. The seeds are so small the wind can easily blow them away, so set everything up on an indoor table instead. Placing kitchen paper underneath your “planting station” can help if you manage to lose a few seeds along the way.
Fill the compartments of your sowing tray with the vermiculite or whichever other medium you chose. Then go ahead and moisten the soil, which is easy to do if you’re using a propagation tray since they tend to have a removable undertray that you can flood. Once the soil has been sufficiently moistened, you can sprinkle the seeds on there.
This can be done using your fingers, but some prefer using something like a toothpick or paintbrush since the seeds are so hard to work with. However you do it, get a few seeds into each container but don’t overdo it, as this will make repotting later very challenging.
Step 2: Placement
That’s it for the planting process: now you just need to make sure the moisture stays in and give the seeds time to grow. If you used a normal pot, bag it in a clear ziplock baggie. In case of a propagation tray or plastic container, you can just put the lid on and make sure it’s fastened securely. Then, place it underneath your grow light or on a windowsill that receives lots of light but no direct sun (North or West in the Northern hemisphere).
Step 3: Germination!
Most seeds germinate surprisingly quickly, you can see growth within a week or so if they were fresh and the circumstances are favorable. Once the sprouts pop up you can remove the lid to give them fresh air, since too much moisture can cause issues with rot or mold.
They’ll need to be kept constantly moist at first until they establish their root systems, but as the weeks go by you can slowly reduce the watering frequency.
How to Care for Your New Tiny Succulent
Although succulents are slow growers, most should start to look like tiny versions of their adult counterparts within a few weeks. Once they’ve grown leaves (in the case of succulents) or the first few spines (cacti) you can probably pat yourself on the back and say you did it! You now have tiny baby succulents.
Care for these is similar to that of adult succulents once they’ve developed somewhat of a root system: water when the soil has dried out fully. Light should be bright but indirect until the succulent is all grown up (after about 6 months), and when you do make the move to full sun it should be gradual. The seedlings will show you how they feel in regards to light themselves, growing lankier and pale if it’s too little and acquiring reddish brown sunburn if you overdid it.
Because you most likely sprinked multiple seeds in each tray, there will come a point (after a few months) where you have to repot the seedlings to prevent them from crowding each other too much. If you used a loose mixture like vermiculite this will be easy enough. Just move the seedlings to a regular succulent soil medium like perlite + potting soil or bonsai soil and voilà!
As you’ve hopefully concluded, growing succulents from seeds is something any houseplant enthusiast can do. You don’t need an extremely green thumb to get your seedlings to thrive, just make sure you get high-quality seeds and follow the guidelines. Just remember that it’s normal for this stuff to sometimes not go as you wanted: some batches just won’t make it. Note any mistakes you made and don’t let it scare you off!
If you have more questions about how to grow succulents from seeds or want to share your own tips and experiences, be sure to comment below. Additional info is always welcomed!