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germinating cactus seeds in paper towel

Germinating succulent seeds

First a little background,

I live in Sri Lanka where the temperature is at about 30c throughout the year. The sun is also very strong for the entire year and yeah we don’t have different seasons here. On December it gets to about 25c but that’s not much of a difference. The sun rises at about 6am and sets at 6pm. Starting from 10am to 3pm there is full sunlight and it’s a bit hard to a person to work outdoors for more than 30minutes in direct sunlight. Also, in the area that I live, we don’t have succulent nurseries or a place to buy succulent potting soil.

Previously, I bought succulent seeds from eBay but they turned out to be some weed. The “succulent” seedlings died instantly when I gave them a bit of morning sun from a shaded window(maybe they died because they weren’t succulents).

These are the steps I followed to germinate them.

Take some normal soil and add extra stones into it so it will drain faster.

Put it into microwave at 800w for 2minutes.

Wait for it to cool down and then add seeds on the surface then cover it with a clear cover to trap the moisture inside.

This is what they turned out to be.

I’m pretty sure that these aren’t succulents.

Now my questions.

Am I mistaken and those are succulent seedlings ?

I bought new succulent seeds. Lets assume they are real succulent seeds.So I’m going to give it a try again. The steps I followed to germinate “succulents” were correct or something was wrong?

I have also bought a 10w grow led chip. Can I use it to grow the seedlings? If so, how high should I place the led grow light? (When lit, it’s colour is similar to pink)

How often should I water the succulents as they grow up? The soil that I mixed up drains fast. I watered the soil 3days ago just to check and it still is a bit wet to the touch.

How fast should the soil dry up?

If the succulents germinate how many hours of sunlight should I give them? If it’s possible to use the grow lights. How many hours of light should I give?

Sorry for the image quality. It’s the only image that I have of them.

2 Answers 2

I have grown a few cactus from seed. The most effective method was putting my moist potting mix in small pots, sprinkle the seeds on it and cover it with small top-dressing (gravel). Put it in a medium Ziploc bag and place it where it can get some sun. I use square plastic pots 3″x3″ or less.

Heat from the bottom (warm soil) also helps.

Mist when it gets dryish and keep the top closed.

If you want to accelerate the process, put the seeds between damp paper towel on a plate in a big seal-able plastic bag. Put in in a warm darkish place. When the seeds sprout, grab them (gently) with tweezers and put them in your prepared pots/bags. Pointy end down!

I’ve never grown lithops from seed but I do have a volunteer lithop (?) that grew from a stray seed from my plants.

Now I primarily put the seeds in the plant pot I’ve gotten quite a few seedlings that way.

Keep in mind that succulents, particularly cactus grow very slowly.

As for soil, I use something called coconut coir (rinse if it is too acid) and something called TurfaceMVP (landscape/sports field suppliers). (about a 50/50 mix) You might also be able to get oil absorbent at an auto parts store. You want the stuff that has been baked so it doesn’t dissolve in water. Pumice is also a good substitute.

Water should flow through your pots fairly quickly, but they should also absorb water into the voids and absorbent material (turface, pumice, etc), then release it slowly to the plants.

Sand and/or gravel doesn’t absorb water so it’s not ideal.

In my mind richness = organic material. Not necessarily good for cactus because it can encourage growth of mold, fungus, insects, etc and hold it against the root and plant surfaces.

I provide nutrients from the water/fertilizer I use. They don’t get anything from the soil that I don’t put in there. (Can you tell I”m an anal-retentive cactus grower?)

Germinating succulent seeds First a little background, I live in Sri Lanka where the temperature is at about 30c throughout the year. The sun is also very strong for the entire year and yeah

Is it Better to Start Seeds in Soil or in Paper Towels?

Related Articles

A trip to the local nursery often greets gardeners with vast flats of seedlings, from flowers to vegetables. Many gardeners start with a seedling, rather than a seed. Growing plants from seeds at home can be difficult, depending on the type of seed; disease and poor growing conditions can prevent a seedling from even emerging from the seed. Successful home gardeners have found that many seeds grow extremely well in paper towels for initial germination as opposed to beginning the seed in the soil.

Soil Benefits

Soil provides the natural environment for the seed to germinate and grow healthy. A well-drained and aerated soil mixture allows the seed to be planted and grown without any need to transplant. Although transplanting is a common process for most gardeners, moving any seedling places stress on the plant. Depending on the plant species, the transplant process can stunt growth or impede future fruiting if done improperly. Providing a permanent location for the germinating seed allows it to rest comfortably as nature intended.

Soil Drawbacks

On the other hand, soil has its disadvantages when it comes to disease and density. Pathogens within the soil can easily damage the seed before it can even sprout; you would need to purchase sterile soil rather than use your own natural garden bed. Soil density can be a problem as well since seeds need an aerated environment so that air and moisture can move freely through the substrate. Even placement of the seeds can cause failed seedlings in the soil; seeds planted too deeply will have problems trying to reach the surface for sunlight.

Paper Towel Benefits

Paper towels offer a controlled environment for successful germination. Disease is not a factor since the towel is sterile. Moisture and warmth within the towel are controlled with daily observation; you can add water to the towel when it becomes too dry and move it near a warm area if it is too cold in its original spot. The fact that you can watch the root emerge helps you know when to plant the seed. There is no guessing if the seed has failed while hidden within soil.

Paper Towel Drawbacks

The main disadvantage to the paper towel is the need to transplant. Moving the seed is stressful and can cause it to fail as a seedling. The root extending from the seed is highly sensitive for almost all plant types; even slightly touching the root can cause seed death. Using tweezers to move the seed, touching only the small seed leaves, is a good practice so that you do not touch or strike the protruding root. Once the seed has been moved from the towel into its final location, the seed should root and sprout successfully.

Is it Better to Start Seeds in Soil or in Paper Towels?. A trip to the local nursery often greets gardeners with vast flats of seedlings, from flowers to vegetables. Many gardeners start with a seedling, rather than a seed. Growing plants from seeds at home can be difficult, depending on the type of seed; disease and …