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Seeds and Seedlings

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Introduction

My interest in growing cacti and succulents from seed was sparked by a chance finding of a packet of mixed cactus seeds in a shopping complex. Before that, my only exposure to cactus or succulent seeds was with Euphorbia triangularis (right). This was back in the late 1980s, when such things were a novelty and few people in Malaysia really understood cacti and succulents. There were no books available, and so my initial attempts ended in total and abject failure.

The lack of success was simply due to a serious lack of knowledge of how cacti and succulents live. It was only after finding my first cacti book (The Cactus Handbook by Erik Haustein) that I had some success, after about getting about 4 packets of seeds and killing most of the seedlings which germinated. The problem wasn't germination, it was keeping them alive and well after germination.

Horti mixed seeds, 1-2 weeks old, Nov 1998 Gymno. denudatum at 6.5 months, Jan 2000

Still, I was absolutely fascinated with growing cacti and succulents from seeds. It's really amazing how they grow from tiny seeds, to small fleshy blobs, to miniature spiny plants. Eventually I thought I got the hang of it, but only with easy to grow species. Books are a great help, and when I started working I bought almost every one that I could physically get my hands on.

Anyway, within these pages I present to you my efforts in growing cacti and succulents from seed. I'll begin with a couple of pages on what I do. The rest of the pages is a chronicle of my 'growing from seed' efforts.


More on Growing from Seed

After having a reasonable level of success with mixed cactus seeds, the Internet came along and I discovered the Cactus and Succulent Plant Mall and the cacti_etc mailing list. The incredible selection of seeds available from specialist nurseries simply amazed me.

In 1997, I bought my first batch of seeds from SuccSeed, Sweden. The germination rate was excellent. However, not many have survived to this day due to a few mistakes along the line, and a few bouts of neglect. I guess I was more interested in seeing them germinate than seeing them to maturity. Along the way, I got a few varieties of seeds from either my own plants, or were given away generously by fellow collectors.

In 1999, I got my second batch from Mesa Garden. Succseed and Mesa Garden are two specialist suppliers of cacti and succulent seeds which I strongly recommend, should you want to try to grow your favourite species yourself. I was rather more successful this time, so I decided to make it more or less an annual affair. The seeds were sown in the 4 plastic containers shown at right.

In 2000, I got a batch of Astrophytum asterias seeds from a Cactus Heaven shipment shared with fellow collector. I chose Astro. asterias because this species is notoriously difficult to find in Malaysia, and besides the seeds are large and the seedlings are strong. I've been told that specimens at the popular nurseries in Cameron Highlands are not for sale. Many nursery owners hoard their Astro. asterias specimens.

Out of 310 seeds, 267 germinated, out of which 11 were deformed and 7 were red mutants. I tried to graft the mutants, but they did not survive. I am glad to report that after 10 months (April 2001) I still have 249 seedlings. They are rather slow growers, though. When they are large enough in a few years, I will probably give them away to fellow cactophiles in KL, Malaysia.

Gymnocalycium baldianum (2001)

In March 2001, one of my Gymnocalycium baldianum started to bloom. It has since flowered almost continuously, setting several seed pods along the way. The flowers have to be hand-pollinated, otherwise they will not set seeds. I tried germinating the first few batches of seeds collected:


That's it for now. I have not bought any seeds in 2002 as yet, but I hope to do so before the end of the year. In tropical Malaysia, we don't have to watch for the best season for sowing seeds, since it is hot and humid all year round.


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