Propagating Succulents From seed

Succulents are raised from seed as easily as most tropical plants, but some grow very slowly from seedlings, especially certain cacti. Seed of many species is generally available but may often be hybrid.

A mixture of sterilised soil, sand and peat may be used for seed sowing, or the John Innes Seed Compost is suitable.

Half-pots, small pans or seed-boxes are suitable containers. They should be very well crocked. The seed is often extremely small, and if dust-like should not be covered; otherwise a very light sifting of fine sand is adequate; large seeds may be lightly pressed in. Seeds should be well spaced. Some growers place a ‘one-stone’ layer of coarse sand or grit on top which helps to avoid drying and caking of the soil surface. The receptacle should be soaked by immersing up to the edge: top watering would disturb the seed. A sprinkling of Cheshunt compound through a very fine spray will help to avoid damping-off disease and the growth of algae.

These seeds need a temperature of 21 C. (70 F.) to germinate well, and a propagating case is the ideal place to germinate them. If this is impossible, a warm situation must be found and the container covered with a sheet of glass (turn over daily to avoid condensation), and preferably placed in a box containing damp peat to supply adequate moisture.

If the bottom heat is available, sowing can be done in February or March: if not, wait until April or May. When germination begins air must be adequate or damping-off will occur. At this moment, too, adequate light is essential or the seedlings will be weak and spindly, but keep them out of direct sunlight. Some seedlings appear after a few days; some take up to a month, and some much longer, especially if the seed is not fresh. Hence the advisability of sowing each kind in a separate receptacle. Seeds should remain viable for at least two years.

Quick-growing seedlings may be pricked out (i.e. replanted in other receptacles) soon after germination; but most seedlings grow so slowly at first that it is best to sow very thinly and leave the little plants in their pans for some months, until they are at least \ in. in diameter or 1 in. tall, according to shape. A miniature two-pronged fork made from a piece of thin wood is useful for lifting seedlings. Care should be taken not to damage the fine roots when lifting them, and the seedlings should not be firmed too hard into the new soil.

Small seedlings should be moved into the John Innes Seed Compost; larger ones into the adult compost. Several seedlings can be placed in one pan or individual small pots can be used, but these need watching against the possibility of their drying out in hot conditions.

Watering must be carefully attended to both before and after germination. The boxes, pans or pots should never become quite dry. Bottom watering is best until the plants are fairly large. The resting season should not, normally, be observed until the second year, when the plants become adults.

Great care must be taken to keep away slugs, snails and woodlice, and to make sure of preventing damping-ofF water monthly with Cheshunt compound. Protection from scorching sun is also necessary.

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