Succulents bring so much joy to gardeners all over the world. Their unique appearance, wonderful colors and incredible variety, delight both beginners and experienced green thumbs. Planting succulents from seed is possible, and it is a very rewarding way of growing more unusual varieties.
There are many popular types of succulents, some flowering, and each with a unique form. Some of the most popular succulents today are:
- Chalk Sticks
- Jelly Beans
- Pig Face
Start with quality
There are many websites that claim to sell distinctive, highly decorative and sometimes plain strange-looking succulents. Although they look great, unfortunately, it often happens that these seeds either won’t take at all or will not turn out to be what you have seen in the pictures. To give yourself the best chance of growing successful succulents, buy your seeds from reputable dealers and local nurseries.
Think about what you are hoping to achieve with your succulents. If you are after a particular look or growth, you can find types of succulents with specific characteristics such as:
- Easy to propagate
- Fast to grow
- Showy blooms
- Hard to kill
- Lots of offsets
- Variegated leaves
Treat them carefully
Depending on the type you wish to grow, you will notice that most succulent seeds are very small. You will need to get all your soils and materials ready before you open and try to work with the seeds. And make sure you are working indoors! One light puff of wind could blow those babies clear out of your hands. You might want to have some toothpicks, skewers, cotton buds or tweezers on hand to help you move the seeds around.
Select a shallow tub with draining holes to allow excess water to drain away. Some people recommend plastic take-out containers, and with these, you can create small holes in the bottom with a knife or scissors. Take-out containers are great because they come with a suitable, see-through lid. Just make sure you clean and disinfect the container thoroughly before you start. If your chosen container doesn’t have a suitable lid, try writing the seed type on a zip-lock plastic bag and using it to cover the container, or create a cover with a sheet of plastic film.
Choose the right medium
Succulents prefer different soil from most of the other plants you will grow from seed. Different gardeners have various recommendations about what soil mix works best. But they all agree that it is critical to use the one that is well-draining. Succulents are so accustomed to growing in hot, dry conditions that they have a tendency to rot if they are too wet. Your soil mix should encourage moisture to exit the container quickly.
Find your perfect blend
To ensure that the soil drain well, a combination of materials tends to work best. You’ll need a mix of organic and mineral materials- usually at a ratio of 50%. Organic options include:
- Pine bark
- Coconut coir
- Compost potting soil
Good mineral options include:
- Coarse sand – try builder’s sand because anything finer won’t work out well
- Perlite – a volcanic glass that has tiny air pockets, allowing water drainage
- Pumice – a volcanic rock
- Fine gravel
- Chicken grit
Create your blend, mix it up and then moisten your mixture thoroughly before planting.
Process for planting succulent seeds
Open your seed packet and pop them onto a piece of paper so you can gently slide the seeds towards the pot. You can use that toothpick or skewer to move the seed into position. Sow the seeds on top of the germinating mix, press them lightly into the soil and then give the soil a little shake. Sprinkle them with just a little more soil to just cover them. Keep the soil wet by misting, but don’t let it get too soggy. Or, place the pot in a basin of water so it can soak up the moisture it needs.
How to encourage succulents to germinate
Succulent seeds require humidity so the seeds can push out of their coats. Some of your seedlings may have a quick growth spurt and end up not being strong enough to support themselves. Use some extra sand to prop them up or use a toothpick as a tiny stake!
Just a little patience
Most succulent varieties are slow-growing and it may take a month or more to see any growth at all. Keep the seeds in a bright space that isn’t too hot. Keep the humidity and water up. A fine spray mist is best. You can use a light, but be careful to make sure you don’t burn the little plants. You can move them to the dappled sun after you have some decent growth. Lots of people keep succulents as indoor plants and combine several plants in one container for a colorful effect.
When you are ready to move your seedlings into the ground, make sure you are careful with your soil choice again. Look for sandy spots in the garden that won’t catch water as you hydrate other thirstier plants. Dig a hole double the size of the root system, and tease out the roots. Position the plant, fill in the hole and press down firmly, build up a raised ring around the edge of the plant, and mulch the area with bark chips, sugarcane or straw. More frequent watering is a good idea in the early days, but once your plant is established, it will only need weekly watering.
Succulents hold a special place in the hearts and minds of many gardeners. They might not be the easiest plants to grow from seed, but they are diverse, colorful and varied. They are slow to grow, but they are tenacious and have a will to survive. They flourish in difficult environments. There’s something special about a garden full of succulents.
The bottom line: Good things come to those who wait. Growing succulents from seed is a slow process, but with a bit of trial and error, and plenty of patience, you will find it a rewarding gardening experience.