How To Start Cactus From Seed

To thrive, cacti need a sunny location in a compost that is very well-drained, like cactus compost.

Select a windowsill facing south or east for the greatest effects. If the windowsill gets too chilly in the winter, you might need to find them another position.

How to plant cacti

Plant cactus carefully at all times. Your skin may sting and bleed from the spines. To avoid harming yourself while planting your cactus, it is a good idea to use everyday kitchen tools like a fork, spoon, and thick tea towel.

Cactus should be planted in a compost that drains very well, such as cactus compost. Alternately, use a multipurpose compost devoid of peat that has been enriched with horticultural grit or vermiculite to improve drainage.

To finish the aesthetic of the pot display, add a layer of horticultural grit or pebbles. Additionally, this stops water from re-splashing on the cactus.

In our No Fuss video guide, Kevin Smith of Gardeners’ World Magazine demonstrates how to use cactus plants to make a visually appealing display. Kevin discusses how to make a decorative mulch, which compost to use, and why salad tongs are the best tool for handling cacti:

Caring for cactus plants

Water cacti in the summer only once a week at most. A decent watering less frequently is preferable to a little-and-often strategy. In the coldest months, you shouldn’t need to water cacti at all.

Cacti should be repotted every two years to receive fresh compost; larger pots aren’t always necessary.

Stan Griffin of Craig House Cacti shares his three best growing advice for cactus plants in this Golden Rules video, including when to water, feed, and when not to. He also offers guidance on how to take cactus cuttings.

Growing cactus plants: problem solving

Cactus plants often pose no problems. Overwatering or inadequate lighting might cause them to decay at the base. The plants frequently die as a result of this.

Spindly growth is possible in cactus plants, although it is simple to fix. In our Quick Tips video, Emma Crawforth from BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine explains everything.

Cactus varieties to grow

  • Golden barrel cactus, Echinocactus grusonii, is initially globular but later becomes tall. It has brilliant green stems with spiky ribs that are native to Mexico. In the summer, flowers that are bright yellow bloom.
  • The varied cactus Gymnocalycium paraguayense has flattened spines. In spring and summer, it blooms a creamy white color.
  • A globe-shaped cactus with brilliant pink, funnel-shaped blossoms is called Mammillaria spinosissima. It has reddish-brown or yellow center spines.
  • Rebutia krainziana is a clump-forming barrel cactus that grows little, white areoles and spines in contrast to its dark green, up to 7 cm in diameter stems. Large, yellow or red flowers grow in a dense clump around the main stem in late spring.

You Will Need

  • Cacique seed
  • clay and plastic miniature pots
  • Cactus compost or free-draining compost
  • fine grit or vermiculite
  • glass sheet
  • spoon or fork
  • Tweezers
  • Gravel

Step 1

A pot should be filled with a loose-draining, moist compost. Firm the surface down gently and level it. Spread your mixture of cactus seeds evenly around the area, being careful not to sow them too densely.

Step 2

Over the seeds, evenly cover the surface of the compost with a thin layer of vermiculite or fine grit. To keep the soil moist, leave the pot wrapped in a clear plastic bag in a greenhouse or on a warm windowsill.

Step 4

Your seedlings should be ready for transplantation the following spring. To gently pry out individual cactus, use a fork or spoon, being careful not to get the spines on your skin.

Step 6

Add compost all around the seedling and give it plenty of water. If more compost is required, add it after placing the gravel around the seedling with the spoon. Keep in a bright area, like a windowsill, and turn on the pot as necessary.

Can you easily grow cacti from seed?

Cacti, sometimes known as cactus plants, are wonderful indoor plants. They are accustomed to hot, dry, sunny circumstances like succulents are, and many are endemic to the desert. Because of the ability to store water in their thick, typically leafless stems, they can withstand prolonged drought. Thus, they require relatively little irrigation and, if given too much, may even rot. They come in a variety of sizes and forms, and if you’re lucky, in the summer they will produce lovely, vividly colored flowers.

Cacti can be grown in indoor pot displays for a long time or individually in pots. They function nicely in terrariums as well. Cacti are slow-growing plants that can last for years in the same pot.

Before planting, should cactus seeds be soaked?

Use pre-made or homemade cactus soil mix to fill a tiny pot. To level the earth, gently press it down. The soil is properly drained and aerated with the use of inorganic grit, sand, or pumice.

Step 2

The seeds should be soaked in warm water for 30 minutes prior to planting. This encourages germination and loosens the seed coat. Opuntias need a few days of soaking in warm water since their seed coverings are quite resistant. Soak the seeds, then scatter them over the top of the flat soil. Unless the seed is exceptionally large, avoid pressing it into the soil.

Step 3

Just enough inorganic top dressing should be used to completely cover the seeds and soil surface. Don’t cover the seeds entirely in the top coating. Water gently and let the pot entirely drain.

A word about watering: During step 4, it is essential to use freshwater or distilled water to help avoid bacterial and algal growth. If the chlorine in your tap water is overpowering, you should think about drinking distilled water instead. The chlorine will damage or stop growth by burning the young, delicate roots and perhaps causing iron chlorosis. Careful watering can be accomplished by either letting the pot stand in water that is half its height or less, or by gently watering from the top while being careful not to wash away the top dressing. Allow the pot to drain completely in both scenarios.

Step 4

With a plastic container that enables light to pass through, cover and seal the pot. This might be a plastic tub or a supported plastic bag that is rubber-banded shut around the plant. The goal is to create a setting that will act as a greenhouse by retaining heat and moisture. Many things will work, so think creatively and ingeniously! But take cautious not to leave the seedling container submerged in water for too long. If you have chosen a plastic cover that is clear and colorless, move the pot to a location with bright indirect light that is approximately 70 F (21 C). If you’ve picked a clear but colored container, like blue or green, you should put it somewhere with a little more light while keeping the temperature the same. If you have chosen a container that is slightly hazy or foggy, you should put it in a cooler environment, 65 F (18 C), where it receives at least 4 and no more than 8 hours of direct sunlight, with the remaining hours of the day spent in brilliant indirect light.

Keep in mind that the sun is hotter in the late morning and afternoon than it is in the early morning or early evening. Consider the plastic bottle in general as sunscreen. The most light can travel through clear, colorless plastic, slightly less light can pass through clear, colored plastic, and even less light can flow through fogged, clear plastic. In every situation, the plastic container’s interior will warm up.

Don’t fry your young, delicate plants! If the walls of your container dry out during germination, water sparingly, reseal the container, and move it to a warm, well-lit area. If algal growth appears, remove the cover and let the seedling pot partially breathe before wiping it down with a solution of no more than 1 part bleach to 20 parts water (5 percent bleach in water). Give the cover time to dry. Place the seedling container back in a warm, well-lit area after recovering it and sealing it. As needed, keep cleaning the plastic container.

Step 5

The recently sprouting seedlings appear to be well on their way, despite being above earth. They have disproportionately small root systems underground, making it difficult for them to quickly take in the nutrients they need to grow into mature plants. Therefore, until they are almost fully grown, the seedlings should be kept in a plastic container at a high humidity level. Up until appropriate root systems are created, high humidity makes it easier for the roots and leaves to absorb water and nutrients.

Step 6

When the seedlings are large enough to handle, carefully take each seedling from its original nursing pot while wearing gloves or covering your fingers with tape. If the soil has kept moist, this is much simpler.

Step 7

Repot the seedling gently into a pot filled with cactus and succulent soil mix, filling the pot all the way to the top, and top dress with sand, gravel, or pumice. 3 or 4 days later, water. Never put the cactus back in its humidity compartment made of plastic.

Acquiring the seeds

Buying cactus seeds is the first step in planting them. You may purchase the seeds online or at the majority of garden supply stores. The benefit of internet shopping is that you may choose your favorite species with a single click on your laptop, and delivery is made right to your door. Even in packages of various species, the seeds are sold in some stores.

The alternative is to collect your own seeds from cacti that are currently in bloom in case you want to grow them. The seed pods are typically some flower-bearing offshoots that are colorful. The pod is all that is left once the blooms have fallen off.

The optimum time to plant your seeds is in late winter or early spring since it will give the seedlings plenty of time to thrive during the summer.

Harvesting from the pods

As previously noted, you must eliminate the pods if you choose to collect the seeds by hand. It is advised to take the pods out while they are still somewhat damp but not wet. Typically, the pod contains the seeds.

You must take the seeds out of your cactus after you have taken out all of the ripe pods. Slice the pods using a knife, then remove the seeds. Note that various species have distinct seed colors. Some have crimson spots or are typically black. Their sizes also vary; some are really small.

The soil you plant the seeds in is significant

Cactus seedlings are not tolerant of ill-draining soil, for one thing. The soil must be disinfected in order to prevent your seedlings from frequent cactus issues like bacteria and mould.

Sterilizing soil

Before utilizing it to sow the seedlings, you can sterilize the soil in a number of methods.

with steam

Use a pressure cooker to steam the soil. Place shallow soil pans (no deeper than 4 inches) over the rack top of the pressure cooker and add a few cups of water. Close the lid after wrapping each pan in foil paper. For around 30 minutes, steam.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, put soil-filled pans (often covered in foil) on a rack in a sterilizing container filled with an inch of water. For around 30 minutes, steam the container with the lid on.

After heating the soil using either method, let it cool while it is wrapped in foil until you are ready to use it.

the use of a microwave

If you choose to use a microwave, put moist soil in microwave-safe containers and cover with a lid. Foil is not appropriate here. To avoid pressure buildup, make sure the lids have ventilation holes.

For 90 seconds, warm the soil. Covering the ventilation holes with tape will allow the soil to cool.

A polypropylene bag filled with two pounds of moist soil would be the alternative. To allow for air, place the soil in the microwave with the top left portion open. About two minutes and thirty seconds of maximum power heating the earth. When finished, seal the bag and let it cool.

using a stove

You require a container designed specifically for use in an oven for the oven. Place dirt in the container to a depth of about 4 inches, then wrap it in foil. Put a thermometer in the center and heat it for about 30 minutes at 180F.

When the allotted time has passed, let the soil cool, and only take the foil off when you’re ready to use it.

You must discover the proper ratios while creating a soil combination for your cactus seedlings in order for them to germinate. You will require

  • Granite or pumice stone
  • Cactus dirt
  • Vermiculite
  • Perlite

First, cactus soil and pumice stone should form the foundation of the soil combination. Start by getting rid of any pieces in the cactus soil because they could serve as a breeding ground for germs and hinder proper water drainage.

The cactus soil should be mixed with pumice or granite stone after being sifted. If pumice stone is not available, you can alternatively use limestone screens, which is a less expensive alternative. Ascertain that the pumice is about 10% greater than the cactus soil.

Pour the mixture where the seeds will be planted rather than packing it down; try to keep it as natural-looking as possible. A 2-inch pot is adequate because seedlings are relatively little. Even existing materials can be used to create containers for the seeds.

If you are using previously used pots, make sure to carefully clean them to avoid any bugs destroying the seedlings even before they germination. You can use bleach water and a thorough rinsing to clean them.

These seeds require a soil with good drainage. Make sure the soil is moistened, but that the water drains completely.

Spread your cactus seeds around the soil rather than squeezing them in. Then you can cover them with a thin layer of cactus dirt or sand. They only have limited amounts of stored energy, which might not be able to penetrate far into the soil before running out, which is why it is not a good idea to bury them deeply in the ground.

Once you have planted the seedlings, make sure to identify your pots. It is especially important if you grow different species in different containers because you can give each one unique care. Because some species are too similar to one another, you don’t want to run into problems growing them. Otherwise, you might mistake one for the other.

Exposing the seeds to the sun

It is necessary to cover the seeds with a clear lid or plastic wrap after moistening the soil and filling them with sand. Put your seeds in a well-chosen spot, preferably inside, where they will receive the ideal quantity of sunlight. Put them on a windowsill that gets plenty of sunlight.

They don’t like direct sunshine, so don’t leave them outside. The transparent lid’s function is to hold in moisture, aid in cactus sprouting, and let light reach the plant.

Keep an eye on your seedlings. The likelihood of them being burnt increases if they start to turn purple or red. Limit the quantity of light coming in.

The seeds need heat during the early stages just as much as they need the sun. The kitchen and other warm rooms of the house are great. To increase germination, you can also buy a heating mat that you lay beneath the seed containers.

In order to prevent retaliation, where the plant becomes thinner and softer until it breaks when touched, heat and light are crucial as the cactus matures.

What to do when germination starts

Cacti grow slowly, as was already mentioned, thus patience is required to see them through. Your seedlings should begin to germinate after planting and with the appropriate lighting and temperature. The wait time could be a month or longer.

At this point, tiny spines start to develop. This is the signal to remove the plastic wrap or clear lid so the plant may breathe. To avoid this, open the top for a few hours during the day and then gradually increase the hours.

Remember that water evaporates considerably more quickly when the cactus is exposed, so you’ll need to follow a watering schedule to keep the plant alive.

The best water to use to stop the growth of bacteria and algae is fresh or distilled water. Avoid using tap water on your cacti if you think it tastes chloriney. Since the roots are so delicate, employing chlorine-laced water will cause them to burn. The cactus might be killed as a result of this.

Even while the seedlings appear to be growing well when they sprout, the roots are actually still very weak and unable to properly absorb nutrition. Till they outgrow the plastic covering, keep the seedlings there. Until the roots are strong enough, the high relative humidity makes it easier for the roots to absorb nutrients and water.

Since certain species lack spines, the emergence of seedlings serves as a measure of growth. Make sure there is no water left on the ground. Continue looking for overwatering warning indicators. The container shouldn’t contain any standing water. To determine how moist or dry the soil is, stick your finger into it.

Maintain the schedule you established when you first began watering them after germination. Watch out for specific symptoms, such as seedling thinning, which could be a sign of inadequate lighting. Overwatering might have occurred because of the algae, which might be on top of the soil. A cactus with fungus infection will begin to develop black patches.


It’s time to repot when the seeds have outgrown their current container. You need a container that drains rapidly, so choose it wisely. To prevent root rot, you need one with drainage holes so that during watering, the excess water drains.

Pots made of terracotta and unglazed ceramic are excellent examples of pots with adequate drainage. Other types of containers, however, can also function; the important thing is to choose one that drains water rapidly and doesn’t leave the soil water-logged.

The amount of water you give the cactus also affects whether or not your plant rots, even if you have the appropriate container.

Cacti naturally grow slowly, so it may take them up to a year to reach marble size. You should repot it at this time to give it room to grow healthily. Choose the suitable pot size because a small pot stops a plant from growing properly.

The same recipe you used for the cactus’ previous soil should be utilized to create a new mixture once you remove the plant from its previous plastic cover. Place the plant in the container after forming it, then add the soil mixture.

After three to four days, water the mixture and make sure the plant is not covered with plastic wrap or a lid.

Recovery time after repotting

After repotting, letting the plant adapt to the new alterations will help it stay trouble-free. Plants might become stressed out while repotting, and they require time to recover. If you had previously placed it close to a location with plenty of sunlight, you might want to try placing it in the shadow for a few days while it heals. After that, you can gradually reintroduce it to sunlight until it is able to withstand the heat.

Cacti demand less water than other houseplants than other potted plants. Given that they are succulents, they frequently store water to utilize later when the soil dries up. A common rule of thumb is to hold off on watering the plant again until the soil has dried up.

You can even water your plant once a month once it has grown. The majority of species’ water needs are lowest in the winter. Water the plant only when necessary at this time. Because it is simpler to manage with inadequate water than excess, you would prefer to have a plant that is under watered than one that is overwatered.

Use cactus fertilizer to aid with growth during the growing season. Contrary to other plants, cacti typically require less fertilizer.

You should be able to successfully grow your cactus from seed using the following procedure. You can easily see it grow from the seeds all the way to the top if you want to enjoy the process.