With more than 2,000 species of succulents and cacti suitable for decor, it's worth your time and effort to try growing them from seeds. This allows you to experiment with combinations without going broke.
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They're beautiful, trendy, and diverse. And with proper care, succulents are ridiculously easy to care for and last a long time. Succulents are always popular; we want to fill our homes, offices, and outdoor spaces with them. So what better way to spread the love than to grow succulents from seeds? In addition to saving money on mature plants, you'll be able to introduce rare varieties to the mix that are difficult to find otherwise.

Growing cacti and succulents from seeds is a very similar process. Even so, you'll want to research the germination time for each variety, so you don't remove them from the growing soil too early. It's a good idea to consider the germination time for growing succulents from seeds for the type you purchase. Also, sunlight and temperature need monitoring when growing succulents from seeds. The moderate temperatures of spring and fall allow for optimal growing conditions.

Container Succulents

What You'll Need:

  • Shallow planting trays (no more than 4 inches deep with drainage holes in the bottom)
  • Sand (try horticultural sand or builder's sand), pumice, or perlite
  • Potting soil (optional)
  • Succulent or cactus seeds
  • Toothpick
  • Clear lid or plastic wrap for trays

Purchase Your Seeds

A little bit of research in this department pays off. Make sure you're buying from a reputable seed seller since plenty of illegitimate suppliers are out there. Most commercial seed companies will have real succulent seeds.

Some easy-to-grow varieties include:

Mix Your Growing Medium

There are many suggested combinations for growing media (the soil mixture in which you'll be planting your seeds). Some suggest horticultural sand only, others a mix of potting soil and sharp sand, pumice, or perlite. The amount you'll need will depend on the ratio you decide to use, the size of your planting trays, and how many trays you use.

Succulents with fatter leaves hold more of their own water, so you can use more pumice in your mix for optimal drainage. Plants with more delicate leaves will benefit from a higher ratio of soil. We found that a half-and-half mixture of coarsely sifted potting soil and sand or perlite works well for most varieties (and combinations of different varieties) while providing enough plant drainage.

Since baby plants are especially susceptible to disease, you will want to pasteurize your soil mix before planting the seeds. Do this by baking your soil mix at 300 degrees F for about 30 minutes to kill bugs and bacteria. (Alternatively, you can microwave your soil for about 10 minutes.) Allow it to cool, then wet it thoroughly and allow it to drain.

Thoroughly wash your tray(s)s to ensure no residue from old soil. Fill your planting tray(s) with your soil mix, about 1/2 inch from the top.

Planting Succulent Seeds

Succulent seeds are tiny, so you'll want to do this step in a sheltered area where the wind won't blow them away. 

  • Dampen the soil's surface so that the seeds stick to the soil. 
  • Carefully spread the seeds over the surface of your soil mix, giving them space between each other. (The space between depends on the succulent you're planting. Keep in mind their mature size when considering how far apart you will want to space them.) 
  • Use a toothpick to gently spread them around. If your tray is divided into cells, put one or two seeds in each cell. Don't cover the seeds with soil.
  • Cover your tray(s) with a clear lid or plastic wrap. 
  • Set the trays in a brightly lit location but out of direct sunlight. 
  • Keep the temperature at about 70 degrees F. 
  • Keep the soil moist but not wet, as too much water can drown your seeds. Open the lid twice a day to keep the air moving. 

Watch Them Grow

Depending on the type of succulent, temperature, and sunlight, your plants may take anywhere from three days to a few weeks to begin growing. (Some may even take several months to a year to germinate, so it's essential to do your research when buying your seeds to anticipate growing time.) Once you see leaves begin to emerge, remove the lid during the day to keep them ventilated.

Keep the soil moist as your plants grow over the first week (or two) and ensure adequate drainage. This is when their roots are just starting to develop, so it's crucial to keep them hydrated. Once the roots become established, it's not necessary to always keep the soil surface damp. Monitor your plants' growth and use your best judgment (plus your research on your succulents) until you're watering them about once per week as you would adult plants.

This is also the time to introduce your succulents to more sunlight. While succulents and cacti are desert plants, that doesn't mean they thrive off of direct sunlight and heat. The baby plants especially don't like direct sunlight, so wait until their leaves begin to mature before slowly introducing them to more and more light. Increase the light by an hour or so every few days until you get them to tolerate the amount of light in the area where you want to keep them permanently. Again, the best amount of light will vary depending on each type of plant.

Replanting Succulents

Generally, it's time to remove your young succulents or cacti from the planting tray when their size is mature enough to safely be handled and transplanted. Don't rush this process, though: It's better to keep them in a more confined area a bit longer than necessary than uproot them before they're ready. Usually, it's time to replant after six months or so.

Because their root balls are fairly tight, succulents are usually easy to transplant. Gently loosen the soil around the base and lift, without tugging on the roots, until the plant comes loose. Use your fingers to clear away the old soil and any dead roots.

  • Make sure your new pot is larger than the old one, so your plants have room to grow. 
  • Put some rocks or loose gravel in the bottom for drainage, then mix a new soil medium appropriate for your succulent type. (Don't use the old soil.) 
  • Fill the new pot halfway with the new mixture, set the plant inside, and add more soil mix to cover the roots. 
  • Press the soil down gently around the base to secure it. Wait a few days before watering to give your plant time to adjust to the new soil.
wooden handing planter with succulents
Credit: Brie Passano

Ongoing Succulent Care

Caring for succulents and cacti is simple once you know what you're doing: 

  • Every plant type prefers different things, so it's important to know what varieties you have to ensure the best care. 
  • Succulents love light but not always direct sunlight. And with light comes heat, so consider temperature and how quickly water might evaporate when choosing a home for your plants. 
  • Rotating your plants is also essential so that all sides get adequate light. (A leaning plant might indicate that it needs more sunlight.)

Overwatering is a common mistake when caring for succulents. To avoid this:

  • Remember that growing succulents from seeds require more water in the spring and summer when the weather is warm and the plants thrive. 
  • The soil should dry out between waterings to a depth of about one inch below the soil surface. 
  • Water the soil directly until water comes out through the container's drainage holes. (If yours doesn't have drainage holes, don't water it as much.) 
  • Most succulents require water every week or so, but keep in mind that this varies greatly depending on type and climate.

Wipe off your plants every now and then to eliminate dust, dirt, and any bugs. If insects become a problem for your plants, you may need to reduce the water you give them. Mix a 70% isopropyl alcohol and water solution and spray the soil to eliminate eggs and larvae. Consider adding a small amount of fertilizer when you replant your succulents.

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