Soil Mixture For Cacti and Succulent Success

Soil for the successful culture of cacti and succulents should be fine textured and of an open sandy nature. It should hold moisture evenly and yet drain freely and never be allowed to become soggy and muddy or hard and caky. It must be loose and friable always.

Plants from Seed

Although the fastest way to start cacti and succulents is from cuttings, some prefer to grow from seed because the best plants are raised from seed and, furthermore, some get a bigger kick out of them by watching their earliest beginning.

bright colorful orange flowered parodia growing in pot

Any greenhouse gardener who can raise fine seeded annuals such as snapdragons and petunias should be able to succeed with the usual run of succulents. The problem is not entirely identical but the need for care in providing the right growing conditions for the tender seedlings is the same.

The seed can then be sown either broadcast or in rows. Deep clay bulb pans are used with broken crockery at the bottom for drainage. This is covered with a fine sandy soil over which a fine layer of vermiculite is added. This is done to prevent “damp off” and if vermiculite were used only for this purpose, it could be termed a most marvelous product.

After the seed is sown, a pane of glass covered by paper is placed on top until the seeds have sprouted. In an evenly heated greenhouse, kept at 65 degrees, the seed comes up quickly. In fact, some of the Opuntias come up in three days.

Care of Seedlings

At no time do plants need more care than at the seedling stage. The glass covering is removed gradually to give the plants a chance to harden. Then, it is taken off altogether and the plants are given plenty of air and some light.

A short time after transplanting, feeding begins. Many experts prefer using a liquid food for both young and older, established plants. They consider it to be a fertilizer which embodies the many trace elements so essential to good growth of desert and other succulents. A liquid fertilizer and can be diluted easily and distributed evenly. In summer, plants are fed about every month. In winter, when plants are resting, they’re not fed at all.

Tempered Water

Never use ice cold water from the tap for plants plants but allow the water to be warmed by the sun’s heat to just the right temperature.


During the warm growing season, cacti from the desert can take a good deal of watering. The amount is decreased with the fall and almost stopped in winter. Others, such as the orchid cacti, can take water regularly throughout the year except during those periods in late summer and fall when flowering has finished.

Most cacti and succulents can be grown as house plants. There are many excellent sources of plants and seeds grown by specialists. Check out their catalogs and websites for the very interesting items and surprisingly low prices.

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