Growing Cacti and other succulents is a very absorbing hobby and once you are hooked, it can become addictive. This premium cactus seed mix of a variety of species includes the famous Echinocactus grusonii, the Golden Barrel Cactus and the magnificent Cereus giganteus, the Saguaro Cactus.
These fun to grow desert type cacti may be grown outside in frost-free areas or as inside potted specimens in colder climates. Two misconceptions, that they are difficult to grow and they rarely flower, needs to be cleared away. They germinate easily, grow slowly, but compared to many plants need relatively little care.
Some species of cacti, especially of Mammillaria and Rebutia will flower in the second year from seed and a few species will even flower in the first year. Many once they have reached flowering stage, will flower regularly every year and some will flower twice a year if grown correctly.
Most of the taller growing cacti, for example species of Cereus and Cleistocactus, have to reach a considerable size or age before they will flower, but these are frequently grown for their shape or white spines. You will be surprised at the magnificent flowers that may even appear in the depth of winter.
Sowing: Sow indoors at any time of year.
Fill small pots or trays with a light and well-aerated compost. (John Innes Seed Compost, with the addition of 50% gritty sand is an old favourite). Do not firm the mixture down. Stand the pots in water, moisten thoroughly and drain. It is a good plan to stand the containers on a tray of damp sand, so that they do not dry out.
Scatter the seed onto the top of the compost or, if the seed is larger, sow individually and press lightly into the compost. Do not cover small seeds with compost. Secure a polythene bag around the pot or cover the container with glass or and place in a warm shaded place. If possible, germinate in a propagator. Care should be taken to prevent the pots drying out from below. Many people make use of a warm place such as the airing cupboard, or near the kitchen boiler.
The majority of seeds germinate best at a temperatures of 22 to 24°C (70 to 75°F). Some seedlings may appear within a week or 10 days others will take longer. At lower temperatures, germination usually takes considerably longer.
Once germination has taken place, remove the glass or plastic and move into a good light. Be careful to keep the top of the compost damp. As soon as the first seeds have germinated, remove the plastic or raise the lid slightly to permit some circulation of air.
From now on, the tiny seedlings need to be in a good light, but must be protected from direct sun. Shading from all but winter sun is desirable for the first 12 months. If the young plants are exposed to too much sun, or the compost dries out, they may stop growing and often turn red; once they stop, it is often difficult to persuade them to start growing again.
After germination and at intervals of about 10 days, it is as well to spray with a fungicide. It is as well to continue this treatment for 8-10 weeks, or until the seedlings look like miniature cacti. Never let the pots dry out-but don't saturate them either. A sodden compost is as harmful as a dry one.
Some growers keep their seedlings in the sowing compost for 12 months, others prick out when the seedlings are three months old. Any good compost will do at this stage, provided it is well drained and well aerated.
Keep at a minimum of 16°C (60°F) during their first winter and water carefully. Try to ensure that the compost is nearly dry by nightfall. The most dangerous months for your seedlings are likely to be February, March and early April, when the nights are cold and the day temperatures under glass rather high. As the days lengthen, the seedlings really respond to watering and start to grow visibly, and it is then that a sharp drop in temperature can be fatal if the compost is too wet.
Some of the most important points for growing successfully are cleanliness and good ventilation at all times. Ventilation particularly on warm or hot days is most important.
Whenever handling cactus especially larger specimens, it is important that you take precautions not to injure yourself, as these plants have large needle-like thorns. Wrap newspaper around the cactus and use hand gloves when handling them.
Cacti prefer a dry, warm and well ventilated surrounding. They will not survive freezing temperatures, if it freezes outside during winter in your area, keep your cactus indoors.
The plants needs full exposure to the sun. If you have a houseplant, keep it near a window, where it can get plenty of light.
They don't need to be watered often and can survive under watering but, over watering this plant causes it to rot.
Most cacti need nitrates to grow well, use high phosphorus fertiliser three times a year during spring, summer and autumn.
All Cacti come from the New World, North and South America. Although they are often referred to as 'desert species', cacti do not grow in deserts as is commonly thought, as nothing grows in deserts (!), but in very arid semi-deserts. In some of the habitats cacti may not see rainfall for years, but usually the ground is very rich in minerals. Succulents on the other hand grow in almost all parts of the world, apart from the Arctic and the Antarctic.
The most widely recognised and most popular of all desert species of cacti in cultivation are:
Echinocactus with its six species, is one of the two genera of cacti commonly known as barrel cacti. The other genus, with considerably more species, is Ferocactus. The two groups are widely distributed in the southwestern USA and Mexico.
Carnegiea gigantea, the Saguaro Cactus is the single species in this monotypic genus, native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, the Mexican State of Sonora, and the Whipple Mountains and Imperial County areas of California.
The Golden Barrel Cactus:
Echinocactus grusonii, the Golden Barrel Cactus, also called the Golden Ball Cactus, Mother-In-Law's-Seat, Mother-In-Law's-Cushion, are native to the State of Queretaro in Mexico, but have become very scarce in their wild environment due to the inundation of much of their natural habitat from the construction of a dam.
It is admired for its large round shape, adorned with very neat rows of clustered golden spines. Its flowers are also golden yellow in colour, emerging from a large patch of wool at the centre of the plant. They grow a few at a time, over a long period, during the growing season in the warm months of the year.
It is easily one of the most popular of all cactus species grown. It is very easy to propagate from seed, grows fairly quickly, is tolerant of a range of treatment or mistreatment and has a striking appearance due to its golden-yellow spines. Ironically, it is nearly extinct in the wild and exists in only a very small area geographically.
The Saguaro Cactus:
Carnegiea gigantea, the Saguaro Cactus is an arborescent (tree-like) species in the monotypic genus Carnegiea. Named in honour of Andrew Carnegie the American industrialist, it can grow to be over 70 feet (21 m) tall. The single species in this monotypic genus is certainly the most widely recognised and stereotypical cactus of all.
The large Saguaro is a symbol of the desert Southwest and has symbolised the west and because of this, many people associate the large, branched cacti with the west. It is often used as an emblem in commercials and logos that attempt to convey a sense of the west, even if the product has no connection to Arizona or the Sonoran Desert. For instance, no naturally occurring saguaros are found within 250 miles (400 km) of El Paso, Texas, but the silhouette is found on the label of Old El Paso brand products.
Western films once enthusiastically placed saguaros in Monument Valley of Arizona, as well as New Mexico, Utah, and Texas. Although the geographic anomaly has lessened in recent years, no wild saguaros are found anywhere in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Utah, or Nevada, nor in the high deserts of northern Arizona.
In reality these quintessential cacti occur in the U.S. only in central/southern Arizona and a tiny bit into California on the Arizona border. This is quite the opposite of the widespread occurrence many people romantically incorporate with their impression of the Wild West. None-the-less, anyone who has stood beneath these magnificent giants can easily see the reason for their popularity. Cacti are foreign enough to the majority of the world with their leafless, succulent, spiny bodies; but add to that heights in excess of 50 feet and monstrous branches and the result is quite awe-inspiring and more than enough to fuel endless folklore and tall tales.
The Saguaro Cactus is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, the Mexican State of Sonora, and the Whipple Mountains and Imperial County areas of California. Harming a saguaro in any manner is illegal by state law in Arizona, and when houses or highways are built, special permits must be obtained to move any saguaro affected. In 1994 the Saguaro National Park, Arizona, was designated to help protect this species and its habitat. It is the only US national park devoted to a particular plant species.
Saguaros grow slowly from seed, never from cuttings and have a relatively long lifespan. Specimens may live for more than 150 years and grow to be over 40 ft tall. They may grow their first side arm any time from 75 to 100 years of age, but some never grow one at all. A saguaro without arms is called a spear. The arms are grown to increase the plant's reproductive capacity (more apices lead to more flowers and fruit).
The growth rate of saguaros is strongly dependent on precipitation; saguaros in drier western Arizona grow only half as fast as those in and around Tucson, Arizona. Saguaros soak up the rainwater and visibly expand. They conserve the water and slowly consume it.
The tallest Saguaro ever measured was an armless specimen found near Cave Creek, Arizona; it measured 24m (78ft) tall before it blew over in a windstorm in 1986. Currently, the largest known living specimen is the Champion Saguaro growing in Maricopa County, Arizona, and is 14m (45ft) tall with a girth of 3.1m (10ft).
- Additional Information
Packet Size 250mg Average Seed Count 50 Seeds Seeds per gram Variable, due to differing sizes of seed of all the different varieties. Family Cactaceae Species Mixed Species Cultivar Various Common Name Cactus Hardiness Tender Perennial Time to Sow Sow indoors at any time of year. Germination The majority of seeds germinate in 7 to 10 days at 22 to 24°C (70 and 75°F)