Cacti and Succulents
See the sections on specific propagation techniques for general information, especially those for seed and cuttings. More precise details on reproducing a species are given only if these differ from the usual.
For cacti and succulents, warmer germinating temperatures are beneficial, i.e. 70-80F/21-27C and coarsely gritty, very well-draining soil is ideal; fine sand should not be part of the growing medium as it can actually let the soil compact to a rock-like consistency. Water regularly and thoroughly during growth, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings, and less frequently when not actively growing.
Seed is often surface-sown, as light is typically needed for germination. Soil should be slightly moist prior to germination; after germination, the soil surface should be allowed to dry out for very brief periods of time, until the plants mature. For most cacti and succulents, germination is erratic.
Water from below after germination, especially if seedlings are very small, and allow to dry out between waterings. Bottom heat and warm ambient temperatures (75F/24C daytime, 70F/21C at night) are ideal. Seed and young seedlings should be protected from the midday sun.
Do not prick seedlings out until the second year after sowing, when bodies are some 1/4" thick, and distinct roots and spines have formed. Succulents grow much quicker and may be transplanted within weeks or months.
Transplant into light, porous medium, being careful to protect the tender roots. Long roots may be trimmed but roots should never be bent; the neck of the roots must be at the soil surface. Water for several days after transplanting; transplant only during the growing season.
Cacti and succulents often tolerate higher concentrations of fertilizer without ill effect; fertilize regularly. Try tomato or rose fertilizer (rich in magnesium and phosphorus) with flowering plants, half-strength on young plants. For young seedlings, use only diluted solutions. Fertilize in the evenings.
Some of the cylindrical cacti produce smaller plants at their bases: these may be pulled off, left to form a callus over a week or two, then potted.
Succulent cuttings should be several inches in length, and are left to root in air, or at least allowed a few hours, usually days, to callus. When potted, water only sparingly, and keep in a drier atmosphere. Benign neglect is always a good policy. Do not take cuttings from the woody stems of succulents.
Leaves from succulents can often be broken from the stem, and kept warm and shady. Allow to wrinkle, wait for appearance of roots and very small new plantlets, often months. Then lay flat on soil in a small pot. Water lightly and infrequently, and ignore.
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