Germinating Cactus Seeds

Nan's Nook : Archives : Botanicals : Cactus : Peyote : Germinating Cactus Seeds
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Ion's Thread - Peyote fruit to seedlings 9 5/03 Ion
No No No... 7 6/03  
San Pedro Grow Guide: Seeds      
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By Nan (Nanook) on Friday, February 08, 2002 - 05:37 pm:

All cacti seeds will germinate well in the same general conditions: basic pH soil, frequent mistings, moving air, moderate temperatures, good indirect light.

I can tell spring time is just around the corner
This is my reply to an inquiry made by email:

K dude. I will definitely start the thread, leave the source details out, and refer to it as helping a friend...

OK, on the fungus during germination problem... Here is what you do, you germinate Peyote seeds a lot like fruiting shrooms... The seeds need lots of fresh air exchanges, and they will not tolerate direct excess moisture or sunlight.

Get a pie pan and punch some drain holes into the bottom. Fill to about 1/4 inch below the surface with a fine grain home made potting mix. Dry sterilize the soil mix in a PC or bake in an oven at 350*F for one hour and allow to cool. Use the Cacti potting mix (peatless) that I recommend in the Archive, but screen out the larger stone chips and debris and make sure everything is well mixed. Use about 1/4 - 1/3 cup of lime per 9" pie tin.

Sprinkle your seeds on top of the soil, do not bury or mix them in, they must rest on the very surface, then use a hand mister to moisten the soil. The misting action will settle the seeds into contact with the mix and begin to leach out the germination retardant that is naturally found in the seed coats. The pie tins should then be covered with a layer of gauze or cheesecloth if they are to be germinated in direct sun, but I recommend using the cheesecloth and germinating in bright shade, a bright window, or under a florescent light with the timer set to 16 hours.

Mushroom fruiting temps are perfect.

Mist several times a day if needed to keep the surface spongy and moist, you can mist the cheesecloth too to retard drying. never allow the soil mix to become soaked. You just want to keep the top half of the soil in the pan nicely damp. When you remove the gauze cover to mist, be sure and fan them thoroughly. If you let things get too wet, hold off and allow the bed to dry out completely before resuming moisture. Mist frequently but sparingly and keep the air flow up.

It takes about six weeks. Most of that time will be spent waiting for the water soluble germination retardant that is naturally found in the seed coats to leach out. Once the retardant is gone, seeds will germinate quickly.

See: Ion's Thread - Fruit to seedlings


Posted by: centipedes Nov 11 02, 11:44 PM GMT
First off, I was Melchior at the old board. Second, I have gotten my hands on some L. Decipiens and L. Difusa seeds, sorta thinking about starting an heirloom psychotropic cactus collection, maybe my great grandchildren can get off on them. Seriously, though, I have seen varying reports on the alkaloid content of L. Decipiens, and was thinking that if I were to grow one of the bad asses out, and then take a little bit of material from a button, and add Marquis reagent, I would be able to detect the presence of (hopefully active) phenethylamines, assuming (not a big leap, I think) that isoquinolines are chemically far enough removed from mescaline so as not to give a false positive.

That aside, I'm wondering how to start these critters off. I assume they like the same conditions as peyote, as they share the same general habitat. Would high humidity be a bad idea? (ie could I put them under the same light as my psychotria?) Nan, could you give any pointers about growing from seed?

Thanks alot,

Posted by: Nanook Nov 13 02, 06:06 AM GMT
Busy day... I have stuff in a pamphlet from New Mexico Cactus Research on I want to type in, plus comments. I will get to this. Pinning it so you know I did not forget wink.gif

Posted by: Nanook Nov 17 02, 02:59 AM GMT
One part commercial bagged topsoil.
One part commercial bagged cow manure, compost/manure, or compost
One part crushed limestone “minus grade” (This bagged limestone, available from large nurseries and landscape companies, is the finest screening from a rock crusher. It contains limestone particles ranging in size from sand to pebbles.)
1 cup or so of powdered or pelleted limestone (or Dolomite, you want lots of Magnesium in cactus culture) per gallon of dry mix.

Sift the mix through a strainer, sieve, or screen. It should be very fine. Discard all rock chips and lumps.

You want some small shallow containers with drain holes on the bottom, the walls should be no more than 2" high, and I like the sides to be rigid enough you can stretch a rubberband around it without the walls collasping inward.

Put about an inch of your soil mix powder in there, sprinkle you cactus seeds on top, and mist them down into the soil with a spray mister. Do not soak. Cover the container with a layer of cheesecloth, secure it with a rubberband, and place it under bright light.

This is where mushroom culitvation experience really pays off. You treat the seed bed just like a casing. Remove the cheesecloth, fan and mist the bed. Recover. I mist the cheesecloth too to add some humidity and slow the drying of the surface of the seed bed.

It takes about 6 weeks for these seeds to germinate typically. The seeds of these cacti frequently contain water soluble growth inhibitors in the seed coat. In the wild, these seeds will lay dormant for years. It takes time for the growth inhibitor to leach out, and only during in the wettest spring weather, on the wettest years, do these seeds germinate well in the field.

So be patient. Fan, Mist, Light... Humidity can be lower than for casings (misting the cheesecloth cover provides plenty of humidity), air exchanges should be higher (do not seal these beds up). Temps in the mid 80's is perfect, 14-16 hours of light if using artifical.

Cacti seedlings are tender and direct sun will burn them. Keep the shade cover on if germinating outdoors until the seedlings are plump and dark green, then remove the shade for an hour or two at a time until the seedlings have acclimated.

Let me know, sorry it took so long for me to get back to you here, but it did not seem like a highly pressing topic. I wanted to make sure I had all my info straight before posting it up wink.gif

Posted by: centipedes Nov 17 02, 01:15 PM GMT

I'm thinking about growing the seedlings to the point where they can be grafted, and then popping them on a couple pedros. might take 10 instead of 20 years that way. We'll see how it goes...

Posted by: Nanook Nov 17 02, 01:32 PM GMT
You can, if you are careful and good... Go from peyote seed to graft in 2 years with intense cultivation... Give the graft 18 months to mature.

Seed -> Harvest = less than 4 years

Posted by: boxedhearts Jan 09 03, 03:17 PM GMT

Taken from Visionary Cactus Grow Guide:

A preferred method of growing from seed, from the good people at the Soma Graphics. My thanks to them for many good tips and ideas.

Cacti should be germinated in sandy, well-drained soil. A commercial sterilized cactus mix works fine. Use small ceramic pots 5 x 5 cm (2 x 2 inch) since they allow soil to dry out completely (after germination) and prevent root rot. Most cacti germination temperature should be around 70 degrees F. Peyote should be around 80 - 90 degrees.

Place a small piece of cotton over the pots drainage hole and pull a few strands through to act as a wick. Fill the pot with cactus mix. Place the seed on top of the soil in the center of the pot. Additional soil should be sifted through a tea strainer to barely cover the seed.

Put the pots in a Tupperware container with a translucent snap-top lid."Bottom" water the pots by pouring about 1/4 inch of tepid water (never cold) into the Tupperware. Bottom watering causes the roots to grow strong, from searching for the water. When you first plant the seeds, you should also top water once with a fine mist water sprayer. The soil should be well watered throughout but not soggy. Place the lid on the container and place it outside (April - July) or under artificial lights (For an earlier start indoors).

The Tupperware creates a mini greenhouse, and should be kept closed except for a daily check on the seeds progress (which allows some necessary air circulation) until the seeds germinate. They don't need any additional watering or misting during this time (unless for some reason the water level in the container drops below 1/16 inch). Be careful that your mini greenhouse isn't too humid. Wipe off any beads of condensation that form on the containers lid. Also be careful that the temperature isn't too hot, as this can cook the seedlings.

Many species germinate within a few weeks. When the seedlings first appear, they look like tiny green spheres. After they have sprouted, replace the Tupperware lid with a piece of stretched muslin secured with string or a rubber band. This will allow air circulation, which can be increased by placing a fan above the container. Adequate air circulation is essential as all green plants require plenty of CO2 to grow. Seedlings are more sensitive to light than mature plants. They should be dark green. If they are a reddish or brown color, they are receiving too much light, and additional pieces of muslin must be placed over the top of the container to shade them. If they are yellowish then they are not getting enough light.

When the seedlings have germinated, place a thin layer of very fine aquarium gravel on the surface of the soil. This gravel will help to support the new seedlings and protect the surface from drying out too quickly. Be careful to gently scoop out any green moss-like growth that might appear because of high humidity.

After four to five months (when spines have formed on seedlings) remove the muslin shading for one or two hours a day to give the seedlings more light. Stop bottom watering and use a watering can twice a week. Water around the seedlings, not on top of them. The seedlings should be misted occasionally (not a lot) in hot weather. Seedlings should be brought inside for their first winter, and kept moist (they cant handle very cold weather). They should be placed in a sunny window away from cold drafts.

Also note: The use of some sort of fungicide when germinating cacti seeds is almost mandatory due to the high humidity levels involved. I have heard reports that the fungicides Daconil and Consan 20 can cause reduced germination rates, and are not recommended. I have heard a recommendation for the brand name Chinosal, but have not used it personally.

Nan will probably chime in soon angel.gif

Posted by: Nanook Jan 09 03, 03:20 PM GMT
They sprout fine. They take years to become established tho, it's much faster to start with cuttings.

Also the problem with seeds is the amount of genetic variation/hybridization with this species. You will not get a batch of 100% drug quality plants from a batch of seeds. Some (a few) will be good, many (most?) will not be that good.

If you start a catcus garden from cuttings, you can quickly grow (or purchase) enough for a small taste to make sure what you are growing is potent enough to make it worthwhile.

Posted by: CockyMandrill Mar 01 03, 06:26 PM GMT
I have a bag of pre-mixed cactus soil to start some san pedro seeds, is it really necessary to sterilize it before using?

Posted by: ion Mar 01 03, 07:10 PM GMT
With my limited knowledge on cactus propagation I can tell you that starting from seed is very difficult. Do not use a soil that contains peat moss. Use fine sand or something similarly neutral to start seeds. Sterilize it to kill fungal spores that may destroy your seedlings. Soak the seed in dilute peroxide solution (like 1%, or 2 parts water to 1 part OTC peroxide), as well, for about 16 to 20 hours prior to planting.

Keep the seed area humid and warm, but not saturated. Use a humidity dome or just place the seedling pots in a tupperware dish with a lid. A light source with some UV is recommended.

Others here may be able to help more.


Posted by: Nanook Mar 03 03, 10:35 AM GMT
You don't _have_ too. But it's nice.

Posted by: Bob Roberts Mar 03 03, 01:09 PM GMT
Ditto the above posts. cool.gif It's really a scale-dependent thing for me. In horticulture, we pressure cook the sand to eliminate weed seeds primarily. So if you are doing alot, then it may be worth your while.

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