Can you Grow a Cactus from Seed?

If you’re looking for a new gardening experiment or want to fill your home with cacti in a cost-effective way, growing from seed is the answer. Gardening expert Madison Moulton explains whether you can grow cacti from seed and how to get it right.

Growing cactus from seeds. Close-up of young sprouted cacti in a pot under sunlight. The plant produces upright, oval bodies with small spines. These cacti exhibit a vibrant green coloration.


Cacti aren’t the first plants that come to mind when you think of sowing seeds. In fact, they’re probably one of the last. However, these desert-dwelling plants do produce flowers that develop seeds like any other plant. Will cacti grow reliably from seeds? And is it worth the effort? Let’s find out.

The Short Answer

It is possible to grow cacti from seed. Starting from seed is especially useful if you want to save on costs, grow a rare species, propagate a large amount of plants, or have more control over growing conditions. However, patience is required. These slow growers may take several weeks or months to germinate, depending on the species. They will need plenty of attention to survive from seed to mature plant. Cacti seeds, either specific species or mixes, are easiest to purchase online.

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All Kinds and Forms Mixed Cacti Seeds

The Long Answer

Close-up of several plastic containers with germinating Astrophytums cacti on a shelf indoors. Astrophytums cacti sprouts emerge as small, spherical bodies covered in fine, woolly hairs and tiny spines. These young plants exhibit a vibrant green coloration, tinged with hints of red or purple at the tips.
While less common, seed propagation offers unique benefits.

Growing cacti from seed is not the most common propagation method for home gardeners. Division, cuttings, or offsets (if your plant has them) typically yield quicker and more reliable results.

But there are also many benefits, whether you’re collecting from an existing plant or purchasing new seeds from a supplier.


The benefits of growing any plant from seed also apply to cacti, with some extra benefits regarding achievement and satisfaction in the garden.


Close-up of several rows of potted cacti of different species in a nursery. Young cacti growing in pots include: Euphorbia horrida, Euphorbia submammillaris, Mammillaria elongata and Lobivia hertrichiana f. binghamiana.
Seed starting is cost-effective, yielding more plants at lower prices.

Buying one small cactus won’t usually break the bank (depending on what species you buy). But if you want to grow many cacti, particularly large ones, then buying mature plants can be pricey.

One of the easiest ways to slash your budget is to grow from seed. This allows you to grow more than double the plants at a fraction of the price.

One mixed seed packet can contain as many as 200 tiny seeds. Although they won’t all germinate, you can grow far more plants at a lower price than you would pay for a single potted cactus at a nursery.


Close-up of young Gymnocalycium cristata cacti in black plastic pots. Gymnocalycium cristata, also known as the "Brain Cactus," is a captivating succulent characterized by its unique and whimsical appearance. This distinctive cactus features a flattened, brain-like shape with undulating ridges and grooves that resemble convoluted folds. The surface of the cristate form is covered in clusters of small, white spines.
Planting seeds provides access to a wider diversity of plants than typically available at nurseries.

Nurseries don’t have the capacity to sell every single plant every gardener might want to grow. They make selections of the most popular plants that are more likely to sell. That usually excludes rarer or more costly species, especially when it comes to cacti.

If you’re looking to grow a very specific cactus species or want to start collecting some rare varieties, sowing seeds is the way to do it. When shopping online for seeds, you’ll have access to a far greater selection of plants that are still cost-effective.


Close-up of many tiny Astrophytums cactus in a decorative white ceramic pot. Tiny cactus plants are diminutive yet captivating succulents that boast a charmingly compact and spherical form. These cacti feature a vibrant green or bluish-green coloration, tinged with red or purple hues at the tips.
Seed propagation provides control over the plant environment, avoiding unknown nursery conditions.

When you purchase plants from a nursery, you don’t know what environment they’ve developed in. There’s no way to tell what products have been used to grow them to that stage or whether there are secret pest and disease issues not easily visible to the eye.

Growing from seed gives you complete control over the plants’ environment from the start. You don’t need to worry about any adjustment periods that can negatively impact growth, as the newly germinated cacti will grow up adapting to your garden environment.


Close-up of a small cactus sprout next to a mature mother plant in a pot. The plant is characterized by thick, fleshy stems that store water to survive in arid environments. Their stems feature distinctive ribbing patterns, which are covered in spines. Cacti are green in color with long white spines on the ribs.
Tending cactus seedlings requires patience and maintenance, but the reward is satisfying.

Although cacti are not necessarily difficult to propagate by seed, they do require some patience and careful maintenance. Those may be considered cons, but it does make the reward all the better when you get it right.

You’ll gain far more satisfaction from a garden of cacti you grew from seed than one you purchased. There is something special about nurturing a plant from day one to maturity. It provides a sense of achievement in the garden that’s hard to find otherwise.


While it is possible to grow most cacti species from seed, there are also a few downsides to consider.

Slow Growth

Close-up of Lobivia cactus sprout in wet soil. Lobivia cactus sprout emerges as a small, globular body of light green color with three small tufts of tiny white spines on top.
Seed starting requires patience due to slow growth, but initial germination is exciting.

The biggest con, especially for impatient gardeners like myself, is slow growth. Cacti are notoriously slow growers on a good day, so it can take several years for some species to reach the size you’re looking for when growing from seed. About a year after sowing your seeds, you can look forward to cacti that are only an inch tall in some species.

The one bonus is that they are incredibly adorable when they first germinate, and it’s exciting to watch them take shape as they grow. But seed propagation is definitely playing the long game. As some of the longest-living plants in the world, cacti are in no rush to mature.


Close system cactus seeding in clear plastic bags with tiny cactus sprouts. Cactus sprouts grow in a small black plastic pot. They are small oval thick stems of bright green color.
Carefully controlling the environment aids growth but requires consistent maintenance, especially for beginners.

Controlling the environment carefully is a benefit in terms of healthy growth, but it can be a con when it comes to maintenance.

Cacti seeds remain in their trays for several months and take a long time to develop roots. During that time, you need to carefully control temperature, moisture levels, humidity, and light to provide consistent conditions that are conducive to germination. Any mistakes can lead to lack of growth or rotting, killing the young plants early on.

If you have a dedicated growing space and sow seeds year-round, it probably won’t require much additional maintenance. But if you’re new to sowing seeds, ensure you know what you’re in for before you start.

Spotty Germination

Close-up of Astrophytums cactus seed germination in a rectangular white plastic container. Young Astrophytums cacti are present as miniature spherical plants with a vibrant green hue. These diminutive succulents feature delicate ribbing along their stems.
Whether purchased or collected, cactus seeds have unpredictable germination rates and timing.

Cactus seeds are quite unpredictable. Purchased seed packets will likely have a higher germination rate than seeds you collect from existing plants, but germination is still spotty.

Not all seeds will take, and some species will germinate at vastly different rates. You may assume some seeds just won’t sprout, only to find they pop up a couple of months after planting. Seed sowing is always somewhat unpredictable, but even more so when growing cacti.

Where To Find Cactus Seeds

Close-up of a seed pod full of Gymnocalycium mihanovichii cactus seeds against a blurred background. The seed pod is a small, round structure that develops after the flowering stage. It has a pinkish-green coloration. Inside the pod, numerous tiny seeds are contained, each resembling a small, brownish speck with a smooth texture.
For reliable results, purchase seeds from reputable companies or collect from flowering cacti.

If you’ve decided to brave the cons, you first need to find some seeds to grow. It is possible to collect seeds from existing plants if your cactus has flowered. However, for more reliable results, I would recommend purchasing seeds from reputable seed companies.

Cactus seeds are not common, so it’s easier to find what you’re looking online. For a specific species, look for specialist growers that ship seeds. Alternatively, you can find mixed seed packets from Botanical Interests, containing six popular cactus species in one.

How To Grow Cacti From Seed

Close-up plan of a seed tray with Astrophytum asterias cactus seeds sown. The tray is plastic6 black, has six separate in-depth cells filled with moist soil. 15-10 tiny seeds are sown in each cell. These seeds are small, irregular in shape, and brownish-burgundy in color.
Start seeds indoors with proper equipment in a warm, controlled environment for germination.

When your seeds have arrived, you can start them indoors or in a greenhouse at any time of the year. They need to remain warm and protected for several months, so choose a location with a consistent environment that can be carefully controlled as seasons change.

You’ll need a small pot or seed starting tray, a gritty seed starting mix, vermiculite to cover the seeds, and a plastic cover to retain humidity. In cooler environments, you may want to invest in a heating mat to keep the soil warm, providing the ideal conditions for germination.

Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Soak your seeds in lukewarm water overnight before sowing. This isn’t 100% necessary, but can improve germination rates of certain species.
  2. Fill a tray with your seed starting mix, ensuring it drains well to avoid rot. Fill almost to the top, leaving a gap to cover later.
  3. Moisten the mixture before you start so you don’t dislodge the seeds after sowing.
  4. Sprinkle the seeds in the tray, spreading them out evenly and ensuring you don’t sow too thickly. They need a little room to spread out once they germinate.
  5. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of vermiculite. Some seeds germinate better when they are completely uncovered, so check the requirements of your specific species.
  6. Place the tray inside a plastic container or bag to trap humidity. Leave in a warm area in a spot with bright but indirect sunlight.
  7. Maintain moisture by misting the soil lightly as it begins to dry out.
  8. Once the seeds have germinated, which can take a few months, you can wait for the medium to dry out before adding more moisture to prevent rot.

Final Thoughts

Growing your favorite cactus species from seed may take some patience and care, but the feeling of achievement when you get it right is all the more exciting.

Close up of the top of a grafted cactus plant called a crested euphorbia. White with pink edges and a coral-like texture is attached to a thick green stem with thick leaves. The background is brown and blurred.

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