Growing Succulents from Seed: Tricky Yet Possible

Growing succulents from seed is a cheap way to add lots of new plants to your collection. However cheap it is, it’s still a slow process. Succulents are generally slow growers, so it will take much longer to coax them from seeds instead of cuttings. Some seeds can take a year or more just to germinate!

Succulent seeds are also extremely picky about their growing conditions. Before you jump into growing, you need to be prepared to give them the constant care they require. The bottom line is, propagation through cuttings or offsets is a much more efficient method than seeds.

No matter the difficulty though, we understand that many folks are up to the challenge. So in this article, we’ll go over how to grow succulents and cacti from seeds to full-fledged plants!

Good Products For Succulent Seed Starting:

How to Prepare your Succulent Seeds

Growing succulents from seeds
Some succulents, like this stapelia, have easy-to-harvest seeds. Source: Skolnik Collection

You can usually find a good variety of succulent and cactus seeds at reliable seed companies. There are a number of good options out there, but be sure to know your vendor before ordering. These days, it’s better to be sure of your seed company’s reliability rather than fall prey to a scammer!

When choosing your seeds, there are a few things to consider. First, look at how your schedule compares to the germination time. Some varieties take days and others months to germinate, during which time they need a small amount of daily attention. The germination time is usually listed on the seed packet or product description.

If you’re going to try out more than one variety of succulent, be sure to plant them in separate trays. You don’t want to end up with full rosettes and still-germinating seeds in one tray.

You should also think about how you’ll care for the succulent you’ve chosen when it’s fully grown. This includes learning about the plant’s growing conditions and how it will fit into the climate you live in.

There’s a chance that succulents grown from seeds won’t look like the parent plant. This is widely due to genetic variations in hybrids and cross-pollinated plants. The only foolproof way of “cloning” a succulent is to grow from cuttings.

Necessary Materials

Orbea variegata seeds and pod
Orbea variegata seeds also form in a pod, with fluffy fibers enabling them to catch the wind. Source: Skolnik Collection

Seed tray – This needs to be a few inches deep. It can have sections or just be a flat pan. However, it must have drainage holes. You can buy a seed tray online, or you can make your own from a disposable food container (like the ones rotisserie chickens come in).

Well-draining soil medium – This can be a half and half mix of potting soil and something coarse like pumice or sand. You can also use a pre-made succulent mix.

Succulent Seeds – be sure these are from reliable sources! This gives you the best chance you’ll have at getting viable seeds.

Misting Bottle (optional) – this is a great way to keep your soil moist without overwatering.

How to Grow Succulents from Seeds

Aloe ramosissima seed pods
Aloe ramosissima, or Maiden’s Quiver, produces seed pods which pop open when ripe. Source: Martin_Heigan

Before you begin growing succulents from seed, you have to prepare the soil medium. Baby succulents are extra vulnerable to bacteria, so use new, store-bought potting soil. If this isn’t an option, pour your soil into an oven-safe pan and bake it for at least 30 minutes at 300° F. We know, it sounds bizarre, but the heat will kill any bacteria in the soil.

Wet the soil medium and pour it into the seed tray. Succulent seeds are sometimes extremely tiny, so you’ll have to keep track of them. Keep your workspace and hands clear of dirt and debris so you don’t lose any smaller seeds.

Handling the seeds may be tricky if they’re tiny. You can collect a lot of them on your fingertip and flick/sprinkle them onto the soil. Alternatively, you can use a q-tip or popsicle stick to handle them. Larger seeds, of course, are easier to handle!

Make sure the succulent seeds are spaced apart enough that they won’t grow into each other when the rosettes start to form. They don’t need to be buried, so just spread them across the soil and lightly press down.

Now that they’re planted, the seeds need to germinate. During germination, the seeds will absorb moisture which expands the previously dehydrated cells. The embryo, or baby plant, inside the seed will begin to grow. In time, with the right amount of light and water, the embryo will send out roots and stem growth.

For the right amount of moisture, water your seeds from below. Place the seedling tray in a slightly larger tray that’s filled with water. The soil will continuously absorb the water through the drainage holes in the seed tray. This method keeps the soil consistently moist without washing away the seeds.

If you don’t have the materials to water from below, mist the seeds with a spray bottle.

To increase humidity and prevent evaporation, cover the seed tray with a clear dome. If possible, punch a few holes into the dome to encourage airflow. The dome is optional and should only be used while the seeds are germinating.

Your succulent seeds need bright, indirect light to germinate and grow. Direct sun can easily burn the baby leaves. Place your seed tray next to a bright window for the best results. The temperature should be warm and consistent, so try not to change locations too often.

If your tray is in a cooler location, you may want to use a heating mat. These are cheap and easy to find online. Just slide it under the tray and keep it turned on while the seeds are starting.

In time, you’ll see baby rosettes or stems peeking from the soil. Keep the soil and light conditions the same, but remove the humidity dome and heating mat.

When the roots are fully established, you can slowly cut back on watering. Gradually begin to follow the care directions for a mature plant as it grows.

It may be tempting to introduce your new succulents to the garden right away, but hold off on that. Baby succulents shouldn’t be transplanted until they’re fully mature or have run out of space in the seedling tray. The older and more developed the roots are, the better their chances of making it.

Once your new succulents are planted into their permanent homes, keep an eye on them. You should learn how to care for the specific succulents you’ve grown. For some general care tips, read our article on succulent care.

That’s all there is to it! It’s a long process, but growing succulents from seed just might be the project for you.