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How to grow cacti from seed

You will need

  • Cacti seed
  • One large and several small terracotta pots
  • Free-draining compost or cactus compost
  • Silver sand
  • Newspaper
  • Sheet of glass
  • Pencil (to prick out)
  • Seed tray
Do it: all year round
Takes just: 20 minutes to sow


Raising cacti from seed is simple and rewarding, and to add to the fun, most companies and cacti nurseries now offer seed mixtures, so you're never quite sure what you're going to grow.

How to do it

Filling pot with compost


Fill a broad terracotta pot with a moist, gritty, loam-based compost, such as John Innes. Firm down and make the surface level.

Sowing cacti seeds


Scatter your mixed cactus seeds over the surface of the compost, taking care not to sow them too thickly.

Sprinkling sand over cacti seeds


Gently sprinkle a thin layer of silver sand over the seeds, covering the whole surface of the compost.

Covering cacti seeds with sheet of glass


Leave the pot in a greenhouse or on a warm windowsill, covered with a sheet of glass and a layer of paper.

Pricking out seedlings


Remove the glass once seedlings develop - these will be large enough to prick out by next spring.

Watering pricked-out cacti


Next spring, gently tease out individual cacti, and plant out in a tray of gritty compost. Water well.

Transplanting cacti


As they grow taller, carefully transplant some of the larger cacti into bigger pots to give them room.

Planting up cacti


Finally, plant individually into small terracotta pots. Water and feed, and repot annually as they grow.

Adam's tip

Be patient! These cacti took a year to reach this size from a summer sowing.

Discuss this project

Talkback: How to grow cacti from seed
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Carlaj 24/11/2011 at 15:27

My teenage son has developed a passion for cacti. I hadn't thought about growing cacti from seed but having read how easy it is I shall give it a try and involve Danny too.

flowering rose 23/12/2012 at 17:26

I have alot of cacti,some are very old and out growing the pots,this year they have got a yellow tinge to them,yet they have been treated the same as always,I wonder if the lack of sun was the problem or too cold,only one flowered this year.

Zoomer44 23/12/2012 at 20:22

I've only about half a dozen cacti now which I 've had for years, in 2011 after growing them in the GH for the summer, must have over watered them because six plants caved  in over the course of that winter and went gooy inside.

Mine get vey little sun and are grown indoors, some on a window ledge which only gets sun the last hour in an evening during the summer and the other plants get no direct sun at all.

I'm no expert as mine seem to thrive from neglect. They have never flowered although they sometimes have what look like dead flower heads on them. Yours could be pot bound and may need potting up,I'm happy to be wrong though.

If you do pot up, only pot up one pot size, I've found they grow better in smallish pots.