Succulents are a beautiful way to decorate your home or office, and with so many varieties to choose from, you might be tempted to break the bank buying them at your local garden store. If you want a more cost-effective approach to filling your life with succulents, and you are willing to put a little time and effort into the process, growing your own succulents from seed might be the right choice for you!
Before you get started on growing succulents, though, you’ll want to be sure you know the basic steps required. Understanding the supplies and environment you’ll need to be successful, and being aware of some potential pitfalls to avoid, will help ensure you end up with a satisfying experience.
Choose the Type of Succulent You Want to Grow
There are hundreds of types of succulents out there, from the very common (like aloe) to rare varieties that are too difficult to find or too expensive to purchase in mature form.
Take some time to learn about the types of succulents before choosing the one (or more than one!) that you’d like to grow. This guide from Succulents and Sunshine might be a good starting point; it has a helpful overview of 100 different types of succulents.
As you choose your succulents, you’ll, of course, want to consider how they look. But also think about how big they will be when they are mature and whether that size will be the right fit for where you plan to keep the plant long-term.
You should also look carefully at the care needs of each type of succulent, both during growth and after it is mature. If you’ll struggle to meet the plant’s needs related to watering, sunlight, and temperature, you may want to choose another variety of succulent to grow.
Don’t forget that growing succulents from seeds is a long process, so you should also look at the germination time for each succulent type. Don’t choose a plant that takes months to germinate if you’re looking for faster results!
Purchase Seeds from a Reputable Seller
Because succulent seeds are so small, they can easily be confused with a bit of dirt or other gardening material, so it’s important to buy your seeds from a reputable seller to ensure quality. Check customer reviews before you make a purchase. Given the amount of time and effort you’re going to put into growing your succulents, you do not want to be disappointed down the road when you discover you bought fake seeds!
Gather and Prepare Your Other Supplies
In addition to your seeds, you’ll need some other supplies to grow your succulents:
- A planting tray (more than one if you want to grow more than one type of succulent) – choose a shallow tray (just 3-4 inches deep) with drainage holes in the bottom
- A cover for the tray, such as a plant dome or simple plastic wrap
- Your chosen planting medium (sand, soil, etc.)
One key decision you’ll need to make in growing succulents from seed is what planting medium to use and how you will prepare it. Succulents need soil that drains well to avoid the seeds being over-watered. So, you’ll want a sand-based soil mixture rather than a traditional potting soil.
You can opt to purchase a soil specifically made for growing succulents, or you can make your own soil mix combining horticultural sand and potting soil. If you want to learn more about making your own soil mixture for growing your succulents, this Better Homes & Gardens guide provides a great overview of types of potting soil and mixes.
Whatever soil you choose, be sure to sterilize the soil before use. Bake it in the oven (30 minutes at 300 degrees F) or the microwave (10 minutes), cool completely, wet the soil, and drain. Now you’re ready to plant!
Plant the Seeds
To plant your seeds, first, prepare your planting trays. Fill the trays with soil up to 1- to ½-inch from the top of the tray. Make sure the top of the soil is damp; this will allow the seeds to stick.
When dealing with tiny succulent seeds, be sure that you are planting in a sheltered area. Because they are so small, they could blow away with the slightest breeze! You may want to carefully place the seeds in the palm of your hand to make them easier to arrange in the planting tray.
It’s generally not a good idea to spill them out onto the table you’re working on, as they could get lost in any soil or other debris.
Put the seeds on the top of the soil, carefully placing each one separately and providing space between the seeds. Consider the size of the mature plants in deciding how much space to leave between seeds.
If you are using individual growing trays, just put one or two seeds in each one. If you are growing more than one type of succulent, plant them in different trays.
If you need to move the seeds after placing them, use a small tool like a toothpick. Do not cover the seeds with soil. When the seeds begin to germinate, they need to find their way to light above the soil, and with seeds so small, even a little soil on top would prevent them from doing this.
After you have planted the seeds, cover the planting trays with your plant dome or with plastic wrap with some ventilation holes in it. Succulent seeds need a warm, humid environment to grow.
Some gardeners recommend direct sunlight at this stage of growth, while others suggest a warm sunny setting that is not in direct sunlight. Consult the specific care guidelines for the type of succulent you have chosen to grow and select a growing location accordingly.
Provide Daily Care for Germinating Succulents
Succulents need three key things to grow successfully: proper light, proper amount of water, and proper temperature.
After your seeds have started to germinate, you’ll want to keep your plating trays in a well-lit area but out of direct sunlight. The seeds need good airflow to keep growing, so remove the lid from the growing tray once you see seedlings.
Although you generally only need to water a mature succulent once a week, when they are growing, they need constant water. However, you also need to ensure they are not overwatered.
You may want to maintain water in the tray beneath the growing tray, allowing the water to be soaked up through the drainage holes. Add water daily to ensure the seedlings have all the moisture they need. Once the plants have fully established roots, you can gradually shift to watering less frequently.
Finally, most succulents should be kept at 70 degrees F when growing. You should ensure that the plants are not exposed to temperatures below 60 degrees F or above 80 degrees F. Choose your growing location based on the temperature and sunlight needs of the succulent variety you’ve chosen.
Replant the Mature Succulents
As we’ve mentioned already, growing succulents from seeds can be very rewarding, but it is not a fast process. You’ll need to provide ongoing care for your growing succulents for months before they are mature enough to replant and place them in their permanent homes.
Thankfully, the care needs of the plants will decline over time. They need the most attention during their first days and weeks of growth, and then less as time goes on. That said, you don’t want to try to replant too soon.
Wait until the plant is large enough that you can easily move it without damaging fragile leaves and roots. It’s best to err on the side of waiting longer rather than moving the plant too soon. Usually, you’ll be able to replant after about six months.