Germination and Growing Tips

Germination of Lophophora species
Germinating seed of the Lophophora genus is quite easy, but requires time, dedication and patience. Growing cacti from seed will teach you patience like no other plant. Regular attention is required if seedlings are to be raised to adult stage successfully.

When germinating any seed, there are several critical factors: growing medium, air, moisture, light and temperature. earthalchemy has several years experience in germinating the Lophophora species, and although there are many different methods, each yielding varying success rates, discussion will be restricted to the method I have found to yield the best germination rates.

Growing Medium
Coarse sharp sand serves best as a growing medium for Lophophora seedlings. From germination, the seedlings can be grown on in the sand, so long as fertiliser is included at 1/10 concentration when watering. Due to the non-porous nature of coarse sharp sand, watering is required regularly, every one or two days depending on temperature.

Fill seed-raising trays or pots (at least 1 1/2 inches deep) with coarse sharp sand. Sow seed on surface, and gently push in to a depth of twice the seed diametre with a pointed object. Wooden kebab skewers work well.

Water in well by misting heavily with a garden spray bottle. Do not use a direct stream of water, as this will dislodge the seeds and disturb the growing medium. If seeds are pushed too deep into the medium, they may germinate and run out of nutrients before they break the surface and are exposed to light. Once germination occurs, misting should be conducted with fertiliser (Seaweed extract is good) at 1/10th strength.

Lophophora species germinate best at temperatures around 25-30 degrees Celsius. I have had excellent germination rates at temperatures as high as 32 deg C. However, I cycle heating so that for 16 hours daytime temperature is maintained, and then heating and light is turned off for the remainder of the day.

Normal flouroescent tubes provide ample lighting for germinating Lophophora seeds. Raise seed trays to sit 4 or 5 inches from the lights. As mentioned previously, I cycle lights to be switched off for 8 hours per day, synchronised with heating. If using household flouroescent tubes, they should be replaced every three months, as I am told that the spectrum required by plants decreases significantly over this time.

Germination Times
The majority of seed should germinate within 1-2 weeks. However, further germinations may occur sporadically after this period.

Propagation Chamber
Ok, you may be wondering now how you're going to manage to control heating and temperature without breaking the bank. It's easy. All that's required is:

2 foot fishtank
Fishtank light
Heating cable
Insulating board
Tack-type cable clips
24-hour timer
Thermostat (optional)

The cheapest way to obtain a heating cable is to disembowell an electric blanket. The other materials can be sourced from a hardware supply house, with the exception of the thermostat which will cost you a fortune from a hydroponic store. But it's worth it if you can afford it. Old fishtanks can sometimes be found lying around houses with fish imprisoned within. Free the fish. That tank has a higher purpose.

* Cut insulating board to fit the bottom of the tank

* Lay out heating cable along the board, in a backwards-and-forwards pattern, making sure you leave enough slack to reach to the top of the tank and allow you to plug the cable in to power

* Fix the cable to the board with the cable clips

* Fit the board to the bottom of the tank, cable-side up, and cover with an inch or so of gravel

* Connect the cable and light to power, with the timer intercepting. You can now set the timer to switch both the light and heat on in the mornings and off at night.

* The thermostat control can be connected between the heating cable and the timer, enabling heating to be switched off when the desired temperature is acheived.

This is not intended to be either a professional, nor complete, approach to germinating Lophophora seed. However, it should make Lophophora propagation on a mass scale possible for even the most under-resourced grower. The following links provide further information on growing cacti from seed.