This week, we thought we’d share a few sneaky shots from some of our UK cacti-growing experiments, showing the progress of some Lophophora and Trichocereus cactus seedlings. This post is definitely not to be considered as a guide on how to grow Lophophora cacti – nor on how to grow Trichocereus from seed (although we do have a tutorial or two elsewhere that might help) – rather, it’s an attempt at describing a few of our recent “set and forget” neglect experiments.
Essentially, these informal Lophophora and Trichocereus experiments were/are explorations of growing cactus from seed via variations on the ‘Takeaway Tek’, allowing no artificial heat or light sources, pasteurisation, sterilisation or fertiliser to be used in the process. Each was set up under slightly varying conditions indoors over the British summer and all have turned out pretty much as we suspected prior to their planting.
We realise the photos accompanying this post aren’t exactly of professional quality, but we like to think they’ll give you some insight into the grows described here.
Experiment One: Lophophora williamsii seedlings
The first cultivation experiment that we’ll cover here is some Lophophora williamsii, which we planted around three months ago using the ‘Enhanced’ Takeaway Tek we posted awhile back. As you can see from the photos, we’re excited to see some tiny ‘Peyote’ plants – look how cute they are as they start to take on the species’ distinctive form!
As with the other experiments described in this post, we chose not to pasteurise or sterilise the soil mix before planting, as we wanted to see how well the young williamsii seedlings survived versus any contamination from other plant or fungus species. We planted something like eighty of the ‘standard’ williamsii type seeds that we offer and, happily, achieved a germination rate of around 75% – which isn’t too bad considering the growing conditions.
Since sowing the seed and sealing up the bag, we’ve not touched them at all, apart from being forced to briefly open the bag to excise some kind of tall grass that was threatening to burst from the top of the container. You can see some residual traces of this grass in the photos above, but neither its presence nor its removal appears to have adversely affected our babies. We’ll probably leave them alone for another two or three months, then gradually unseal them so that the plants can acclimatise to the great outdoors…all in all, we’re pretty pleased with this trial run!
Experiment Two: Trichocereus bridgesii seedlings
Our next Trichocereus experiment was with the germination of these Trichocereus bridgesii seeds, using our ‘Enhanced’ Takeaway Tek. Unfortunately, the soil was a little too wet for our tastes, but germination rates were nevertheless quite satisfactory for this type of grow. Roughly eighty percent of the hundred or so seeds that were sown managed to germinate, despite our utter lack of attention throughout the past few months!
As the photos show, the plants are currently between approximately one and three centimetres tall, with some punky little spines coming through rapidly.
Experiment Three: Trichocereus hybrids & varieties seedlings
Our third cactus growing experiment takes a more modest approach than most of our other Trichocereus sowings, as first suggested to us by our good friend MD.
Essentially, instead of germinating a hundred or more cactus seeds in a takeaway tub (as we are normally wont to do), we instead planted five to ten seeds each of four different highly desirable Trichocereus varieties (generously donated to us along with the advice by MD – mad props to you sir!) in the cut-off bottom section of a plastic water bottle.
Now we’re extremely excited to have five or more little seedlings each of Trichocereus pachanoi ‘Matacuna, Peru’, Trichocereus scopulicola ‘FR991’, Trichocereus bridgesii ‘Psycho0’ x Trichocereus ‘TPM’ and a Trichocereus peruvianus type collected from Peru!
Experiment Four: Mystery Trichocereus round pot failure
The fourth and final “experiment” was an abject failure! While sorting out some general tat, we came across some rather old Trichocereus (bridgesii or pachanoi?) seed which we received as an apology from a random online store (they messed up our original order).
As we had nothing to lose by experimenting with the world’s simplest “set and forget” cactus growing technique, we threw some damp potting soil (with a modicum of moler clay) into a round plastic tub we had laying around and then sprinkled the fifty or so mystery seeds on top. Having sealed and labelled the container, we left it sat on a window shelf for a few months, along with the majority of our other cactus container experiments…
As we expected (we’re bloody-minded kind of folk who like to learn from practical experience), this last attempt was not the best way to grow any Trichocereus cactus from seed. The main differences between this and the other experiments described here are that the soil had a much lower moisture content and sat in a sealed lidded tub (rather than the open plastic fruit tub inside a sealed freezer bag which we normally use). We believe these to be the main factors that stopped our seeds from sprouting – although given the seed’s unknown provenance, species and age, who knows…
Growing cacti from seed is so addictive – get on it!