I was recently replanting my aloe and thinking about how to best add to my collection. I know you can buy bulbs and seeds for common flowers and garden varietals, and it made me wonder if succulents also can produce seeds to assist in populating my collection. So I did some research and found out some interesting facts about succulent seeds.
Yes, succulents produce seeds. They are tiny and hard to see, but succulents and cacti do produce flowers that contain an ovule that produces seeds if pollinated appropriately. Bees and insects do this naturally for your outdoor succulents, but indoor succulents will need you to do this for them.
It takes a lot of patience to harvest your own seeds and grow them, but it is a great way to expand your collection. You can also buy seeds and supplies from dealers.
Here are some things to know about the process, as well as some info to expand your familiarity.
How do succulents create seeds?
Succulents will absolutely create and drop seeds on their own if the conditions are right. Like every other living creature, succulents need to reproduce.
First, the flower needs to form. This may not happen every year and different succulents require different conditions, but all succulents flower in some form.
Then, the flower needs to be pollinated. If your succulents are outdoors, bees, butterflies, and a variety of different insects do this naturally.
The flowers let off a sweet smell to attract the pollinators, who then carry pollen (unknowingly) to the ovum within the flowers. Some succulent flowers need to be cross-pollinated for seeds to form, meaning they need pollen from a different plant.
Cross-pollination will create different plant characteristics from the flowering succulent, so just be aware that it will not look or behave exactly the same. Just as human babies carry traits from both the mother and father, cross-pollinated succulents carry traits from both the pollinator and the ovule.
Once pollinated, the ovum transforms into seeds.
After the flower produces seeds, the flower will dry out. Fresh seeds will cling to moist flowers.
After the flower drys and wilts, a stiff wind is all that is needed to spread the seeds. From there, they germinate under the right conditions (soil that drains well, moisture, and allowance to settle in order to root).
What do succulent seeds look like?
Succulent seeds are tiny. They will look like dust and are commonly mistook for such.
They are so small that they are easy to lose track of once you put them in your propagation tray.
They are very commonly light or dark brown and look a lot like sand, a common starter material, so placing and watering them correctly is important.
Make sure your soil is moist when you begin to place the seeds and water them from the bottom of the tray so that the soil stays moist, but the seeds are staying in one place.
They move very fluidly with water, making overwatering your tray from the top detrimental to your efforts.
Dip your tray into a water tray and let it soak. Don’t let the water come over the top of the seed starter tray, your seeds are very likely to float into a single corner of the tray and will be too crowded to germinate.
How do you get seeds from succulents?
Extracting seeds from succulents can be tricky, but worthwhile. It takes a lot of patience but is a fantastic adventure for hobbyists and enthusiasts alike.
Once the ovum is pollinated (by insects outdoors or your paintbrush if the plant is indoors), it will start to harden. The flower will then bloom and dry out, ripening on the stalk. If you pick the ovum from the flower and it is hard, the seed is formed and it is almost ready to go.
If you are looking to extract the seeds to replant manually, this is the perfect time to cut the flower off and place it upright in a dry container.
If it stays moist, it will mold. Mold will kill your seeds and your efforts will be for not.
Once the flower is dry to the touch, place it in a paper bag (gently, but you don’t have to worry about keeping it upright anymore). The seeds will drop naturally from the flower, but handle with care!
These seeds are tiny and it is very easy to lose them. Even the slightest breeze will blow them away if you’re not careful. turn off all fans and close your windows for a few minutes.
Some people even wear a mask so they don’t accidentally breath too hard and blow the seeds away. Once they are on the floor, they are hard to spot again to retrieve.
Make sure they are in a secure container until you are ready to germinate them. If you need to store them, they do well with a silica pack in a small jar in a cool dark place until you are ready to use them.
How long do succulents take to grow from seeds?
This completely depends on the species. Seeds can germinate anywhere from a couple days to upwards of 3 weeks. Most succulents will be ready to transplant after 6 months.
Just because a succulent is ready to transplant doesn’t mean they are full-grown yet. Some succulents can take a year or more to fully grow (like the agave plant used to make Mezcal and Tequila).
Another thing to keep in mind is that certain succulent varieties can take years to bloom, meaning reproduction is an extremely slow process. The Sempervivum succulent is a great example of this as is the Agave plant.
It takes years to bloom, so if you want to grow one from a seed and you see a bloom take advantage while you can.
Are seeds the only way to get a new succulent plant?
No, oftentimes new succulent plants will propagate from a fallen limb or stem. Under the right conditions, the fallen stem grows roots and a new plant forms. You can imitate this easily at home and is actually pretty simple.
All you need is the right cut off of your succulent plant, the ability to sprout roots from your cutting, and the right environment to make sure the roots take hold and the plant grows. Check out our guide on how to properly propagate a succulent plant here.
Where can I buy succulent seeds?
You can buy succulent seeds from a variety of online retailers. Amazon has a lot of seed retailers (be sure you read reviews before purchasing). Nature’s Blossom has a kit with everything you need to get started (check them out on Amazon.com HERE).
If an all-inclusive kit is not what you are looking for, you will need some materials to get started.
Aside from seeds, you will also need a cultivation tray (also known as a starter tray). You will also need starter soil. Some people use sand, others use shredded coconut husk. The main emphasis needs to be on drainage.
After your succulent has germinated and has rooted, it is fine to transplant into a bigger pot, even into a terrarium if you wish.
So that’s the long and short of it. Succulents absolutely do produce seeds, but there may be an easier way to make one succulent plant into more. Growing plants from seeds is very doable, but it takes patience and the right conditions. It doesn’t take much to go wrong for your efforts to be in vain. The key is to do your homework, be patient, and follow a system.