Grow Trichocereus Cacti From Seed
NOTE: This is no longer our favourite way to grow cacti, as we’ve since come across a better version of this technique via the good folk at Arkham’s Botanical.
Found growing naturally in the deserts of South America, Trichocereus bridgesii, Trichocereus pachanoi and Trichocereus peruvianus are columnar cactus species containing a complex mix of alkaloids, predominantly mescaline.
When followed correctly, this tek is an almost totally “set-and-forget” way to grow Trichocereus cacti and other species from seed (or even leaves, in the case of Psychotria viridis). It’s also cheap, easy and addictive!
Personally, sowing in the spring, I’ve had great success starting off a variety of Trichocereus cacti indoors using this method, having so far tried my hand at growing Trichocereus bridgesii, Trichocereus macrogonus, Trichocereus pachanoi and Trichocereus peruvianus. Moreover, with the relevant tweaking the ‘Takeaway Tek’ can be used for the propagation of a variety of other cacti and succulents, as well as a surprising number of other plants (including Psychotria viridis).
Big respect goes to Herbalistics, R. Saw and the various members of the online Trichocereus cacti-cultivation community from whose variations on this tek I drew inspiration for this tutorial.
You Will Need:
- Commercial cactus soil mix
- Microwaveable PP5 plastic takeaway container (recycle else buy from Poundland or a supermarket)
- Mister/ Spray bottle
- Permanent marker pen
- Scrap cardboard/ Spreading tool
- Trichocereus cacti seeds (we got ours from Arkham’s Botanical)
- Remove large debris from cactus soil mix by sieving.
- Using the permanent marker, write the species, date and any notes on at least two sides of the tub.
- Spread a level two to three-centimetre layer of soil mix in the takeaway container. I just use a piece of cardboard, cut to the approximate width of the tray.
- Using the mister, carefully and lightly dampen the soil – too much moisture is bad! I find that between 15-45 millilitres of water per standard tray is plenty, but do experiment as needed for o your climate.
- Sprinkle the seeds evenly across the surface of the soil mix; I find 100 seeds is a good maximum number if using a standard UK takeaway tray to grow.
- Lightly tamp the seeds down two or three millimetres before again misting lightly.
- I’ve found that Trichocereus only seem to require minimal sunlight for germination and the first few months of their existence, so put the lid on the tray and place it in a bright spot out of direct sunlight.
- All being good, germination should commence around the two to three-week point (dependent on species, season, seed viability, etc.).
- Now, be patient! To successfully grow Trichocereus, it’s important to maintain the microclimate in the tray, so leave the lids sealed for six months or so. If the seedlings start to turn red at any point, get some 50-75% shade cloth and drape it over the tray.
- At this point, you can open the tray to lightly mist the seedlings with water (or a slow-release fertiliser solution), after which the tray should be sealed again until the plants are around a year old.
- You can separate the cacti once they are a year or so old, or when they are ten to twenty millimetres tall and have proper spines.
- Others report success using a sieved blend of 60-70% cactus soil mix and 30-40% coco peat.
- While I prefer working with bacteria and fungi in the hope of selecting strong genetics, many cacti growers instead prefer to attempt pasteurisation of the soil mix using a microwave. This is done by loosely placing the lid on the tray, placing it into a microwave for around three minutes on a high temperature setting and then allowing it to cool before sowing seed. You must use PP5 microwave-safe plastic trays if going this route!
- There are various techniques to further assist in reaching high germination rates. For example: the seeds can be dusted with a fungicide or mycorrhizal fungal powder prior to planting, ground cinnamon may be mixed into the soil’s surface before the seeds are sown, and/ or a seaweed solution can be added to the water-mist.
- During the first six months from germination, do not open the lid of the tray unless you see the beginnings of fungal growth. In that instance, slightly open the lid until the loss of excess moisture halts the growth of the fungus. If the soil dries out too much you can lightly mist it with water or a seaweed solution.
- Look at the picture below – note the light droplets of condensation on the lid of the tray? That is a good sign that our mini-terrarium’s microclimate is properly dialed-in and nicely recycling the available moisture.