2016 Sowing

I've just sown the following from Chiltern Seeds:


Epiphyllum, Large-flowered Mixed Hybrids
Orchid Cactus

Azureocereus hertlingianus
Cactus, Blue Cereus

Astrophytum, Mixed Species

Ariocarpus, Mixed Species

Hylocereus undatus
Dragon Fruit

Mammillaria, Mixed Species

2014-2016 Review

2014-2016 Review

This last year was pretty much a disaster.

I tried sowing with old seeds from 2014, but not many germinated and none grew. This may have been because they were old. It may have been that I didn't switch on the heating mat under the pots on a daily basis. It may have been that I made the pot tents too large so that they lost humidity. It may have been that I used plastic fridge bags that were thicker than the 2014 cling film - and so diffused the light.

Furthermore, one of the lights in my propagator developed a loose connection and flicked off on any vibration.

The end result was that I was so annoyed with the whole thing that I started to avoid the problem and ignored the otherwise healthy 2014 batch for about three months. Not good for them - and possibly they are now smaller than they should be.

I have now repotted the 2014 generation into five troughs (and one pot). All are mixed packets from Chiltern Seeds, apart from the Mammillaria Duwei that come from another nursery. They have been repotted into Levington Desert Cactut compost.

As these come from mixed seeds, I don't actually know what they are. I would be very grateful if people could identify them for me.

2014-2016: Trough 1

2014-2016: Trough 1


This consists of 5 cacti, from left to right: A [Mammillaria Duwei], B, C, D, E.


A [Mammilaria Duwei]: Sown 23-02-2014; germinated within two weeks; first repotted 25-02-2015; repotted 07-02-2016.


B: Sown [from Cactus 230D Columnar] 23-05-2014: germinated within two weeks;  first repotted 14-03-2015; repotted 07-02-2016.





C: Sown [from Cactus 230B] 16-05-2014: germinated within two weeks;  first repotted 01-03-2015; repotted 07-02-2016.




D: Sown [from Cactus 230D] 16-05-2014: germinated within two weeks;  first repotted 01-03-2015; repotted 08-02-2016.




E: This shows clearly the layers of vermiculite and perlite that I was then using.


Trough 1

2014-2016: Trough 2

2014-2016: Trough 2


This consists of 5 cacti, from left to right: A, B, C [Mammillaria Duwei], D, E.


A: Sown [from Cactus 230D Columnar] 20-05-2014: germinated within two weeks;  first repotted 13-03-2015; repotted 08-02-2016.




B: Sown [from Cactus E] 22-02-2014: germinated in 10 days - first seed to germinate;  first repotted 31-03-2014; repotted 25-02-2015; repotted 08-02-2016.

    B:  Some withering from lack of water early on.


B:  Some withering from lack of water early on.






C [Mammillaria Duwei]: Sown 23-02-2014: germinated within two weeks;  first repotted 13-03-2015; repotted 08-02-2016.






D: Sown [from Cactus E] 16-05-2014: germinated within two weeks;  first repotted 22-02-2015; repotted 08-02-2016.




E: Sown [from Cactus E] 16-05-2014: germinated within two weeks;  first repottedl 08-03-2015; repotted 08-02-2016.




Trough 2

2014-2016: Trough 4

2014-2016: Trough 4

This consists of 5 cacti, from left to right: A, B, C, D, E.

















Having looked at this again since posting, I may cut this off from the apparent rot at the base.  When I last had something similar, I did so and the remnant developed a very strong root clump. But I remain open to suggestions.




Troughs 3 & 4

2014-2015: Review


Review of  2014-15


Typical of me, I stopped recording day-by-day, and largely left the seedlings to their own devices. This has been good in some ways (stopped me tampering) and bad in others (failing to notice that water was needed, and the like).

So, ups and downs, both in me and the plants.

The herbs worked fine. The parsley proved too unruly, and required too much space, so I put it in my cooking pot. The Basil grew into fairly vigorous plants, that I chopped bits off occasionally, and that eventually flowered and died. Clearly, I need to work out a way to grow about the right amount for my average weekly use, as I don't have the space to be inefficient.

The ferns didn't like me. Mostly a matter of water control again, as well as a lack of air flow (which hasn't been a problem with the cacti at all). The ferns grew strongly, but mostly died ... and eventually I ditched the whole lot. My lesson - the ferns need to be kept immersed in water (I've discovered that a 7cm pot can hang from the rim of a coffee mug).

Some cactus and succulents didn't work at all - not even germination. Generally I think this was because I allowed things to dry out. But others look (to me) pretty good.

My biggest mistake was to put perlite as the top layer in the pot - this dried out far too quickly. Later pots had vermiculite at the top, and layers of perlite and vermiculite underneath. I also took to drilling a small hole for each individual seed - this helped the initial root to catch.

I am being ruthless. I have a lack of space so I've thrown many of the smaller seedlings away, and will continue to remove pots to create space for more.

2014-2015: Mixed Columnar Cactus (230D)

These were sown 20-05-2014. I put too many seeds in the pot so that, although a number developed long roots, they had become entangled by the time I repotted. Furthermore, I left them unattended for too long and the smaller ones looked very dried out. As I have a severe lack of space, I've thrown the smaller ones away - I'm already having regrets, but think I'll have much more fun growing stronger versions this year.

Pictures below are for my archive purposes.

POT  68

POT  69

POT  71

POT  72

POT  73

POT  75

2014-2015: Mixed Cactus E (230B): vermiculite + perlite

These seeds were sown in May 2014 in a layered pot of vermiculite and perlite. The seeds were planted far too closely together, so the roots got tangled. I should have repotted them ages ago.

This is just a list of results, for my own archival purposes.

POT  55

POT  56

POT   57

POT  58

POT  59

POT  60

POT  61

POT  62

POT  63

POT  64

POT  65

POT  66

POT  67

2014-2015: Mixed Cactus E (230B): Batch 1

This was my first cactus sowing ... actually, in two batches. The first was in February 2014 and the second in May 2014.

The first started started well, but was hit badly by my vermiculite-on-the-top policy. The seedlings dried out to much and root development was limited. The second batch was much more successful.

You can see my earlier progress report on this first batch here. The first seed to germinate was this:

and became this:

The root isn't terribly well developed, and the seedling can't stand upright without support:

Here it is in relation to the other seedlings in the pot.

I've repotted these two together as:

There were five other seedlings in this batch. The smallest seeding lost its head during an earlier repotting and has now been binned.

The remaining four have been repotted:

2014-15: Mixed Cactus E (230B): Batch 2: Pot 34

This batch was much more successful than the earlier one. I didn't use perlite as the top layer, so there was less drying out.

I used only vermiculite in this pot. This was to see whether roots would develop more than in a perlite/vermiculite layered pot.

This produced at least one seedling with goodish roots.

Now repotted as:

There was a problem again with one of the taller seedlings, where the roots were poor and the seedling needed support.

And this one, large and healthy but poorish roots. However, the seedling had got entangled with three others, and I may have torn some root while disengaging it.

These are the three others - or four in fact!

I made an error while sowing, putting two seeds in one hole. You can see that the image bottom right is actually two cacti. The smaller one turned out to have no roots so I threw it away.

The larger seedling looks healthy and stood up easily without support.

I've repotted the remaining two with a seedling from the remaining batch of Cactus E (from Pot 33, see next report).

The alien cactus is bottom right in the first picture, out of focus.

The alien cactus, germinating in a pot of layered vermiculite/perlite, has a much better root formation than the cacti in the pure vermiculite pot. If this is repeated with other cacti (I haven't yet looked) rather than being a one-off, it would show clearly that layering works better.

2014-2015: Mammillaria Duwei


I sowed these in two batches, in February and April. The earlier batch (of five seeds, at the top of the picture above) all germinated, but not quite all the second. The latter didn't grow as well either. I've kept the top four and the bottom-right one, and given the rest to a neighbour.

Here are three of them.



2014-2015: Dragon Fruit




I planted some seeds knowing that (1) they were a commercial crop, so quick growing; (2) I didn't have any possibility of growing them into maturity as I lack the space; and (3) I would never fruit them as I didn't have the heat!

So this was just an experiment.

Main Conclusion


My conclusion. They do grow extremely quickly and, if I hadn't deliberately constrained them, would have behaved like weeds.

The first constraint was that I planted 10 seeds in a 7cm pot. They need vastly more root space than that. The second was that I covered the pot with a plastic bag (of a type intended for keeping food in a fridge).


First Puzzle


The growth was so strong that the plants burst out of the bag. The stems seem to be thicker,  more whiskery (though this is maybe just because they are new and deciding what to do) and with more aerial roots than the stems inside. I don't know whether this was because the act of constraint encouraged the resultant growth, or whether the light outside the bag provided more of a stimulus.


Second Puzzle


The plants produced a lot of aerial roots. I know that such roots are usual for dragon fruit, more to climb than to root -  but perhaps in this case  the roots were encouraged additionally by poor nutrition or light?

Earlier pictures



The first and second pictures below show the seedlings inside the plastic bag. You can see some of the heroic escapes.

The third picture shows a break-out at the top. The new stem is much more whiskery than the stem in the bag.

The fourth picture below shows two seedlings that have burst out of the bag. One (or maybe both) has strangled the other with an aerial root.

The last picture shows the stems unconstrained.