The Q&A Archives: Propagating Thanksgiving/Christmas Cactus By Seed

Question: I pollinated my cactus with a second cactus and a seed pod developed at the flower base. However this pod just stays green. How do I proceed from here to grow plants from this cross?

Answer: Seeds of cacti are produced inside the fruit. If the pod (fruit) is still green, wait for it to mature (it should turn a reddish color). This transformation should occur in the autumn. When the fruit turns pink or purplish red, it's ready for harvesting. Extract the tiny seeds from the fruit, place them in a sieve under running water, and wash the seeds clean of pulp. The chocolate brown or black seeds may range in number from about a dozen to over 100 per fruit.

Sow the fresh seeds immediately in a flat containing equal parts of moistened, finely milled spagnum peat moss and vermiculite. Press the seeds lightly into the medium, but do not cover the seed; however, cover the flat with clear plastic wrap or enclose it in a plastic bag to maintain high humidity levels.

Move the flat to a location receiving bright, indirect light. Do not allow the seeds to dry out. If the surface of the
medium appears dry, place the flat in a shallow container of water and allow the medium to absorb the water through the drainage holes. When the surface is moist, lift the flat out of the water.

Seedlings should appear in two to three weeks. Uncover the flat when they do. Move the flat into bright, indirect sunlight. A location within three feet of a large south-, east-, or west-facing window would be ideal.

Transplant the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Repot each cactus into a clean pot with well-drained media, such as two parts of a standard potting mix and one part each of peat moss and perlite or coarse, sharp sand. As with all Christmas cacti, do not overwater. Mist the plant often during its active growth period and water it regularly to keep the mix moist, but not soggy.

In the fall when shoot growth slows down, allow the soil surface to dry between waterings to reduce the chances for root rot to occur. When your cactus stops flowering, allow the top half-inch of soil to dry out before watering. Resume regular watering and fertilizing when new stem growth begins in the spring. Under the best conditions, plants bloom in about 18 months.

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