Cactus and Tender Succulents forum: Transferring Succulent and Cactus Seedlings

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Name: Lindsey
Ohio (Zone 6a)
Bee Lover Garden Photography Enjoys or suffers cold winters Dog Lover Cat Lover Bromeliad
Container Gardener Region: Ohio Cactus and Succulents Greenhouse
Oct 27, 2017 9:25 AM CST
Hello all!

Over the past 6 months I have been growing three trays of succulent and cactus seedlings, it has been sooo fun! I have them in seedling trays with humidity domes over the top, and I keep the bottom trays filled with rain water. Because of this, the soil is always wet and the seedlings have grown very well in these conditions, but know they are getting bigger and obviously I know that adult succulents and cacti do NOT thrive in these wet conditions. So... when am I supposed to transplant them to a dryer environment? A couple of them have rotted away, but then again others are doing so well. Same with the succulents...

Thank you so much! I included some photos.
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[Last edited by ljones26 - Oct 27, 2017 9:25 AM (+)]
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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
Oct 27, 2017 10:56 AM CST


The bigger ones are ready, the smaller ones maybe not. Given they're all mixed up together, I guess you have to split the difference.

Lifting the lid too soon may make the tinier plants vulnerable, because they may not have enough water in the reservoir (so to speak) to tolerate much drying out of the soil. Lifting the lid too late may make everybody vulnerable to rot because that's the main risk of leaving conditions too wet too long.

One thing I do not do ever with seedlings is leave the germination tray in standing water. The lid on top will prevent the loss of water from evaporation, and you can mist intermittently if you want to be extra sure. You can also water from below (leave the tray in some water for half an hour or whatever, then remove it) but I don't see any advantage to water underneath otherwise.

When I am working with small seeds and I know they will have to spend some time covered, I try to mitigate the rot problem in advance by cooking the soil nice and piping hot in the microwave to sterilize it before I sow the seeds. I would also use bleach to decontaminate the plasticware. That seems to make a big difference.

When you do lift the lid, try to do it gradually, so the transition is not overnight and the baby plants have a chance to adjust. Maybe set it ajar before you remove it completely. Or just come in with a spray bottle and mist on a semi-regular basis for a couple of weeks.

Time to transplant should be determined by when the roots are running out of space. In groups it would be when the competition between plants is getting too fierce. In general it is best to be patient and wait before transplanting, which tends to increase the survival afterwards.

In 6 or 12 months your baby cacti will be ready for a scenario where you might water twice a week (so that the soil might go mostly dry but does not sit long bone dry) given strong light and excellent drainage. From there it's another 2-3 years before you can drop off to normal adult care, allowing the soil to dry out and not worrying about how long it stays that way.

Those tiny cells will dry out in no time flat when they're in the sun (even indoors). As a general rule, smaller pots will dry out faster than larger ones, so you might have to adjust the numbers I have given you to reflect that. I never sow seeds in any pot smaller than 4 inches (maybe 2.5 inches deep). When you do transplant, make sure the individual containers are wider than deep, or underfill them.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Oct 27, 2017 11:30 AM (+)]
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Oct 27, 2017 6:31 PM CST
Great answer Baja. I would have just said leave them all in the pots they are in. Smiling
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Name: Bob
The Kau Desert, Hawaii (Zone 12a)
Oct 29, 2017 6:08 PM CST
DaisyI said:Great answer Baja. I would have just said leave them all in the pots they are in. Smiling

I agree
Thank You Baja for being a great moderator and Explaining procedures in detail.
I have recently been venturing into growing from seeds.
Bottom watering is the easiest for me. Just make sure the tray is dry, same day.
Clean soil is very important. Microwave sounds like a lot of work.
I am very happy with Pro-Mix 'BX' with Mycorrhizae.
It works great for leaf starts and starting seeds with no weeds or fungus problems.
It is readily available in my area since all the pot growers love it.
Green Grin!
Name: Lindsey
Ohio (Zone 6a)
Bee Lover Garden Photography Enjoys or suffers cold winters Dog Lover Cat Lover Bromeliad
Container Gardener Region: Ohio Cactus and Succulents Greenhouse
Oct 30, 2017 8:08 PM CST
Thank you so much, that was such a informative answer!!!! I will try to gradually remove the lid just to allow them to dry out a teeny bit!

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