Growing from seed
Although there are other methods of starting a Lithops collection, growing from seed is by far the least expensive and the most rewarding. Some species/subspecies can be much more difficult than others but a mixed lot will give you an excellent start with very little disappointment. Apart from seeds, divisions of mature plants and adult plants will give you instant results however they are much more expensive and often very difficult to obtain.
There are a few methods of growing all cactus and succulent seeds and the one we use may not be as successful for you as it is for us. We suggest that you search with Google for "baggy method for seeds" which invloves the use of "zip lock" bags to create humidity. The type of substrate used for seeds can vary considerably, depending on your particular situation, but we DO NOT recommend the use of "paper towel" nor "cotton" as a substrate as when you come to potting up your seedlings you will have great difficulty.
There is no point in us reinventing the wheel so perhaps it is better that you have a read of the following links as a guide:
Here's a very good site by a novice grower that really does already know what he's doing:
If you are interested in the substrate we use, please have a read of the following:
Potting mix to use for growing -
You can use Cactus & Succulent potting mix and while there are several brands of commercial mix, many of them have lots of organic matter and not enough coarse material. Amgrow© and Debco© brands are just two that are easy to find. You can also use "standard" potting mix but avoid really cheap stuff that is primarily wood shavings. Amgrow make a very economical mix called "Nu-Earth" and this is what I use. Most potting mixes have lots of bark pieces that are too big to start your seeds in and is also retains too much moisture for adult plants. Sift these out through some mesh to remove as much of the pieces bigger than about 5mm. In any case, I find all mixes have too much organic material in them and need more inorganic material added to them.
What ever “standard”potting mix you choose, don’t buy one that has “mushroom compost”in it as this tends to grow a fair amount of fungus and also retains far too much moisture. Peat based mixes also retain too much moisture and while they might be OK for garden variety plants, they are not good for cacti/succulents.
Perlite is a light, cheap and readily available white expanded volcanic rock and is really useful for opening up a potting mix. Perlite is very light and can float or blow away and for this reason I no longer use it. You can find Perlite at all good garden centres and a lot of hardware stores. You can also use crushed quartz, red brick and any other 5mm or less stone to open up the mix. Don't use crushed limestone or the painted, decorative pebbles found in craft shops. If you can find it, I have found that scoria is the perfect inorganic material to use. Most garden centres and hardware stores will have it but it is usually 12-20mm in size and will need to be "crushed". A hammer and a hessian (burlap) bag plus safety glasses will help. Scoria fractures easily but small pieces can go flying so safety glasses should always be worn. Putting the scoria in the hessian bag will stop most if it flying around when being broken up.
Make your mix with 50% potting mix and 50% Perlite (or 30% potting mix and 70% any other inorganic material other than Perlite) by volume, it's that simple!
I've been asked what my potting mix actually is so here is exactly what I use. This may be too complicated for some people or the material may be too difficult to obtain but as I've been asked, I don't mind sharing the recipe :)
- 30% by volume Amgrow "Nu-Earth" potting mix (in the yellow bag) that has been sifted through a dish drainer that has holes about 5mm in it .
- 70% by volume Scoria that I have bought already crushed and then I grade it into 5 different sizes. The biggest size is about 8mm and I use this size in the mix for large plants.
- Slow release fertiliser. I use a commercial product called "Basacote 6M Plus" which is not readily available in hardware stores or garden centres and also comes in a minimum 15kg pack. You can use regular "garden variety" six month slow release fertiliser though. (Osmocote etc) Use sparingly!! I only add about 50 grms to 15 litres of potting mix. Because there is already a fair amount of organic material in the potting mix, you don't need to add fertiliser unless you are growing something that is fast growing. (EG Echeveria)
If you can find decomposed granite, that is also a good inorganic material. I do not have easy access to decomposed granite. If you want to spend a lot of money, buy Pumice! A lot of European growers use pure pumice but there is a catch - you must fertilise as there is nothing in it.
In Australia, Summer is December, January and February with February averaging as the hottest month. Winter is June, July and August. For those of us that have been around for some time, it may seem that our weather is now running about a month late!