Succulents are plants that store water in their roots, leaves or stems so they can survive in arid climates and soils. They tend to look fleshy, plump or swollen. Succulents include the cactus family of plants but not all succulents are cacti. Succulents tend to have shallow roots; they like well-drained soil and plenty of sunshine. You can buy succulent seedlings or plants or you can start them from seeds yourself.
Choosing a Succulent
If you want to grow a succulent outdoors choose a succulent that is comfortable in your climate. Succulents have evolved in the steppes, semi-deserts and deserts, both in the mountains and along sea coasts. There are succulents that are native to the tropics, to the semi-tropics and to temperate climates.
Some species of succulents have short roots and do better in wide, shallow pots. Other species have tap roots and require a standard or deep pot. Above all else, succulents do not like to stand in water. Your pot needs a drainage hole and pieces of gravel or broken clay at the bottom to ensure it.
Seeds of species evolved to survive cold winters may need cold or freezing conditions for their seeds to break dormancy. Stratification is the practice of stimulating seeds to germinate by placing them in an environment that mimics the natural conditions that they "expect" from evolution.
There are several ways to stratify the seeds of succulents that evolved in climates with cold winters. You can sow the seeds in January by covering them with moist sand or fine grit and put them outside where they will be exposed to alternate freezing and thawing. Alternatively, sow the seeds in moist sand or fine grit and place them in a covered container in the refrigerator for several weeks. Another option is to sow the seeds in moist sand or fine grit and alternate the covered container between the refrigerator and freezer.
The seeds of some species require brush fires to break dormancy. Kits are available containing synthetic versions of chemicals found in the smoke made by brush fires.
So that it will drain well, plant your seeds in soil or peat plus 30 to 70 percent horticultural-grade sand and pumice or other grit. Most succulents like a soil pH of about 6. To test your soil, you can buy an affordable pH meter at many garden supply centers.
Sow succulent seeds in temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees F. Some tropical species require higher temperatures. Stand the container in water or mist it with water to moisten the planting mix. Clean the seeds of debris and any silk parachutes that may cling to them. Distribute small seeds over the surface of nutrient-rich compost and cover with a light dusting of sand. Poke 1/8-inch-deep holes with a stick to plant large seeds.
After sowing, wrap the container in a clean plastic bag. Some growers remove the bag after one month to let in air; others leave the bag on for up to a year. For the first year, don't allow the planting compost to dry out. As the seedlings begin to grow, gradually increase the light. Direct sunlight can scorch the emerging seedlings.