GERMINATING TINY SEEDS
Tiny seeds, almost as fine as dust can be difficult to handle. Sometimes, in fact, the packet seems to contain nothing except a trace of dust-sized particles.
Use a small pan or pot for sowing, about 4 or 5 inches is adequate.
Fill the pan or pot to overflowing with the seed compost, then firm it first with your fingers, then with a
wooden presser (if you have one).
Pour a bit of fine sand into the seed packet and shake to mix sand and seed. If you do not have sand,
you can use a fingertip to swirl and pick up the tiny seeds, or tap bag gently over pot.
Sow the seed direct from the packet, tapping it slowly to release the sand-seed mixture evenly over the
Do not cover the seed with compost, simply press them into the surface with a wooden presser or your
Water the compost from underneath by standing the tray or pot in a bowl of tepid water.
Cover with a piece of glass, cling film or seal inside a polythene bag to keep the compost moist and the
atmosphere slightly humid.
Remember that very fine seeds have a lower germination rate than normal-sized ones and the correct
temperature for germination is very important.
Sowing: Sow indoors at any time of year. Fill small pots or trays with a light and well-aerated compost. Do not firm the mixture down too much. Stand the pots in water, moisten thoroughly and drain. You can stand the containers on a tray of damp sand, so that they do not dry out. Scatter the seed onto the top of the compost. Do not cover seed as they require light for germination, but avoid direct sunlight by shading the seeds after sowing.
If possible, germinate in a propagator otherwise, secure a polythene bag around the pot or cover the container with glass and place in a warm shaded place. Care should be taken to prevent the pots drying out from below. The majority of seeds germinate best at a temperatures of 68 to 72°F. Germination will usually take 30 to 180 days, patience is required, don't throw away the tray too soon.
Once germination has taken place, remove the glass or plastic and move into a good light. Be careful to keep the top of the compost damp. As soon as the first seeds have germinated, remove the plastic or raise the lid slightly to permit some circulation of air. From now on, the tiny seedlings need to be in a good light, but must be protected from direct sun. Shading from all but winter sun is desirable for the first 12 months.
Cultivation: Growth is slow, 6 to 8 weeks after sowing, transplant to single small pots (2-3in). Keep the temperature 64 to 77°F during daytime and 59 to 65°F during night. Cooler temperatures at night are better for the foliage pigmentation. Temperatures below 59°F will result in leaf deformation. After 12 to 14 months, transplant into a bigger pot. Avoid over-head irrigation, because wet leaf rosettes rot rapidly. Moderate fertilization levels are required during the spring and summer, but don't fertilize after mid- September.
It’s a good idea to keep most succulents in a pot, especially if winters get especially cold. Most mature succulents cannot handle temperatures below 40oF for an extended period of time. Ground cover succulents tend to be hardier, as they are low to the ground with extensive root systems.
Aloe is a very useful plant - the gel on the inside can be used to treat cuts and burns (it can smell a bit unpleasant), and using aloe vera juice as a mouth rinse has been proven to be just as effective as mouth
wash. As a side note, aloe is a diarrhetic, and should be kept out of reach of animals and children.
To harvest aloe, trim off a leaf for use. If treating a skin issue, the leaf can be squeezed and the gel can be used directly. Never trim more than 1/3 of the leaves at a time. You can cut off a small piece and a wound will form and the leaf continue to grow, or you can trim the piece at the base. If any ends become withered or brown, these can be trimmed as well.
Aloe can tend to grow rapidly, and may need to be repotted. If repotting to a larger space, remove any pups (baby offshoots) that have formed. These can be discarded or planted on their own to make new aloe plants!
Propagating other succulents
Unlike Aloe, Sempervivum, Dinteranthus and other pup making succulents, many succulents can usually be started by a single leaf.
Just twist a leaf gently at the base of the plant and set it on top of the soil. Once new roots sprout, it can be planted as normal and a new plant will grow (and that original leaf may wither).