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My Tiny Cactus Garden

February 26th, 2011

When I was a kid, my mom often had a cactus garden in the living room. It usually consisted of a few tiny cactuses in a wide shallow pot, a little gravel road, an a tiny clay chiva. A Chiva is a traditional Colombian bus that is used in the rural regions. It is painted up in the colors of the flag and was always packed to overflowing with people, chickens, bananas, plantains, and all sorts of other things.

I wanted to start my own miniature cactus garden for my dining room table. I was going to buy some small cactus as the greenhouse, but then I spotted this pack of seeds at the hardware store for only $1.19. I figured I’d give it a whirl and try starting my own tiny cactuses from seed.

I wasn’t hoping for much, I’ve heard they can be difficult to start from seed. I started by filling a seed flat with a mix of equal parts potting soil and coarse sand. On February 13th I sprinkled the cactus seeds on top and lightly worked the top of the soil. Then I sprayed well with water, covered it with a plastic dome, and put it down on the heating mat in my basement seed starting area. I checked the flat daily and sprayed it with water when the top of the soil dried out (which happens quickly when you have things on a heating mat). Seven days later, on February 21, I noticed three tiny cactus seedlings in the flat.

These seedlings are TINY. They’re very hard to spot, especially since they look a lot like the larger pieces of sand. You can see in the photo below, I used a very small sewing pin to show scale. I thought it would help show you how tiny these plants really are. Right now I have 8 tiny cactus seeds that have germinated. I wonder what varieties I’ll have when they grow up?

I’m super excited about these tiny seedlings. It will be interesting to see how long it takes them to grow big enough to plant in a cactus garden to surround the small chiva. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how these do.

Have you ever had a cactus as a houseplant?

18 Comments to “My Tiny Cactus Garden”
  1. Sue on February 26, 2011 at 6:31 am

    Aren’t those the cutest things! I’ve bought seeds, but never did get around to sowing them. I think I need to now….I guess I was just intimidated by the thought that they would be difficult.

    Reply to Sue's comment

  2. kristin @ going country on February 26, 2011 at 8:17 am

    I love how the seedlings already look like tiny cacti. We have a few cacti at this house. Obviously, I didn’t have any in Arizona. Seems kind of like overkill there, right?

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

    • Susy on February 26, 2011 at 9:18 am

      I figured you’d have a couple in your house I’m surprised they can take those cold nights in Blackrock Mansion during the winter!

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • kristin @ going country on February 26, 2011 at 11:23 am

        A cactus can withstand pretty low temperatures–the desert does get very cold at night, after all. What they don’t deal with well is freezing and thawing a lot. Which is why we bring them inside. We have one that’s about 50 years old–I think it was the MiL’s father’s or something–and that thing is HEAVY. Hate moving potted plants in the fall and spring.

        to kristin @ going country's comment

  3. Rhonda on February 26, 2011 at 10:10 am

    I had a cactus in a pot that an aunt gave me. I don’t know what it was exactly but I called it a prickly pear because it would grow orangy-red looking bulbous things that looked like fruits but I never tried to eat any. :-)

    I had it in my living room for a few years. Finally, I got tired of getting almost microscopic needles stuck in my feet so I stuck it outside on my patio one spring. At this point I didn’t care if it lived or died because I was just sick of the needles. Imagine my surprise when one day I saw it full of yellow flowers! It was so pretty. I was amazed because I had never experienced a cactus in bloom before. After the flowed died off, that’s when the “fruits” formed” Anyhoo … because of the flowers, I decided to try and keep it alive. I had it for about 10 years but left it there in my divorce. It was really pretty but soooooo annoying when those tiny needles got under my skin.

    Reply to Rhonda's comment

  4. Jennifer Finch on February 26, 2011 at 11:01 am

    I love growing cacti from seeds – they grow so slow, and when you buy a mixed bag, you don’t know what kind you’ll end up with for a while. I have a few that I grew about 7 years ago, and they still fit into 4″ pots. I keep them in the sunniest window I have, and water them infrequently – they’re my favorite houseplant. :)

    Reply to Jennifer Finch's comment

  5. Liz J on February 26, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    That is fascinating ~ never thought of doing that before. Can’t wait to see the progress.

    Reply to Liz J's comment

  6. Beegirl on February 26, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    Never grew cacti before but had a Chiva and didn’t know it! How funny is that? Love this post! Can’t wait to see how they grow!

    Had a small cactus once as a kid. The cat knocked it off the window and rolled it up in the fringe of the oriental rug in the dining room. That was the end of the cactus.

    Reply to Beegirl's comment

    • Susy on February 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm

      That’s too funny that you had a chiva – small world moment!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  7. rachel on February 26, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Living in Phoenix, this sort of makes me chuckle inside. I suppose it’s like someone from Atlanta reading about someone starting a Kudzu garden. ;) Good for you, and with cactus, the most important things to do are not water and be verrrrrry patient!

    Reply to rachel's comment

  8. Amy on February 26, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Very cool! I haven’t grown cacti myself, but I did give one as a gift to a friend for her first housewarming. She was into kitch, so I planted one of the tallish-with-the-hot-pink-top ones in a glass kitchen container (the kind that looks like a fishbowl with a metal lid), complete with a plastic camel and some bamboo skewers to use to maneuver should the thing fall over inside. She was a black thumb gardener but kept the cactus alive for years on her kitchen window sill. Too fun!

    Reply to Amy's comment

  9. Kathi on February 26, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    No, but I may try to grow them from seeds-super cute! Thanks for the idea

    Reply to Kathi's comment

  10. Katrina on February 26, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    How exciting! Keep us updated please.

    Reply to Katrina's comment

  11. Anne on February 27, 2011 at 12:21 am

    I’ve never had one, but my Mom had a tiny one when I was growing up. I stuck myself once and decided cacti might not be for me. Trying to grow them from seed sounds fun though.

    Reply to Anne's comment

  12. Stacy M on February 27, 2011 at 1:31 am

    Amazing!! I am just starting with cacti! I was hoping to propagate this one that I bought that was covered in tiny babies. Turns out it was what they call a “moon cactus” which is two cacti stuck together, the top is red. I thought it was a neat plant, but it’s just a regular cactus that’s been irradiated and lost it’s chlorophyll!! It’s leeching off the bottom cactus. Why on earth would anyone make this abomination? Creepy.

    Luckily, I also bought a haworthia, so that should work out… I hope…

    Good luck with your seeds! Really looking forward to seeing the progress

    Reply to Stacy M's comment

  13. melissa on February 27, 2011 at 1:42 am

    not until recently but now I have gone succulent MAD! I have:

    -hylocereus undata ‘Dark Star’ – cutting
    -hylocereus bruni – cutting
    -echeveria glauca (I think)
    -Haworthia fasciata
    -Anacampseros telephiastrum ‘variegata’ (sunrise plant)
    -Gasteria liliputiana (ox-tongue plant)
    -Anacampseros rufescens

    I love them! It’s hard to not add more to the collection but I need for these to get a little bigger first.

    Reply to melissa's comment

  14. Daedre Craig on February 28, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I grow cactus from seed every year. I just started mine 5 or 6 days ago (along with some Lithops seeds). Some of the cactus seeds germinated in 3 days! I’m hoping to get a nice variety this year since I sowed about 150 cactus seeds and 100 lithops seeds.

    It’s a very slow process, but fairly easy and fun!

    Reply to Daedre Craig's comment

  15. Fairy Gardening Kit Giveaway | Chiot's Run on October 26, 2011 at 4:46 am

    […] table. It was a fairy garden of sorts, a desert version with cactuses and a tiny little chiva (which is a traditional Colombian bus). I’m thinking next summer I might make the area around my garden pond a fairy garden of sorts. […]

    Reply to Fairy Gardening Kit Giveaway | Chiot’s Run's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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