How to Breed Succulents?

How to Breed Succulents

Breeding succulents can be both frustrating and rewarding, especially when you are just starting. 

With many variables that can come into play, it helps to have a guide on how to breed succulents.

Listed here are the steps you need to undertake as well as a few essential tips.

How to breed succulents in 7 steps

Unlike the flowers in other plants, succulent flowers do not blossom for a long time. This makes natural pollination with the aid of the wind and insects practically impossible. If the flowers do not pollinate, your succulent cannot produce seeds. 

Succulent breeding solves this problem and more. Through hybrid pollination, succulent growers can create new varieties and not merely clones that are produced by propagating through cuttings.

Succulent breeding or cross-pollination is not a resource-intensive endeavor. For this project, you will need a few tools. These include:

  • a few small brushes (eyeshadow or artist brush)
  • rubbing alcohol
  • nylon stocking

Here are the steps to breed succulents:

Step 1

Start by choosing two succulents that you want to cross-pollinate. Once these two plants begin producing flowers, place them together.

You can use the same type of succulents or cross-pollinate different types.

Wait until pollen appears on the flowers. You can find the pollen on the flowers’ stamens, which in turn, can be found around the middle of the flowers.

Unsure what pollen looks like? It looks like dust on the surface of the petals.

Step 2

Next, disinfect the brushes that you will use for cross-pollination. Rubbing alcohol is an excellent disinfectant because it kills various microorganisms that may be lurking in the brushes.

After disinfecting the small brushes, allow these to dry.

Step 3

Get the first plant and get the pollen from its stamens. To do this, gently swirl a small brush around the stamens.

Step 4

Now apply the small brush on the stigma of the flower of the second succulent. The stigma is the part of the flower that has a finger-like appearance. The stigma should be slightly open.

If the stigma is not yet open, wait a few more days and then try again.

Step 5

Get a new small brush and repeat the previous steps with the second flower.

Step 6

After completing steps one to five, cover both flowers with nylon stockings. The stockings will help prevent cross-pollination between the two succulents and the other plants not involved in this process.

However, you can skip this step entirely if your only goal is to make your succulent produce seeds. Leaving the flowers uncovered will attract pollinators and allow the wind to sweep off pollen.

Step 7

Now, all you have to do is to wait for the plants to produce seeds. Your waiting time will depend on the type of succulent you have chosen for this project.

Some succulents can produce seeds in a matter of weeks while others can take up to a year to make seeds.

A few important things to remember

As much as possible, use at least two small brushes when taking the pollen from both plants. This helps prevent self-pollination from coming into play.

Succulents can self-pollinate. However, it can be harmful because it can cause recessive traits to surface. At the same time, self-pollination can produce new colors and shapes.

How succulents produce seeds

Succulents produce their seeds. However, for this to happen, the conditions need to be right.

Seed production begins when a succulent’s flower begins to blossom. Take note that this process does not necessarily happen annually.

Once the flower blooms, it needs to be pollinated. Outdoors, the process is facilitated by the plants with a great deal of help from the wind and insects like bees and butterflies.

The flowers emit a sweet smell that attracts beneficial insects. These insects will then carry pollen from one plant to another.

Some succulents require cross-pollination to form seeds. Cross-pollination means that plants need pollen from other plants.

After pollination, the ovum begins its transformation into seeds. During this transformation, the flower dries out.

Once the flower has dried and wilted, the seeds can then be carried by the wind.

Succulent seeds are minute in size. This is why many people mistake the seeds as dust. Once you see the seeds, you should place these immediately into a propagation tray with moist soil.

Remember to keep the soil moist. 

Seed germination rates in succulents can vary from one plant to another. Some seeds germinate within a few days, ready to be transplanted after six months. Others take weeks to fully germinate.

Understanding hybridization

If you happen to visit your local nursery, you might notice new and unfamiliar succulents.

These plants are produced through the process known as hybridization. 

The goals of hybridization are varied. Some succulent growers produce hybrids to combine the best characteristics of two plants. Others use hybridization to eliminate the bad qualities of a plant. And then there are succulent breeders who wish to create new plants that they add to their collections or even sell at a premium to other collectors.

Take note that the products of hybridization are artificial hybrids. 

Typically, breeders hybridize plants that come from the same genus. The close relationship between these plants makes breeding easier and the chances for success are considerably higher. 

Challenges in hybridization 

Although the results of hybridization can be astounding, the process is not seamless. Hybridization poses a few problems.

For starters, the results are unpredictable. If you successfully produce seeds, there is no guarantee that the new plant that you created will have the characteristics that you are trying to get.

Often, it will take multiple breeding attempts to get the results that you desire.

Hybrids are also sterile, incapable of producing seeds. Luckily, succulents can be propagated through the use of cuttings. 

Breeding succulents can also be particularly challenging because the plants you have chosen will not produce flowers at the same time.

Unfortunately, pollen cannot be stored for use at a later time. You can, however, manipulate the plants’ environment to coax both plants to flower at the same time.

Finally, the new plants that you create may be more fragile than pure-breed succulents. This often comes as a result of altering plant DNA. Because of their delicate qualities, these plants can be difficult to keep alive.

This is why many rare succulent hybrids sold in markets carry a steep price tag.

Frustrating yet rewarding

By no means is succulent breeding an easy process. You will get frustrated, angry even. But if you have the patience and determination, and a bit of luck, you can produce a unique plant that you can be truly proud of. Who knows, you might even get your creation patented and sold at a handsome price.

While there is no guarantee for 100 percent success, following the tips mentioned here will help minimize your chance of failing.

Image: istockphoto.com / artas

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