Living Rocks of Mexico
Ariocarpus From Seed
  home [ Literature ][ Cultivation ]  


This article is reproduced form BCSS Journal Vol 11(1)1993, 1-2, with the  kind permission of the Editor and Brian Moss

Brian Moss


Photos by the Author
Ariocarpus trigonus

Fig. 1: Ariocarpus trigonus.


Back in 1959 I was given a list of collected plants available from Les Tookey in Herstmonceux and I proceeded to order three: Utahia sileri (as it was then known),  Pediocactus  simpsonii  and   Ariocarpus trigonus. Experienced "old hands' in the South Wales Cactus Society, which I had joined in those early days, offered much encouragement, saying "you won't keep them for long" and "why don't you try something easier?". They proved to be absolutely right so far as the first two plants were concerned, but the Ariocarpus flourished in among the Notocacti and Mammillarias, flowering its head off during the first autumn. 

I suppose my interest in the genus really took off in the early seventies though, with unforgettable visits to Clive Innes, Tom Jenkins (in Chatham) and also Blackburns of

Preston.  Very   quickly,  good  specimens  of  all seven  species  (no  arguments,please!) were acquired and from  these plants seeds were  subsequently collected. Before going any further, it is worth recalling some of the conflict which used to occur with regard to how Ariocarpus should be cultivated. The golden rule always seemed to be that, whatever else, the plants must be kept more or less permanently comatose by offering them hardly any water. An article in the Journal many years ago summed up the position rather well.  On that occasion a treasured plant of A. fissuratus was accidentally drowned by a careless slip of the watering-can, much to the horror of the owner. Far from dying, the plant responded by producing a couple of green bits, and the drought order was henceforth lifted. Of course these plants like water, and plenty of it during  the growing season I don't

  Ariocarpus furfuraceus

Fig. 2: Ariocarpus furfuraceus.

believe in fiddling with the watering-can. When the plants are ready, I soak them: good drainage will take care of any excess.

Raising Ariocarpus from seed is really very easy and not as slow as some might imagine. Given that all the species of Ariocarpus are included in the CITES list, seed raising is the only way forward. There is no need to fiddle with seed raising either: use your standard seed compost, temperature and watering regime, and your seedlings will soon develop into targets for sciarid flies, damping-off disease and all the little joys you have doubtless experienced.

My own seed compost consists of roughly equal parts (by volume) of moss peat and sharp sand. Each species is given a 2˝" inch pot and the propagator is kept at around 25°C. Freshly collected seed from my own plants germinates quickly, most seedlings having appeared within ten days. Although sun-worshippers when adult, care must be taken to keep the little plants well shaded during the first few years. Don't be in any hurry to prick out the seedlings. I would keep them undisturbed for two years and then transplant them five to a four-inch pot. The year prior to transplanting, they will of course need an occasional weak feed using your normal liquid feed. 

Ariocarpus furfuraceus Fig. 3: Ariocarpus furfuraceus.


Small seedlings produce juvenile tubercles, quite untypical of mature plants, although these give way to the adult tubercles after a few years, depending on the rate of growth. Then is the time to introduce the seedlings to a little more light, but be careful!  Two years after their transplanting, the seedlings should be ready for a 2˝ inch pot and a more open compost.  I use my standard cactus compost, comprising two parts of coarse grit (1-3 mm) to one part of moss peat with some Gamma HCH dust end Chempak potting base added. Supplementary feeding with Chempak Formula 8 (12.5:25:25) completes the picture. The plants are watered with the rest of the collection—I make no exceptions.

The three photographs should tell the rest of the story. Figs. 1 and 2 show Ariocarpus  trigonus  and  A.  furfuraceus  in  4˝  inch  pots,  flowering  in  mid-September for the third successive year, from seeds sown in 1980. Fig. 3 shows a fourteen year old plant of A. furfuraceus in a 5˝ inch pot. Although variable, all the A. trigonus seedlings display the fairly typical arrangement of angular, rather upright tubercles, these being dark green. The A. furfuraceus, together with a seed- raised plant of A. retusus, have the grey-green tubercles more typical of a collected plant.

I have mentioned only three species, although all seven are worth trying. A 2˝ inch pot of A. fissuratus has just produced two large flowers which completely hide the plant when fully open, while an A. agavoides has a number of fat buds showing.  With plenty of seeds available, I hope to start a new batch going in 1993.

---------- end of page ----------