Cactus seedlings: another rabbit hole

I’ve posted dozens of photos of echinopsis/trichocereus flowers this year, for example here and here. Given their impressive size (they’re among the largest flowers in the cactus family) and their ephemeral beauty, it’s easy to see why I’ve become so fond of them. Many of the echinopsis in our garden came from the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory, from grower friends, or from the Huntington (the biggest source of Bob Schick hybrids), typically as small plants in the 1-to-3-inch range. A few, like ‘June Noon’, ‘First Light’, ‘Apricot Glow’, and ‘Flying Saucer’, were larger (5 gallon) when I bought them.

But my infatuation hasn’t stopped at buying plants. Last November, I ordered seeds of a dozen different echinopsis/trichocereus hybrids from Patrick Noll, a German hybridizer who runs a popular YouTube channel under the name Cactus Jerk. Unlike most growers who sell live plants, Patrick offers seeds of his own hybrids on his website, He does post photos of the parents, but there’s no sure-fire way of knowing what the flowers of these hybrids will ultimately look like. It’s a gamble, and like any gamble, the payoff can be amazing if luck is on your side.

Nominally, I was supposed to receive 15-20 seeds of each hybrid. But echinopsis seeds are tiny and counting them individually is a pain, so I probably received a few more. 

Here are the seedlings from these 12 echinopsis hybrids in late July:

Seedlings of Patrick Noll hybrids

As you can see, the germination rate was all over the place. For some hybrids, I ended up with 15-20 seedlings; for others, just a handful or even less. The growth rate and overall health has varied just as much. 

Here’s the hybrid with the worst germination rate...

PNO.2021.0199 with very complex parentage: (EDH.2010.436 Freya SB × RL.1432) × (Cantora Gelb × (Teshi × Apricot Glow))

...and the one with the best:

PNO.2020.0040 Orange California × ((Gräsers Erfolg × Super Gelb) × Cantora)

Last weekend, I decided to disentangle the seedlings of the two most vigorous hybrids and move them to individual pots. While even the largest seedlings are still tiny (see photo above), they were crowding each other out and needed more room.

Here are the individual seedlings of hybrid PNO.2020.0040 after I separated them:

PNO.2020.0040 Orange California × ((Gräsers Erfolg × Super Gelb) × Cantora)

And here are the seedlings of both hybrids, PNO.2020.0040 and PNO.2022.0032, in their individual pots:

PNO.2020.0040 and PNO.2022.0032 seedlings after repotting

As you can see, I ended up with about 50 seedlings of hybrids PNO.2020.0040 and PNO.2022.003 even though I really only wanted two or three of each. And there are 30-40 good seedlings of the other 10 hybrids still waiting to be potted up. Did I mention how nuts this experiment is?

Below are descriptions of the two hybrids I repotted, PNO.2020.0040 and PNO.2022.003, as well as photos of their parents from They give a clue as to what to expect:

PNO.2020.0040 ‘Orange California’ × ((‘Gräsers Erfolg’ × ‘Super Gelb’) × ‘Cantora’)

From “Absolute killer cross! The mother is the alltime classic ORANGE CALIFORNIA. The flowers are huge and it´s just a great parent in crosses. The father is a super ruffled hybrid between GRÄSERS ERFOLG x SUPER GELB and CANTORA GELB. I actually wanted to keep these for myself and am only putting them in the shop for my loyal customers. There are only a few bags and I´d please ask everyone who gets some to please send me pics when the plants will flower in a few years. It is rare that these kinds of crosses are available and the fruit was super tiny.”

MOTHER: ‘Orange California’

Trichocereus ‘Orange California’ (photo © Patrick Noll)

FATHER: ((‘Gräsers Erfolg’ × ‘Super Gelb’) × ‘Cantora’)

Trichocereus ((‘Gräsers Erfolg’ × ‘Super Gelb’) × ‘Cantora’) (photo © Patrick Noll)

PNO.2022.0032 (‘First Light’ × ‘Super Gelb’) × ‘Amun-Re’

MOTHER: (‘First Light’ × ‘Super Gelb’)

Trichocereus ‘First Light’ × ‘Super Gelb’ (photo © Patrick Noll)

FATHER: ‘Amun-Re’

Trichocereus macrogonus ‘Amun Re’ (photo © Markus on

In addition to these complex hybrids, I have some other cactus seedlings going as well. My ‘Flying Saucer’ produced a surprise fruit last year, and I got 12 seedlings out of it:

‘Flying Saucer’ seedlings

I have no idea what these seedlings will end up like. There was nothing else in bloom at the time, so I assume that ‘Flying Saucer’ pollinated itself (not unheard of). Hybrids often don’t come true from seed, so I might end up with one or both parents of ‘Flying Saucer’ (an unidentified Soehrensia species and Trichocereus schickendantzii) – or with something else.

If this is too much craziness for you, I also have a few straightforward seedlings of Echinocactus horizonthalonius, aka devilshead, turk’s head cactus or eagle’s claw:

Echinocactus horizonthalonius seedling

This cactus is found in the Chihuahuan Desert, from Arizona through New Mexico into Texas and Northeastern Mexico. Here’s a larger specimen in flower in our garden:

Echinocactus horizonthalonius in our garden in June 2023

I wouldn’t mind having a few more devilsheads/turk’s heads/eagle’s claws to plant out in our garden.

If all of this seems overwhelming, it’s because it is. I might get as many as 100 new cacti out of this! I’ll have lots to give away – or maybe this will be the beginning of my backyard nursery.

© Gerhard Bock, 2023. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. I have given up on doing seeds. Many fellow CACSS gardeners do seeds but it drives me crazy! I either end up with nothing or so many tiny plants I don't know what to do with them all. Also, being 77 years old, it is questionable whether I will get to see them to fruition! Oh, and one last problem: after I transplant them into other pots like you did, they often die on me for some reason. They die even though I try to be so careful and do everything right! Ugh! I rather have a plant that can possibly flower right away. My Echinocactus horizonthalonius died a year ago. I guess too much summer water in the heat. I was so sad about that. Yours is beautiful!

    1. I don't know why this says "Anonymous"! It is Nancy Mumpton which usually shows.

  2. Yes, you are nuts but in the best and nicest possible way! I see a multi-pronged "retirement" in your future, involving your own nursery, several books, and regular appearances on the lecture circuit. Meanwhile, I'd love to see periodic progress reports on your cactus babies.

  3. Rabbit holes are great, and this one you've fallen down is super-great.

    It's the rabbits you have to watch out for.

    1. --Hoover B. (Blogger is doing weird things. Again.)

  4. Little baby cactus are so cute! I love the idea of you starting a small nursery. As your recent YouTube/podcast adventure shows you're a natural at sharing your excitement about plants.

  5. I've had mixed success with seed. The challenge seems to be not to overwater or underwater, which is hard to do with small seedlings. Once they get bigger they're more resilient. Also, once bigger the rate ofgrowth speeds up. I've had many die after they were small. I'll keep what I have but don't plan to buy more seed. As to Opuntia, I may try again with seeds frommy own cactus, though I've had zero success germinating Opuntia, despite trying sandpaper,prolonged soaking, hydrogen peroxide, GH3 etc.

  6. A dangerous deep dive into the world of seeding. However, you will never be short of plant material and selling some of your own can help offset some of the cost of garden purchases. How long do you think it will take these little fellows to flower?


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