It’s easy to propagate succulents from offsets, leaf cuttings, and stem cuttings. But which method should you use, and how does each one work? Also, when should you propagate succulents?
This article provides step-by-step instructions and answers frequently asked questions about propagating a succulent. Read on to learn more.
How To Propagate Succulents From Stem Cuttings?
You can grow succulents from stem cuttings at any time, but this method is beneficial if you have some plants that have become stretched from lack of sunlight.
To correct this problem, you should prune off the leggy sections of the parent plant and move that plant to an area where it can get plenty of bright, indirect sunlight. Then, remember to turn the plant every few days so it doesn’t end up leaning toward the sun again.
To propagate succulents, follow these five steps:
Choose Your Cuttings
For example, assume you want to propagate Echeverias. Sort through the sections of plants you have pruned off and identify the ones you want to use to start new plants.
Next, remove the lower leaves from the stem, so you have at least a few inches of bare stem. 3” or 4″ inches is better.
Let The Cuttings Air
Set the cuttings aside in a consistently warm and airy area for a couple of days. This will give the cut ends and the spots where you’ve removed leaves a chance to callus over.
Doing so helps prevent fungal growth.
Prepare Your Containers
While waiting for your cuttings to callus over, prepare your containers. And remember to use containers that will provide plenty of drainage.
NOTE: Fill the containers with a light, airy, well-draining soil mixture. A commercial succulent or cactus mix will do just fine.
You can also make your own mixture by combining 50/50 coarse sand and a good-quality potting mix for succulents.
Water the soil mixture and set it aside until your cuttings have formed callused ends. After the two-day waiting period, the soil should be properly moist.
Plant Your Cuttings
Use a pencil or similar object to poke holes in the soil that are wide and deep enough to accommodate the stems of your cuttings.
Place your cuttings in the soil mixture and firm the soil gently to hold the cutting in place and make good contact with the stems. Roots should start to form within a couple of weeks.
Choose A Good Location
Place your cuttings in an area that is consistently warm and receives ample amounts of bright, indirect sunlight.
Keep the soil just slightly moist until you see new growth, and then switch to soak and dry watering.
TIP: Remember to turn your cuttings every few days to prevent them from stretching toward the sun.
How To Propagate Succulents From Leaves?
Remember those leaves you took off the stem cuttings? You can use those to grow new plants as well!
This is also a good way to increase your succulent collection, cheap or free. Ask your succulent-growing friends if you can take a leaf or two from inconspicuous areas of their plants.
Sometimes you can even pick up fallen succulent leaves in the aisles at garden centers or from the sidewalk around plants growing in public settings. Always remember to ask!
The best leaves for propagating are full, complete, healthy, undamaged leaves that have been removed from the plant very close to the base. The roots and new leaves will grow from the tip of the leaf, so it’s important to keep that intact.
Just as with stem cuttings, allow the leaves to air for a couple of days so that this tip will callus over. While you are waiting, decide how you want to cultivate these leaves.
There are several methods.
Set the leaves in a shallow tray with no soil. Place the tray in a warm area with good air circulation and bright, indirect sunlight.
Simply mist the cuttings lightly every two or three days. Within a couple of weeks, tiny leaves and roots begin to form.
When this happens, you can transfer the little plantlets to small individual pots or (several at a time) to a shallow tray of succulent or cactus soil mix.
This is a good method if you have lots of succulent leaves all of one type. Of course, you’ll lose a few, but most will start growing happily with this method.
If you don’t want to transfer your succulent leaves immediately, you can start them in a tray or terra cotta saucer of moist, succulent, or cactus mix.
Place them and mist them just as you would with no soil. Just lay them on the surface of the moist soil. Don’t bury the end of the leaf, as this causes rot.
When you do it this way, you can arrange them in a pretty pattern and let them grow for a while. Then, they will naturally set their roots into the soil mixture.
When you begin to see new growth, start watering lightly. Once they’ve established themselves, switch to soak and dry watering.
You can divide them into small pots when they outgrow their tray or saucer.
This is a good method if you have a few leaves (all the same or mixed varieties) that you want to be sure will succeed, for example, if you are adding new varieties to your collection and would not be able to get more leaves.
Small Individual Pots
If you have just one or two leaves of a type, you would not be able to collect again, and you should set each one up in its own small pot of cactus or succulent mix. This way, you can care for each individual and closely control the moisture they receive.
In addition, this will help prevent potential root rot; if any disease or pest problem arises, you won’t have to worry about it spreading.
To start succulent leaves in individual pots:
- Choose a small pot with good drainage (terra cotta is good).
- Fill it with a cactus or succulent mix.
- Water the mix and set it aside for a couple of days while your leaves’ cut ends callus over.
When the two days have passed, just set the leaf on the soil’s surface and place the pot in an area with warmth, bright, indirect light, and good air circulation.
Mist lightly every few days until you see new leaves start to grow, and then begin watering lightly. Once your little plant is established, switch to soak and dry watering.
Let Nature Take Its Course!
It is also possible to start succulents from leaves by dropping the leaf on the soil’s surface next to an already established plant.
When you do this, you will continue taking care of the plant as you normally do, and before you know it, you will probably find that your carelessly dropped leaf has grown into a new little plant.
This method is hit-and-miss and is good to use when you have lots of succulent plants and spare leaves and are not especially invested in the outcome.
How To Grow Succulents From Offsets?
Many succulent plants, such as Echeveria, Haworthii, and Aloe, produce offspring. These are called offsets, pups, chicks, plantlets, or babies.
Some offsets spring up from the soil at their mothers’ feet, while others grow along the margins of the mothers’ leaves. Some grow at the ends of runners.
No matter how your succulent plant produces pups, it is easy to separate the offspring from the parent plant and simply pot it up in its own pot.
For those offspring that emerge from the soil surrounding the parent plant, you can easily separate them when you repot the parent.
For those that grow at the margins of the leaves of the parent plant, you can clip off the leaf and lay it on the surface of the prepared soil.
Treat it just as you would leaf cuttings. The little plants will soon set down roots and begin to grow. When they do, you can separate them into their own pots.
Succulents that produce babies on runners (e.g., Sempervivum/Hen & Chicks) are especially easy to deal with. You would simply clip the runner at the base where it emerges from the parent plant.
If the runner is very long and unwieldy, clip the excess off the chick. Leave about an inch in the place.
Set the little plant aside for a couple of days and prepare a pot. Once its cut end has callused, pot it up in its own pot with slightly moist soil.
How To Propagate Succulents By Division?
Rambling succulents like Sedum that grow as ground cover can be divided easily. You can literally just take a handful of the plant and pull it off the parent plant. You will probably find that it has roots growing along the stems.
Place your clump of plants on light, airy prepared soil in the garden, a planter, or a pot. Fill the loose soil around the roots and take care of the plant as if it were mature and established. Before you know it, it will be.
How To Propagate Succulents From Seed?
It is possible to grow succulents from seed, but it’s pretty time-consuming. If you purchase seed, follow packaging directions closely for the greatest chance of success.
If you collect seed, generally speaking, you can sow it onto a tray of moist sand or seed-sowing medium. Cover it lightly with plastic and keep the tray in a warm area that receives indirect sunlight for 6 hours a day. Keep the soil lightly moist.
When you see new growth, remove the plastic for a few hours daily to allow good air circulation and discourage fungal growth.
As your little plants grow larger, you can move the tray into slightly brighter sunlight. Take care not to let the young plants get burned.
Once the baby plants are well established, you can pot them up into their pots and treat them (gently and carefully) as mature plants.
Growing succulents from seed are not recommended because it is difficult and time-consuming. Even so, if you have your heart set on a variety you cannot find, growing from seed may be your only option.
Succulent Propagation Q & A
1. Can you just pull succulent leaves off to use them for propagation?
When you take leaves, it’s best to grasp the leaf firmly between two fingers, very close to the base, and give it a little twist.
2. Can you break off succulent cuttings to use for propagation?
When taking stem cuttings, it’s best to use a sharp, clean-cutting implement. If you do, simply break off a cutting (or pick up a limb that has fallen off) and cut a bit off the end (at a 45-degree angle) to make a clean surface where new roots will grow.
3. Do leaves and stems have to be undamaged or from healthy plants to grow?
Although damaged leaves and stems are not the best candidates for propagation, if it’s all you have, just do your best.
Sometimes fallen stems and leaves trampled and pushed around will set down roots and grow.
If you have a beloved succulent stricken by disease or pests, collecting the healthiest leaves and stems to propagate can be an excellent way to give your plant a new lease on life.
Just dispose of the ailing plant and start the leaves and stems in an isolated area to reduce the risk of spreading a disease or pest infestation.
TIP: Be sure to treat possibly affected/infested cuttings as soon as you harvest them.
4. If my succulent leaves do not set roots and start growing in a couple of weeks, should I throw them out?
As long as the leaf stays green and plump (or even plumpish), continue to give it a chance. Leaves that have been damaged may take longer to set roots.
Leaves and stems started in the off-season may wait until springtime to grow, but this does not mean they are dead. They are just resting.
5. How do you take stem cuttings?
Use a very sharp, sterile cutting implement to cut the base of a stem or, in the case of a very long stem, just above an existing leaf. Your ideal cutting should be 4″ to 6″ inches long in total.
6. Is it possible to propagate succulents in water?
It is possible, but it’s not the most successful method. It is most likely to work with juicy succulents, such as Peperomia and jade, but some gardeners start rugged, drought-tolerant individuals like Sansevieria in water.
If you have an excessive number of cuttings to deal with, it’s worth a try. Treat them as you would any cuttings in water, changing the water frequently to prevent fungal growth.
7. How do you know if your cutting or leaf has set roots?
When you see new leaf growth, you know there is corresponding root growth. Roots can take 3 to 6 weeks to become strong and established.
To determine this, you can give the little plant a very gentle tug to see if it offers any resistance, but really this isn’t necessary. If your plantlet is doing well, it’s growing roots.
8. Is succulent propagation legal?
If a plant is patented, propagation for purposes of selling is illegal. It’s fine to propagate your own plants to enjoy and share with your friends.
Set It And Forget It For Successful Succulent Propagation
The most important aspect of successful succulent propagation is a conducive environment.
If you can provide your plants with ample bright, indirect sunlight, well-draining soil mix, breathable pots with lots of drainage holes, and soak-and-dry watering in a consistently warm setting, you are sure to meet with success.