Nothing is more attractive to a gardener than getting new plants without having to pay for them. And since succulents are a very sought after plant, it stands to reason propagating succulent leaves and cuttings is a popular project for many gardeners. Best of all, it’s easy and free!
Succulents are very drought hardy plants that are often uses for indoor gardens. They are easy to grow and also easy to root for new plants using the stems, offsets, leaves and cuttings. These tips for propagating succulents will give you dozens of extra plants in no time at all.
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What is succulent propagation?
Plant propagation is the process of making new plants by using one or more parts of the original plants. Seeds, stem cuttings from plants, leaves, and offsets can be used to get new plants for free with this technique.
With the proper soil medium and the right conditions, tiny new plants will grow from all parts of the mother plant.
For succulent propagation the parts are normally separated from the plant and started in a soil medium. Sometimes, the propagation is done while the plant is attached to the mother plant, as is the case with air layering of very large plants, but normally leaves are most commonly used for propagating succulents.
Use these tips for propagating succulent leaves and cuttings
Plants for free – what is not to like about that? This is especially true in the case of succulents which can be very expensive, even for a tiny specimen.
Every time I go to my local garden center, I always check out their variety of succulents. Some are classified as perennials, which makes them more cost effective but, even so, it is not unusual to spend $4-$5 for a TINY succulent plant in a 2″ container. Why pay these prices, when you can get all the succulents you want for free from just a cutting or the leaves?
I have dozens of varieties of succulents in my garden that I have collected. Some of them, like hens and chicks (sempervivum) are cold hardy and can stay outside during the winter, but others like many echeveria varieties have to be brought indoors over the winter or they will die from the frost that we get here in NC.
All varieties of succulents are candidates for propagation using their parts. The indoor plants that I tried to carry over through the winter got quite leggy from low light conditions, so they will be used as stem cuttings. I will also take the leaves from many of the varieties.
Occasionally, you will find a succulent that has a tag that says “propagation prohibited.” This is normally specially hybridized varieties that have patents on them. Propagation can still be done but resale is a big no no. See my article for growing echeveria neon breakers for more details on this topic.
This photo shows you some leaves as well as some cuttings from succulents that had gotten leggy.
The first step is to air dry the ends of the leaves and cuttings. Succulents will rot easily if you try to put them in soil too soon. The reason is that they will try to absorb too much water, since they store moisture in the leaf area.
What about growing succulents in water?
Since many stem cuttings of other plants can be rooted in water, I often have readers ask whether they will have success propagating succulents in water. The short answer is “maybe, but probably not successfully.” I have seen blogs which show succulents rooting in water, but since succulents store water in their leaves and since over-watering is a common problem with succulents, it stands to reason that soil or sand is a better medium.
I have also heard that even if you have success rooting succulents in water, the roots will behave differently than normally rooted succulents do. So, it might be fun to try this for a project, but I’d keep my propagation efforts to soil rooting.
Be sure to callous over the ends of the leaves
You will want the ends of the leaves to be calloused over before you plant them. This will keep the leaves and stem cuttings from rotting when they are placed in soil. Depending on how hot it is, this can take a few days to a week. Be sure to get the whole leaf and try not to break it in half for best results in getting them to grow roots.
I just laid my cuttings in a seedling tray that I plan to plant them in later and left them to dry.
What type of soil is used for growing succulents from cuttings?
Once the ends have nicely calloused over, they are ready for the soil. A good soil for succulents is well draining potting soil such as Hoffman Organic cactus and succulent soil. You can also use a handful of sand or perlite mixed into normal potting soil. It is important to have a proper soil that will promote good drainage and also provide nutrients to the growing succulent cuttings.
I planted the stem cuttings around the outside of the container and just laid the individual leaves in the middle in rows. A shallow plant tray is best. Succulents have a very small root structure and if your container is too deep, you may have problems with over watering.
If you wish, you can use a rooting powder, but this is not necessary. The leaves can also be stuck into the soil, but they will grow just fine laying on the top, too.
How often to water succulents
The stem cuttings and leaves of succulents act in the same way as their parent plant did. They are quite drought resistant and you need ot be careful about how much water you add to the tray.
Watering is tricky. I used the fine mist setting on my hose nozzle to give the cuttings just a light mist every few days or when the soil was starting to dry out. The main thing is to go lightly on the watering or the cuttings will likely rot.
How long does it take for succulent leaf cuttings to start growing?
In a few weeks, your cuttings will have started growing (a sure sign they have rooted) and the leaves will be sprouting small baby succulents near the end that had been previously calloused over. This tiny baby will grow into a full sized plant in no time at all and will have quite a healthy root system.
Once the plantlets have a good root system, it is time to plant them in normal pots. Clay pots are great for succulents since they are porous and help to keep the soil from getting too wet.
Stem Cuttings of Succulents
Most of my project was done using just the leaves of succulent plants to get them to root. But succulents will also grow from stem cuttings.
This works especially well if you have plants that get long and leggy from being indoors and not getting enough sunlight in the winter. These plants will reach for the light and will grow tall instead of staying small and compact. The plant below shows how the top of the succulent is starting to stretch to the light, instead of keeping the rosette shape.
In a case like this, just cup of the top section of the plant and let it callous over and plant it. New roots will grow and the plants will be a more normal, healthy size.
Planting the baby succulents
I use shallow clay pots to plant my stem cuttings and tiny seedling trays for my leaf cuttings. The largest of my baby plants got to about 4 inches tall in about three weeks, so they were ready to go into their planters right way.
I put the smaller rooted cuttings into some 3 inch seedling pots that I had saved from a recent shopping trip for vegetable seedlings. They are a good size for these tiny plants and will give them some room to grow without having too much soil.
You can see from this photo that I still have more baby succulent plants as well as a few leaf cuttings that have just started to root but not yet grown the babies. I’ll just give them some more time and they’ll take, I’m sure.
Propagation of succulents from Offsets
The above steps discuss getting new plants from stem cuttings as well as using the leaves to root into new cuttings. Another method of plant propagation is the use of offsets. This is the fastest way to get new plants!
Many offsets have roots already growing. All you need to do is to separate the tiny baby from the mother plant and pot it into its own container. Just water lightly and the roots will start growing more vigorously once the plant has its own pot and soil. Hens and chicks and other stonecrop succulents easily send out offsets.
It is amazing what type of planters will work for succulents. Their small size allows them to be planted in very small spaces, like the holes of this brick! Three new babies in one tiny planter – and they cost me nothing except a bit of time. This little planter is only about 3 inches wide and 7 inches long and is the perfect size for a mini succulent planting of offsets.
I will put these seedling trays on a planter stand on the deck garden on my patio so that they are easy to mist each night until they have really started growing. They are too small to put directly in the garden right now.
Anything small can be used as a planter. Try tea cups, coffee mugs, tiny decorative watering cans. All will be useful to plant up tiny succulents.
Types of succulents used in my project for the propagation of succulents
I used a variety of succulents in my project. I had sedum, echeveria and sempervivums to choose from so it gave me a nice variety to try and grow into new plants.
Just match the numbers on the chart above to the name below to see what I have growing now as new plants.
- Echeveria derenbergii – Painted Lady
- Sencio “Firestorm”
- Senecio Vitalis
- Graptopetalum Paraguayense
- Graptosedum “Vera Higgins”
- Sedum treleasei
- Echeveria harmsii – Plush Plant
- Crassula Capitella
Planting the succulents outdoors
I left my small rooted cuttings on my patio until they started to grow into larger plants that can take normal garden conditions. The next step was to plant them in the garden in a large cement block planter that I use to feature them in my Southwest themed garden bed.
Some of the openings have plant pots sunk in the soil (the tender varieties). The hardy varieties that will take the winter outdoors are planted directly into the soil.
If you are looking for a way to display all the new plants that you got from propagating the leaves, check out this fun DIY wooden box succulent planter. I made it in just a couple of hours and it only cost me about $3!
Have you tried propagating succulents from cuttings and leaves? What tips can you share that were successful for you?
Update on my cuttings.
Last fall, I transplanted many of these cuttings into a long container to bring indoors over the winter. They are sitting in a sunny south facing window and doing well. I used a few of them to make a coffee pot terrarium project!
For more great garden ideas, be sure to visit my Pinterest Cactus and Succulent board. There are hundreds of ideas for using succulents.
Want to know more about Succulent Plant Propagation? This E-Book from Drought Smart Plants will tell you everything you need to know.
Propagating succulent plants is a very easy project to do. If you are careful to watch your water level and are prepared to wait a few weeks for your plants to grow, you will end up with a whole batch of new plants that cost you nothing except for some time and the cost of potting soil. What a winning combination!
Admin note: This post first appeared on the blog in June of 2016. I have updated the post with new information and more photos.
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