How To Propagate Succulents From Cuttings And Leaves

by | May 13, 2021 | Growing Guides, How To | 0 comments

Since mid-2020, many people have started leaning towards environment-friendly and more sustainable hobbies to keep themselves occupied. Turns out, one of the most wholesome and popular options is gardening – which gained a huge boost during the pandemic.

If you’ve been dabbling in gardening yourself, chances are that you know of or already own succulents. These cute, hardy, and well-loved plants have become something of a worldwide sensation, and make for great plant companions.

If you’ve got a succulent family growing in your home, chances are that you’d like to share them with your family and friends – or simply make more to spread throughout your home. Read on, and we’ll tell you how.

But first, let’s learn a bit more about succulents and how to best help them thrive.

What Are Succulents?

Succulents are plants efficient at storing water in their leaves. Usually, the leaves of succulents are fleshy and thick – some of the best-known examples are cacti and aloe vera.

Succulent plants thrive well in dry climates, and they don’t work well with humidity. Like other plants, succulents would still need proper watering to achieve their maximum growth and flowering, but unlike most, succulents can sustain and survive prolonged periods of droughts by drawing on water and nutrients stored in their various parts. This is an evolutionary feature that has helped them thrive and survive for millions of years on every continent except for Antarctica.

You’d know if your succulents had too much water if their leaves are starting to rot and die.

Aside from humidity, succulents also struggle with freezing temperatures. Due to the excess water they keep in their leaves, the cold temperatures can cause their leaves to become mushy.

Although some succulents like the sempervivums and sedums are strong enough to withstand below-freezing temperatures, succulents are still in their healthiest in warmer temperatures.

Succulents can be cared for indoors and outdoors. Indoor succulents make incredible decorations when placed in ceramic pots with enough drainage holes. It can also be in terrariums so long as water is provided sparingly.

Outdoors, they make great additions to xeriscapes if irrigation levels are kept low. You can also set them in between pavers, crevices of stone walls, as a perfect accent to your rock garden.

One of the amazing and impressive characteristics of succulents is their capability to propagate quickly. This is why you might hear the term ‘Mother Plant’, used by botany enthusiasts whie talking about succulents.

Succulents are more than capable of growing new plants from a fallen leaf. While some produce new pups as they grow bigger. This can be exciting, and you need to have a good understanding of how to propagate succulents from cuttings and leaves so you can make the most out of your current collection.

Succulent Multiplication

You can always start from seeds, but there is a faster way to multiply your succulents.

Succulents are more than capable of growing new plants from a fallen leaf. This can be an exciting and fun project to carry out, though you’ll need to have a good understanding of how to propagate succulents from cuttings and leaves so you can make the most out of your current collection.

An example would be the Echeverias that can be propagated using both its leaf and cutting. Aeoniums, meanwhile, can only propagate by cuttings. Overall, knowing your succulent will direct you on how to effectively and safely reproduce them.

Propagation by Leaf

This method is simple. All you need is to twist the leaf off the stem of your succulent. You have to ensure, though, that it is a clean pull and nothing gets left behind on the plant’s stem. It is better to pull off a small portion of the stem than leave leaf residue because the leaf would almost always die.

It is better to get a good view of the leaf’s base as you are pulling it off the stem. If you are not confident with getting a leaf, you can work with the leaves that naturally fell from your succulents.

Set your leaves on a paper towel or drying cloth until you see that the ends are dried out. This is essential because you don’t want the leaves to get mushy and rot when you plant them.

Set it to dry for a couple of days and transfer them to settle on succulent potting soil. During this process, make sure that the leaves receive bright but filtered sunlight. You also need to mist them with water using a spray bottle when the soil dries out.

Do this continually, and you will start seeing some roots sprouting after a few weeks. Once the roots are out, give it more time until the baby plants start budding.

Once your new succulent babies become half an inch tall, except for the original cut leaf to dry up, when this happens, you can now carefully remove the entire leaf and scoop your baby plant out of the potting soil and replant it to a new pot of your choice.

As much as possible, avoid stressing the roots through sudden movements and repeated transfers. Cover the roots with soil and give it the same TLC as the other members of your succulent collection.

Propagation by Cutting

Cuttings are your best option and fix for your succulents that have exceeded your height preference. Not only will this procedure allow you to keep overgrowth under control – it’ll also help prevent overcrowded pots and ensure the longevity of your succulents.

There is nothing complicated in propagation using stem cuttings. As the name suggests, you only need to cut off the head of the succulent, leaving an inch or two of the stem with it.

Just like propagation by leaves, the key element here is allowing the stem to dry.

Dry the stem out, and in a couple of weeks, you should see roots growing, and from here, you can simply plant the stem in a pot.

The remainders of the healthy beheaded succulent would surely grow new leaves, and this will be in a compact batter grouping. This new look is more aesthetically pleasing, and it also forms a sturdier cluster of leaves – several succulent owners perform multiple cuttings to obtain a layered visual effect with their plants.

Other Propagation Methods

Plantlet Removal

This is the easy way of removing the offsets or plantlets that have developed from the base of the mother plant.

These plantlets are usually fully formed already with their own set of roots. They can easily thrive when re-potted into a new container.

Some succulents naturally drop their plantlets so that their roots take base wherever they fall. If you observe this phenomenon occurring with your plant, you have to collect the plantlets, including the roots, and set them into individual pots.

Root Separation

Since this process requires the unearthing of an entire plant, it’s best left to seasoned experts. Aside from the skill involved, it also requires tons of patience and meticulous handling to avoid damaging the plant.

The goal here is to gently prod the roots apart and take a portion of the roots and individually plant them in separate clumps.

Once you have divided the roots, you can place them in the soil and care for them the usual way.

Timeline for New Buds

There is a specific timeline set for new roots and rosettes to form after propagating your succulents. Regardless if you used leaves or cuttings, you could expect some new growth in two to three weeks.

This will vary, though, depending on the temperature you are propagating in, the time of the year, and the kind of succulent activity you are working with. Rest assured that you can look forward to some new baby succulents to enjoy and take care of with the proper care. 

Succulent Propagation Rate

Even if you adhere to each step by the book, you cannot guarantee a 100% propagation success rate for succulents. A successful propagation depends on the leaf, cutting, and other uncontrollable and controllable factors.

Some stem cuttings will produce a couple of roots, but unfortunately, they may not sprout leaves.

If a few of your leaves or cuttings don’t make it, don’t fret and get stressed over it – this is to be expected. It may take a few tries before you’re able to grow a new mature succulent plant. 

Succulents That Are Easy to Propagate

If you are new in this exciting phase of propagation, you should learn about the various kinds of succulents available. You can work with the easiest ones to propagate first. This will help you get a feeling of what to do and how each plant reacts to the cutting process. Soon enough, you’ll experience the joy of seeing your first new shoots and roots take hold.

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Here are four of the easiest succulents to start you with:

Kalanchoe

Also known as the ‘Mother of Thousands’ because of how quickly and easily it propagates. This interesting succulent is a plantlet breeder. You will be impressed with how the plantlets show up on their leaves without any human intervention.

Dubbed as a beginner’s succulent, you can gain your confidence in propagation with this quick-spreading plant.

Sempervivum

Amusingly nicknamed the ‘Hens and Chicks,’ the ‘hen’ or mother plant continually produces its ‘chicks’ from the plant base all on its own. Spring is when this succulent is at its most generous – producing several new plantlets that can grow independently if collected.

Aloe Vera

This popular succulent is typically propagated from its offshoots and leaves. Its baby aloes or ‘pups’ grow alongside the mother leaf, and all you need is to remove the leaf and repot it.  Aloe propagation by leaf seems to be the easiest way, although you’ll have a higher chance of successful propagation by using the roots.

Burro’s Tail

There’s no need for human intervention for this succulent because the leaves naturally fall off, and the fallen leaves will root and start growing new Burro’s Tails on their own. Yes, it’s that easy with this succulent. All you need to do is to collect the fallen leaves, set them on damp cactus soil, and wait for the next generation tail to bud and form.

If your succulent is not part of the list, you can check other succulents from Succulent Gardens.

Tips To Ensure Healthy Succulent Propagation

Give Them Ample Time to Dry

Once you have cut a leaf or stem off your mother plant, you must allow it to dry before moving on to do something with it. The number of days you leave them is based on the amount of heat and sun exposure that the leaf or stem receives.

You have to allow it to scab over because when it fails to complete that process, it will soak up too much water the first time you water it and would cause them to drown.

Similarly, take it easy when watering your succulent leaves and succulent cuttings – this is a common mistake among new propagation folks who assume that because the leaves and cuttings don’t have any means of absorbing water that it’s best to drown them with water.

With leaf propagation, you can set the leaf on top of the soil where the end of the leaf doesn’t make contact with the earth. You only water it if the soil is already dry.

For cuttings, the easiest way is to just put it in succulent soil and water it every time you observe that the soil is already dry. You should develop a watering pattern, and before you know it, you already have a new succulent, steadily growing and thriving.

Read our Guide: The Difference Between Garden Soil, Potting Soil, and Potting Mix

Supplement with Succulent Vitamins

Give your succulent babies a better chance of survival by giving them enough full sun exposure, water, and lots of love. But even before their first roots form, you can already support them by incorporating some rooting hormone into the water you use.

As the name suggests, this will encourage and stimulate root growth during the propagation process. These supplements can be liquid, gel, or powder and are composed of both natural auxins and synthetic elements.

Don’t Overpopulate

To save space, it is tempting to put several leaves and cuttings together in one pot but think of it as a long-term plan and better settle your plants on separate pots. Be creative with your plant containers, and don’t just settle for the conventional pots – this will make your hobby much more fun and exciting to show others.

succulent plants in pots

Related Article: How Do You Care for Succulents? The Key to Thriving Succulents

Final Thoughts

Propagating succulents is an inexpensive way of expanding your plant collection. It requires very minimal effort from you because you can successfully have new roots growing in the next three weeks, provided you follow the right steps and care properly for your new plants.

Of course, there’s so much to learn, especially about the specific succulent that you are planning to propagate. But with knowledge comes the confidence to do things the right way – soon enough, you’ll have an impressive collection on your hands.

By Devri Chism

By Devri Chism

Devri loves making the most of her in-home garden. While she was raised on a farm in the Ozarks, she traded the rolling hills for big city livin’ - and an itty bitty living space. She loves growing herbs, as well as, accent plants that can be used decoratively around her home.

About Us

My husband and I are attempting to turn our tiny city condo into an urban gardening oasis. Join us on our journey toward sustainable living and making the most of our space.

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