Propagating succulents is as simple as breaking one leaf off and sticking it in the ground to grow. It can be done by using the leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, offsets or seeds. Find out some basic steps on How To Propagate succulents from cuttings and leaves to grow succulents from the plants you already have.
Succulents are great plants for busy people, like me. I love that they require very little care and don’t need to be watered as often as most houseplants do.
I have collected quite a few varieties over the years, my favorite being my aloe vera. But I wanted to grow my collection without having to spend a bunch of money along the way.
So, I started researching how to grow new plants from the ones I already have.
And I found only one leaf can create a new bunch of baby succulents, identical to the mother plant?
I never realized it was so simple until I saw how my Echevaria and Crassula leaves had fallen off the mother plants and rooted themselves. After that there was no stopping me!
I read numerous blog posts and articles on propagating succulents, and after a lot of trial, and error, I managed to master the process.
How successful you will be depends on the climate where you live and the type of succulent Some plants are ideal for both leaf and stem cuttings, and some only work by using their stems.
To help you get started I created this step-by-step guide on how to propagate succulents using different methods such as stem-cutting, leaf-cutting and offsets.
Succulent Propagation 101
Here's a crash course: propagating succulents is the process of growing another plant from a variety of sources.
For instance, you can grow another succulent from a piece of the original, mature plant. You can use the roots, offsets, seeds, leaf cuttings, or stem cuttings in succulent propagation.
Propagation is a plant's natural approach of saving itself from damage caused by environmental hazards like wind and water, animals, foot traffic, and even humans.
It makes use of the plant’s natural ability to reproduce itself. Yes, succulents have that amazing power.
Why You Should Propagate Your Succulents
I became infatuated with multiplying succulents when I bought my first Gasteria. It was expensive and I was greedy to collect every kind I could find.I had already started propagating succulents for wedding receptions so I continued with leaf cuttings of as many species as I could find.Now I sell and swap cuttings regularly and my collection keeps expanding.
A perfect way to make your collection affordable is to propagate the succulents you already have.
Once you start multiplying your plants you too will soon be able to sell and/or swap what you have in order to increase the variety in your collection. They also make great gifts.
The Benefits Of Propagating Succulents
- A satisfying way to grow your succulent collection.
- Seeing new plants flourish is a rewarding hobby.
- An inexpensive technique to save
- Exchange succulents to fellow gardeners. It could even serve as a gift.
- More succulents help purify the air and add fresh oxygen to the environment.
- Honestly, they are just so aesthetically pleasing and could beautify any place!
What You Need In Propagating Succulents
Of course, you need to decide what succulent to propagate.
As for the materials, I recommend using sharp scissors, clean pruning shears, or a sterilized razor blade to avoid unnecessary stress for the cutting and to prevent the introduction of bacteria.
If you don't have any leaf or stem cuttings, you can order succulent leaves and stems for succulent propagation from your local stores.
Other basic gardening equipment you should own are garden gloves, fast-draining succulent soil, potting medium for succulents, containers or pots with adequate bottom drainage holes, and a small hand trowel.
How To Propagate Succulents From Leaves
Most succulents can be propagated from a single, healthy leaf. Leaf propagation is a plant's natural capacity to respond to some forms of environmental stress. Plants drop leaves for future offspring.
This process works well with succulents that have plump, fleshy leaves like echeveria, graptopetalum, and sedum.
You would notice that they also drop their leaves in response to factors like root rot, handling, and rough treatment from passing animals.
Remove Leaves For Propagation
When fallen leaves aren't available, choose a healthy leaf from the bottom of the plant and gently remove the entire leaf off the stem. Using your thumb and forefinger, twist it back and forth slightly until it comes off.
On the other hand, you can use a clean knife to remove an active leaf from the plant's base. Make sure the meristem tissues, or the specialized plant cells that form at the junction of the leaf, are still attached.Repot the parent plant after you have the leaves you want.
Let your leaf dry out
Lay the leaves on top of the soil in the containers. Be sure to lay them face up, the curved sides of the leaves should not be touching the soil.
Let the leaf cutting heal and dry out for about four days. You want the cut end to form a “callous” so the new plant will be nice and healthy.
And will prevent he leaf from turning to mush or becoming infected. Open wounds like this are targets for fungal spores, especially if you grow a lot of succulents in a small area.
If you are growing only a few plants, this should not be a problem.
Once the cuttings have dried out for a few days, use a misting bottle to spray them daily. You want to keep them warm and moist, but not wet.
Will My Propagated Cutting Die If I Put It In The Soil Too Soon?
Yes. Because succulents store water in leaves, placing the leaf in soil too soon will allow the leaf to absorb all available moisture in growing medium. As a result the leaf will rot from too much water.
Once the leaf cuttings are removed from plant, let it dry out for up to 4 days. (Sometimes, with large tree cuttings, like Euphorbia cooperii, you can let the cuttings dry out for 2 – 4 weeks!)This waiting period allows the cutting to form a callous over the wound where it was removed from mother plant.
So How much water should I give and how often?
This will depend Take into account the time of year, the heat, light and soil. A good guideline is to ensure the top layer of soil dries out between watering.
But only the top layer. Initially when you start propagating with succulents you will have to keep checking to make sure you don’t let them dry out too much.
Usually twice a day is sufficient.
A Mist diffusers are great for keeping cuttings and the top soil surface hydrated.
Wait For Sprouting New Roots
Once the leaf has formed new babies (usually at 8 weeks) you can remove from the growing tray and using the same technique place the rooted cutting in its own pot.
What If The Leaves Are Mushy But Still Bright Green?
Sadly if your succulent leaf cuttings become mushy you will almost 100% of the time lose it. By the stage they become mushy, they have taken in too much water and the cell walls begin bursting. They can’t come back from this.
If your cutting is mushy but has already formed roots and plantlets then you can break the mushy part off and transplant new plantlet into its pot.
Plant Succulent Leaves Once They Root
After three weeks or so, you should see new leaves and roots growing from the calloused end. This means your new babies are ready for potting in their own containers.
Fill a planter with soil designed for succulents and wet it.
Lay the leaf cutting on top and cover the new roots with just enough soil to cover them. Keep an eye on them and water as needed.
Don’t be alarmed when the original leaf turns brown, this is perfectly normal. At this point it can be removed and your new plant should be growing nicely.
Why Do My Succulents Die During Propagation?
There could be a number of reasons for die off. The most obvious would be too much water. Or too much direct sunlight.
Other reasons can include fungal infection or stem rot. Again caused by too much moisture and unhygienic grow areas.
So, How Do I Treat Fungal Infections On My Cuttings And Succulents?
To treat fungal infections naturally you can use cinnamon powder. If powder is added to boiling water the natural cinnamon oil is released and this is an excellent fungicide that can be sprayed on all succulents and cuttings to prevent rust and other fungal spores from spreading.
Organic eco-friendly fungicides are available too. Always keep work areas clean and dry.
Practice good hygiene standards, always use soil that is disease free.
Let's Review The Quick Facts
- Use plump, firm leaves for leaf propagation.
- Put your leaves in a warm place with indirect sunlight to dry.
- Check whether the leaves have formed a callous on the cut end.Allow the wound to callous over for about four to seven days.
- Arrange the leaves on top of a tray that has succulent mix, with the calloused end facing upward and ensuring there is plenty of air flowing around them.
- The leaves should naturally grow roots in about three to four weeks. Be sure to keep the calloused end close to the soil.
- Cover the roots with soil to prevent them from drying out.
- Mist with water every other day to wet the top of the soil because rooting succulents need more water than fully-grown ones.
- Monitor if the leaf is plump and not torn.
- Discard the leaf if it becomes mushy, squishy, or wrinkles up, and dries out.
- Transplant the leaf into its own pot when the new plant begins to form its own leaves.
Propagating Succulents From Stem Cuttings
The vast majority of succulents can be easily propagated by stem cuttings, including kalanchoe, aeonium kiwi, sempervivum, portulacaria afra, senecio, echeveria, crassula ovata, and sedum. Succulents that develop a woody, shrub-like growth pattern are ideal for stem cuttings.
Just like in leaf propagation, a fallen branch will sprout roots from its meristem tissues when it reaches the soil. The soil provides moisture for the branch's leaves.
You can increase the amount of new plants by cutting the stem into pieces and placing on top of soil in pot or tray.
The roots may start appearing in as little as three days depending on temperature and humidity provided.
During winter succulents slow down growth. So try take cuttings in warmer months for faster results.
How To Take A Stem Cutting For Propagation
Start by picking a stem that is fairly short, you want on that is actively growing. Hold the stem close to the base of the plant and cut it cleanly with a sharp knife or razor blade.
Similar to leaf propagation, check whether the meristem tissues are intact. These cells at the junction of where the stem meets the leaf are capable of forming roots and leaves.
If you are propagating a rosette-shaped succulent, just cut off the rosette, leaving a bit of the stem.
Place Stem Cuttings Into Soil For Sprouting New Roots
Place your cutting on the top of a pot filled with good quality, moist soil.
Let it set to heal for about 4 days.
After about 4 days you should start to see roots growing from your cutting.Transfer it to your chosen planter and give it plenty of light.
During this stage you do not want to over water it, just moisten the soil when it starts to look dry. You should see new growth in about four to six weeks.
You can also put your stem into a Mason jar, or large glass, of fresh water and place in a sunny window.
New roots will appear in about four weeks, then be sure to repot your new plant in soil that is made for succulents.
If the water turns murky or green before the cutting roots, just empty the jar and refill with fresh water.
Let's Review The Quick Facts
- Use cuttings of about two to five inches long with two sets of leaves.
- Ensure the branch has two sets of nodes since this will provide the new plant a place and moisture for rooting.
- Dry out the cuttings for about three to four days. Let it heal.
- Root the cutting from the point that will retain its leaves.
- The way the leaves are oriented identifies which part of the stem should be pointed down in order to root.
- Point the cuttings in the direction they should be oriented on fast draining succulent soil.
- Keep the stems out of direct sun for a few days after cutting them. This allows the stem to callous over, which reduces the risk of rotting.
- Insert the root end of the stem cuttings into dry succulent soil after two to three days.
- Place the cuttings where it can receive indirect light.
- You can mist the soil every seven to 14 days.
Propagating Succulents From Offsets And Divisions
Dividing succulents is done by selecting a single, large potted plant, rather than paying for several smaller ones. Likewise, you can refresh an established planting by moving smaller plants and giving all of them more space to grow.
If you're afraid of hurting your plant, worry not because this technique is the gentlest method of propagating succulents since it simply separates plants into smaller, rooted options.
Plants with grass-like growth pattern, plants that have formed pups or offsets, and plants with close planting proximity are the types of succulents that can be divided and used to grow an individual plant. Pups are the little baby succulents that grow around the mother plant's base.
Some succulents like anacampseros, sempervivum, rhipsalis, jovibarba, agave, fenestraria, aloes, aichryson, and peperomia have growth patterns that are suitable for propagation through division. Furthermore, they are kinds of pup-forming succulents that do not propagate by their leaves.
Summer and spring months are the best environments to divide a succulent.These periods are when plants grow actively because new roots form due to the high concentration of plant growth hormones.
How To Divide Succulents From Offsets For Propagation
Many varieties of matured plants form baby plants called 'offsets' or 'pups' at the mother plant's base.
These pups will form their own root system, but they can be divided from the mother plant, keeping each root structure intact.
I've found that close planting proximity is another tactic to divide succulents. It's when a pot has about three small plants together, but each plant has a separate root structure that can be safely and effortlessly divided.
See that rosette growing its own way? It also has independent root structures. This indicates a cluster of smaller plants that could be parted without breaking or cutting them from their top growth.
I suggest massaging the root ball if you are unsure whether a succulent can be easily divided. As a result, plant sections should be able to detach on their own.
In the case of dividing a larger parent plant from her pups, use a sharp knife or shears to cut the connective root structures apart.To divide offsets from the parent plant's base, remove the soil until you see the roots, and pull them apart while preserving as many roots as possible.
Simply use a clean knife to cut the offsets still attached to the parent plant.
How To Grow Succulents From Dividing Or Offsets
- Divide the original plant into three smaller sections. However, you could divide them further, depending on what you are trying to achieve.
- Choose just how small to make your divisions. For example, you could make each rosette into its own, tiny plant.
- Brush away old soil from the offsets’ roots.
- Dry out the offsets for a couple of days in a warm place with filtered light.
- Place it in wet soil once the offsets calloused over and healed.
- Let the roots find their way into the soil.
How To Grow Succulents From Root Separation
How To Take Roots For Propagation
You simply have to unearth an entire plant, shake the soil off the roots, and tease the established roots apart.This is effective because it minimizes stress on the mother plant and maximizes the stored energy in the roots.
Propagating Succulents From Roots
- Remove entire plant, with attached “pups”, from soil.
- Plant the separated clumps.
- An inch of soil should cover the roots.
- Secure the roots by gently tapping the soil down.
- Wait up to 24 hours before lightly watering the succulent soil.
Quick Tip: Then attempt to separate the smaller ones. Some succulents will have offshoots with developed roots. Others will have the new plants growing straight from the base of the stem. These small plants will need to be removed with sharp scalpel. I sometimes replant the mother stock, with these babies still attached, and let them develop further before removing them.
Growing Succulents Using Seeds
If you have plenty of time, and patience, then growing new plants from seeds is the easy way to do it. You can choose to buy seeds or harvest them from your mature plants. Wait until the parent plant is through the flowering stage.
Seeds can be found in the base of the flowers, or “fruit”, of the plant. For best results make sure you dry out your harvested seeds before trying to germinate them.
To give your new plants the best chance always plant seeds in the beginning of spring.
Propagating Succulents From Seeds
- Start by prepping your planter. Fill it with soil designed for cacti and water it thoroughly.
- Soak the seeds in warm water for at least 30 minutes. You want the outer skin to come off easily, and the inner seed to be thoroughly moistened.Be sure not to skip this step as it helps the seed to start its growth process.
- Place the seeds on top of the prepared soil, allowing plenty of space for the plants to grow. Cover them lightly with wet soil and place the planter in a warm place. Just mist the top of the soil daily.
- If you want to speed up the germinating stage, you can cover the planter with plastic wrap. This covering creates a greenhouse effect and also allows you to eliminate the daily misting.
- You should start to see sprouts in about 10 – 14 days Keep your seedlings in this first pot for another four weeks or so to let them establish a good root system.
- After the four weeks is up, your new babies are ready to be transplanted. You can replant them in a new pot if you are growing them indoors, or directly into your garden outside.
As a general rule, leaves and stem cuttings need more water, unlike full-grown succulents. However, that doesn't mean you will water them every single day.
Keep in mind that the soil should receive the water, not the cuttings or offsets. Watering the soil will encourage root growth and prevent the cuttings or offsets from rotting.
Leaf Propagation - There is no point in watering your leaves until you see baby roots form to take up water.
Note that too much external moisture risks rotting the leaf before the plantlet forms. You can mist the soil every other day using a spray bottle to ensure the top of the soil is damp.
Stem Propagation - Mist the soil once a week after the initial misting. Still, you should look for obvious signs of when your succulent needs water like wrinkled leaves or when the soil is dry.
Root Propagation - Mist the soil occasionally since growing plants need more moisture than mature plants.
Offset Propagation - Water the offsets sparingly until they have formed some strong roots.
Seed Propagation - After about six weeks, you may water the soil every other day.
First of all, indirect sunlight is the best at this point since direct sun exposure can cause damage. I place my cuttings near a well-lit window, like what's done for full-grown succulents.
In addition, you can use a grow light, but don’t give too much light before they root. Invest in a grow light if you're propagating succulents indoors.
Leaf Propagation - Your leaf cuttings would appreciate being positioned in a warm location that doesn't take in direct sunlight. Gradually move the plantlets into more sunlight when they show significant growth and are well rooted in.
Stem Propagation - Keep the stems out of direct sun for a few days after cutting them. This gives them a chance to callous over, which reduces the chance of rotting.
The appearance of forked root and additional tiny little roots is your cue to slowly introduce the cutting to more light. Expose it to bright light once the cutting is repotted.
Root Propagation - Similarly, direct sunlight will only damage your roots. You can gradually increase the sun exposure as the succulent matures.
Offset Propagation - Place your offsets where it can collect indirect, bright light for at least six hours a day.
Seed Propagation - Place the planter in a warm environment to keep the seeds moist and warm.
Take note that once you've transplanted the new succulents, you can move them to a warm location that receives plenty of direct sunlight.
Do I Need Extra Help From Rooting Hormone?
Essentially, a developing plantlet gets moisture and nutrients stored in the leaf. This is why it's crucial to use a plump, healthy leaf when propagating succulents.
Nutrients and moisture from the healthy leaves are enough to feed and support the cutting until rooting begins.
Consequently, the use of rooting hormone or honey is unnecessary when your succulents are easy to root. Only use this when you are sure that your cuttings need that extra boost to form roots.
How Long Does It Take For Propagated Succulents To Root?
Every plant is different, so don't be sad when some of your cuttings will not survive.
Leaf Propagation - Be mindful that the leaf's meristem tissue should still be attached to the plant. This will dictate whether the leaf can form roots or new leaves.
Moreover, a torn leaf will never root. Generally, roots and leaves should grow within 21 days or so, but you might have to wait for a few months before the succulent gets big enough for repotting.
Stem Propagation - A two to four-inch stem with two sets of nodes and two sets of leaves is the quickest and easiest to root.
When the leaves start to plump up a bit more, it's a sign of rooting. Another way to know whether it has rooted is if there's resistance when you gently try to tug it.
Your cuttings will start to put off new roots and leaves in about four weeks once you’ve got your watering pattern down.
Root Propagation - Rooting will typically occur in 21 to 28 days.
Offset Propagation - Rooting should happen a few weeks after the calloused pups were placed on top of the soil.
Seed Propagation - Using seeds may take a little bit longer for roots to sprout. The seeds will begin to germinate in about 14 days.
Succulent Propagation Success Rate
Results are usually visible within 14 to 21 days, but it may still depend on the type of propagation you used. Most succulents even take several months to grow to normal size while others may take as long as a year.
Succulents start their active growth period either at the end of winter months (dormant period) or at the beginning spring months (growth period).
Leaf Propagation - To be frank, it depends on whether you were able to secure the meristem tissue or not.
However, the success rate of propagating succulents from leaves is quite high especially if you use healthy mother leaves. Normally, leaf development should be seen within several weeks.
Stem Propagation - Propagating succulents by stem cuttings can be done successfully much of the year.
Root Propagation - The success rate is traditionally high since it already has roots. Just make sure that the roots will be able to grow into the soil.
Offset Propagation - Roots should form a few weeks after the calloused pups were placed on top of the soil.
Seed Propagation - You must not expect every seed to germinate, but about 75% of what you will use should produce seedlings.
When's The Best Time To Propagate Succulents?
Propagating succulents means considering factors like succulent variety, humidity, heat, daylight hours, location, and seasons.
Yet, spring is an ideal time for succulent propagation when you want quick results and to give the plant a long growing period before winter dormancy.
Identify whether your succulents are dormant during winter or semi-dormant in the summer
Can You Propagate Succulents In Winter?
Absolutely. But bear in mind that you will need to manipulate the conditions. This can be done by providing indoor lighting and heating.
Both can be bought as kits and you can choose from a cheap starter kits right up to state of the art high tech set-ups.
These are obviously costly but for growers who have the space to grow en masse, these kits will ensure you can root cuttings all year round.
Without the warmth and humidity required, cuttings planted in winter will take very much longer to root and the plants that do grow will be smaller than normal.
How Many Succulents Can You Grow From One Mother Leaf?
If you try split them so small they will die. Only when the plant gets bigger will it maybe have two or three plantlets that have developed from one cutting.
If the leaf cutting is left untouched over a long period of time in a pot with enough surface area then your one cutting will produce many small plantlets anywhere between 1 – 7 new plants. Again it depends on type of succulent being propagated.
Common Succulent Propagation Problems And Solutions
The normal issue I've encountered when propagating succulents is too much moisture in the soil that lead to rotten leaves, mushy stems, and broken roots.
When your leaves or stem become mushy, relocate them to somewhere warmer. You may also try adding a layer of pumice to the soil and then arrange the leaves on top of it.
It's challenging to get your leaves to form roots in very dry climates.
A gentle reminder, your plants will begin to use up water at a faster rate when the humidity gets too low.
Quick Succulent Propagation Facts
- The callous protects the exposed soft tissue from bacterial penetration.
- Plantlets or offsets, which have sprung up alongside the mother plant, are fully-formed and rooted mini-plants that can grow independently.
- Succulents thrive in well-drained soil and sunshine.
- Sun exposure requirements depend on the kind of succulent, but almost every type will only need to get water from the soil.
- When propagating succulents indoors, leave the cuttings to air dry for at least three to four days so it could callous over.
- The key to a successful succulent propagation through dividing is by preserving healthy roots and their connection to top growth.
- The number of days in letting your cuttings to heal should still depend on the size of the wounds.
- Succulent propagation takes time so be patient.
Protect your cuttings from the cold. If cuttings are plump and firm, they will be fine until the roots develop.
You may also mix a handful of sand or perlite into regular potting soil. However, keep the soil completely dry while the cuttings callous off and form roots.
When new plants start to grow, make sure to keep the roots covered with soil to prevent them from drying out.
Remember that when roots form, they should be reaching for the soil.Trust your cuttings and offsets to do their part.I've discovered that people's urge to check by picking them up or moving them around only leads to rotting.
Ensure your new plant has a decent root system before transporting them into their own pots.
Above all, care for your new succulent plants by placing them in pots with good drainage and water them sparingly.
Don’t get discouraged if all of your new babies don’t make it. In my first attempts at propagating my succulents about half of them didn’t make it.
Every cutting grows differently, some will sprout new roots and leaves quickly while others will take their sweet time.
Try experimenting with the different methods till you find the one you like best. Just like learning any new skill, trial and error is needed.
But keep at it and in no time, you too will be a master at growing new plants from your favorite succulents.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.