4 Basic Ways of Propagating Succulents
Propagating succulents on your own is a simple, and cost effective way to grow your collection without spending a bunch of money. In the most basic terms, propagation is the act of taking an element of a mature succulent and using that element to grow a new plant. It can be done by using the offsets, leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, or seeds from a mature plant. Propagating succulents is typically a very simple process, however some plants are more difficult to propagate than others. Take a look at the 4 basic ways of propagating succulents below to decide which method you'd like to try!Propagating Succulents with Leaf Cuttings:
Propagating with leaf cuttings is the process of removing an active, healthy leaf from a mature succulent plant and using it to grow a new plant. This propagation method works well with succulents that have plump, fleshy leaves like echeveria because the leaves are easy to pop off cleanly.
Some leaves will pop right off with a gentle tug, while others may require a sharp knife. Using clean hands or a sterile knife, remove a healthy leaf from the base of the plant, ensuring that an entire, undamaged leaf is removed.
Once removed, let the leaf heal in a warm area with bright light for about four days to allow the “wound” to callous over. After the leaf has calloused, prepare a new planter with soil, wet it, and place the leaf on top of the soil for propagation.
Use a spray bottle to mist your leaves when the soil is dry. Be sure to keep them in a warm place with plenty of bright light, but not direct sun. They need to be kept moist and warm.
Within three weeks or so, little roots and leaves will begin to sprout! It could take a few months before a succulent gets big enough for repotting (photos above are after about 8 weeks). You’ll know it’s time when the leaf eventually turns brown and falls off. This means the succulent has taken all of the nutrients from the leaf and no longer needs it.Propagating Succulents with Offsets or by Division:
Propagating succulents with offsets is a great way to grow your collection because the parent plant has already done the majority of the work for you. Offsets, AKA “pups,” are the little succulents that sprout up around the base of the parent plant. These pups occur when roots bearing leaf clusters, shoot out from the mature plant and develop into a new succulent. Pups can also occur on the leaves of some succulents, like the Pink Butterfly Kalanchoe. You can use the offsets from either location to grow a new, individual plant.
To divide offsets from the base of the parent plant, brush away the top soil until roots are visible, and gently pull them apart while preserving as many roots as possible. More mature offsets will have already developed their own root systems, but if the offsets are still connected to the parent plant by a stem, simply use a clean, sharp knife to cut them apart. Brush old soil from the offsets’ roots, and let them dry out for a couple of days in a warm place with plenty of indirect light to prevent rot and disease when repotted. Once they’ve calloused over and healed, prepare new planters with cactus/succulent soil, wet it, place the succulent in a shallow hole, and fill in the hole to stabilize the plant.
Separating offsets from leaves of the parent plant can be achieved by simply pulling them off or using a sharp knife. Be sure your knife or hands are clean, so bacteria is not transferred to the plant or offset. If using a knife, make a clean cut where the offset meets the mature plant. Without a knife, gently tug on the offset, wiggling it from side to side until it pops off cleanly. Once removed, let these offsets dry out for a couple of days, so they can callous over. When they’re healed, fill a planter with soil, wet it, and place the pups on top of the soil. Within a few weeks, they will begin forming roots!Propagating Succulents with Stem Cuttings:
Propagating with stem cuttings works best with plants that have “branches” or rosette-shaped succulents that have stretched out on a long stem. This process is most successful if done when the succulent is about to begin its active growth period, either at the end of a dormant period (usually winter months), or at the beginning of a growth period (usually spring months) to give the succulent the best chance for survival.
To take a proper cutting from a succulent that has branches, you’ll need a sharp, sterilized knife or razor blade. Choose a stem that is relatively short to ensure it is active and growing, hold the stem as close to the base as possible, then use your knife or razor blade to cut it cleanly from the parent plant. If the stem is damaged at all during this process, you’ll likely need a new cutting. The branch will need to heal for about four days before it is repotted. Once repotted, give the plant plenty of bright light and barely water, and it will root itself in its new planter in about four weeks.
Rosette-shaped succulents can also be propagated with stem cuttings when they begin to grow a long stem from maturity or lack of sunlight. The rosette can be cut off with a sharp, sterile knife, leaving a short stem to enable repotting. Allow the cut rosette to callous for about four days to prevent rotting and disease when it’s repotted. The long stem from which the rosette was removed will continue to form new leaves, so leave it potted or planted as it was, and barely water until new growth appears from the stem.Propagating Succulents with Seeds:
Propagating succulents with seeds is typically the slowest way to grow new plants, but if you have the time and patience, give it a try! Seeds of mature plants are located in the swollen base of the flower (AKA the “fruit”), and they can be collected when the succulent is done flowering. In some instances, the seed will be an orange-colored dust, which can be slightly more difficult to propagate with. Whether collecting seeds from a mature plant or buying seeds to use, always use fresh, dry seeds in the beginning of spring to give them a long growing period before winter dormancy.
First, prepare a planter with cactus/succulent soil, water it thoroughly, then soak your seeds in warm water for about 30 minutes to loosen up the seed coat. Once soaked and softened, spread the seeds on top of the prepared soil, keeping spaces between them to allow growth. Next, cover the seeds with just enough “top dressing,” like sand or sifted cactus/succulent soil, without burying them. Use a spray bottle to water the seeds daily with a fine mist, only allowing the top surface to dry out between waterings.
Keep the planter in a warm environment, anywhere from 75-80ºF. A fun trick is to cover the planter with clear plastic of some kind (ziplock bag, plastic bucket) to create a greenhouse effect. This will keep the seeds moist and warm, and it’s a great option for those in cool or dry climates. The seeds will begin to germinate in about two weeks, and after about six weeks, you should be able to water about every other day.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the different methods of propagation, you can experiment! Be patient if you’re just learning to propagate succulents, as there is always a bit of a learning curve. While we aim to provide you with the best information possible to be successful, every individual will have different experiences when propagating. The more you practice, the more likely you’ll be successful!