Part of the fun of growing succulents is how easily they can be propagated. All you need is love and a little patience and sooner or later, you’ll have more succulent babies than you’ll have friends to share them all with. Plus, there is really nothing cuter than succulent babies (you can’t change our minds!)
There are a few ways to propagate succulents and we will go over each method in this article. If you’re new to succulent growing, here are a few important things to keep in mind before starting out.
Succulents can be propagated all year-'round. However, they grow fastest when the temperature is warm, and they can receive lots of bright, indirect light. Generally, spring and summer are the best times to start succulent propagation.
Depending on your conditions and the nature of plants you are propagating, the speed at which your propagations grow will vary.
Not all propagations will be successful, and that’s okay!
Succulent Propagation by Division
Let’s start with the easiest and most straightforward method. Propagating by division is the process in which a plant is separated or divided into separate plants. This method works best on succulents that naturally group in clumps or groups such as Aloe, Haworthia, Crassula, Agave, etc.
Step 1: Unpot your succulent and gently massage the roots to loosen the soil
Step 2: Carefully separate the plant into desired sections
Step 3: Repot into separate planters or however you please using succulent soil
Left: A crowded pot of Variegated Haworthia Right: Step 1
Left: Step 2 Right: Step 3
Succulent Propagation by Leaf Cutting
This is the most popular method for propagating succulents because watching a baby grow from a single leaf cutting is just so satisfying! For this method, all you need are viable succulent leaves that were gently plucked from the mother plant or that accidentally got bumped or knocked off. Viable means that the leaves are healthy and not showing signs of rot or disease.
By nature, the succulent leaf cuttings will root themselves while searching for moisture. Technically, you could leave a succulent leaf cutting out on a tabletop and it will naturally shoot out roots over time in search of water and nutrients. But to speed up the process, we are going to aid in growing strong roots. There are two ways this can be done.
Rooting with soil: This is the most common way, where the succulent leaf cutting is placed directly on top of well-draining succulent soil.
Step 1: Fill a container (preferably a shallow one) with succulent soil
Step 2: Lay succulent leaf cuttings on top of the soil
Step 3: Place in an area with bright, indirect light.
Step 4: Keep the soil consistently moist. You will need to dampen the soil whenever it feels dry to the touch. This can be every day or every couple of days depending on your environment. Over the next few weeks, the succulent leaf cutting will establish roots.
Tip: Succulent leaf propagation is a good way to recycle any plastic containers you have laying around. Empty shallow product or takeaway containers (especially the black ones that can’t be recycled) are perfect! In the above photo, we use a takeaway sushi tray with a few holes poked into it for drainage.
Left: Leaf cuttings freshly placed on top of succulent soil Right: Root growth after a couple of weeks
Note: Patience is important! Do not pull your cuttings out to check for root growth. It will greatly affect the growth process. We are just doing this to demonstrate the process.
Left: Leaf cutting process after ~4 weeks Right: Leaf cutting process after ~6 weeks
Step 6 (Optional): Once the cutting has established itself, you can move it into its separate pot if you prefer. We usually do this once the pup is the same size or bigger than the largest part of the leaf cutting. You can leave the pup growing wherever it is until the leaf cutting has fallen off.
Rooting with water: This is a method preferred by those who don’t have as much time to regularly maintain dampened soil.
Step 1: Fill a container (preferably a clear one) halfway with water and cover the top of the container with cling wrap. Secure the cling wrap with an elastic band.
Step 2: Poke some holes into the top of the cling wrap big enough for succulent leaf tips to fit in
Step 3: Insert succulent leaf cuttings and place them in an area that receives bright, indirect light.
The succulent leaf cuttings do not need to touch the water at all for this method. The presence of moisture alone will naturally cause the succulent leaves to send roots down in search of water and nutrients.
Left: Step 1 Right: Step 2
Left: Step 3 Right: after ~5 weeks
After several weeks, you will notice that the leaf cuttings have sent roots straight down into the water and succulent pups have started forming off the leaf tips.
Step 4: Once the leaf cuttings have established strong root systems (1 – 2 inches in length), they can be transferred over to succulent soil.
Pro tip: Leave the leaf cutting attached to the pup for as long as possible. The pups’ main source of energy and nutrients comes from the leaf cutting. No matter how established the roots or the pups are, if the leaf is still attached and healthy then it’s still providing essential nutrients. When the pup is ready to be on its own, the leaf cutting will start to fade. You can remove the leaf at this time, or you can leave it to dry up and fall off naturally on its own.
Succulent Propagation by Stem Cuttings
For this method, stem cuttings are taken from a succulent plant to be rooted. This method works for succulent species that grow long or woody stems such as Echeveria, Sedum, Graptoveria, Kalanchoe, Aeonium, etc. This method is also sometimes referred to as “beheading” a succulent and is a term usually used when succulent growers cut the top of the “head” of top-heavy succulents (usually an Echeveria).
Step 1: Take cuttings with a sterile knife or pair of scissors
Step 2: Remove lower leaves (propagate these too!) then set the cuttings someplace with good air circulation and out of direct sunlight to callous over for 1 – 2 days.
Left: Step 1 with Sedum Jellybean Right: Step 2
Step 3: Root the cuttings. This can be done in 2 ways.
By planting the cuttings directly into succulent soil. Use of rooting hormone is optional but not required.
By water propagation. Once the roots have established you can then transfer the cuttings over into succulent soil.
Left: Rooting directly in soil Right: Rooting using water
Step 4: Regardless of whichever rooting method you choose, after planting the cuttings into succulent soil, leave them someplace with bright but indirect sunlight. Do not water them for at least one week after transferring to soil.
Step 5: After a week or so, slowly introduce water by giving the cuttings small sips of water. Careful not to overwater as fresh cuttings are extra sensitive to excess moisture and can be susceptible to rot.
After a few weeks, the cuttings will slowly root themselves. If you try to give the cuttings a little tug or wiggle in their pots and you feel resistance, then you’ll know that they have established roots. You may choose to repot them into a decorative planter at this point if that is your preference.
What is interesting about his method is that pups can also grow around the area where the cut was made. Essentially, when you end or cut off a growth point, it forces the plant to create growth from a new point. This usually occurs on or close to the point in which the initial cut was made. Life finds a way!
Succulent Propagation by Seeds
This method is self-explanatory and is arguably the most rewarding way to propagate succulents because you get to watch an entire plant grow from seeds that you sowed by yourself! Succulents can be grown using store-bought seeds or seeds collected from your very own plants.
Sometimes you might find that shortly after flowering, your succulents can produce seed pods. This is especially common if you grow your plants outdoors in the summertime where pollinators have easy access to them! These seeds can be sown given that you are able to provide them with the right conditions in order for them to germinate. Seed propagation is most commonly used for succulents such as cacti, as they flower and fruit easily. Some cactus species, such as Frailea or Mammillaria, are notorious for fruiting without even flowering!
Left: String of Hearts seed pod Right: Seeds inside seed pod
Left: Mammillaria cactus fruit Right: Collected fruits in a plastic bag
Important notes before we get started:
If you are buying seeds, make sure that you are buying them from a reputable seller. There are a lot of fake seeds floating around the market today, especially for plants considered as rare and expensive.
This method requires consistent environmental conditions, such as warm temperatures and bright light. Seedlings are sensitive to fluctuations in the environment. Since this method takes longer than the others, you may need to invest in grow lights and a germination heating pad if the growing process takes you through the fall and wintertime.
Step 1: Fill a sterile propagation tray or shallow container with a 50/50 mix of potting soil and succulent soil
Step 2: Carefully scatter the seeds over the top of the soil. Planting multiple seeds into a single container is ideal because seedlings grow stronger in groups.
Step 3: Water the seeds – for germination to be successful, the soil will need to stay consistently moist but not soggy.
Step 4: Cover the seeds. This is important because it helps to keep moisture and humidity in and protects the seeds from wind and other external factors.
Step 5: Once the seeds have germinated and you start seeing seedlings form, remove the lid every day for an hour or so to allow airflow to circulate into the soil.
Freshly germinated cacti seedlings
Germination takes time and patience. Every species germinates at different rates. If the conditions are stable and favourable, you may start to see adorable succulent seedlings starting to form after a few weeks.
Left: Keep the seedlings in their growing containers. Once they’re grown large and have no more space to grow Right: they can be transferred into separated trays or individual grower pots
Once fully mature, they can be planted into large pots.
Remember that not all methods will work for all species. It is a lot of trial and error in the beginning while you discover what methods work best for you, your schedule, and your home environment - but that is half the fun! Once you figure out which methods work best for you and which kinds of plants you are most successful at propagating, you won’t be able to stop! Have fun and happy growing!
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