Propagating Succulents: Simple Photo Tutorial for Beginners
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Propagating succulents is the perfect way to expand your garden or grow beautiful gifts without spending a lot of cash. In my opinion, succulents are plants you can never have too many of- mini varieties are a colorful accent anywhere, or pot up larger ones to display on your desk or in the yard.
Propagating succulents is a simple process of growing a new plant with material taken from a mature one. Most often, succulent propagation can be done through leaves, stem cuttings or offshoot separation.
Ready to grow your succulent population? In this article, you’ll learn step by step succulent propagation from leaves, stem cuttings and offshoots. Let’s get started!
- Most succulents are easy to propagate from leaves, stem cuttings or offshoot division.
- Propagating succulents from leaves takes several weeks for new plants to form, and requires consistent moisture and indirect light. Leaf propagation in soil usually works best, but some growers prefer to use a water method.
- Stem cutting propagation works well with succulents that have taken on a leggy, stretched-out shape. Cut the top stem section off and plant it in soil; it will form new roots and grow into an independent plant.
- Some succulents produce offshoots, which are baby plants that develop their own root system. Separate the baby plants from the mother plant once they are at least a couple of inches tall and plant in a small pot.
Propagating Succulents from Leaves
Is your succulent thriving and growing? This is a perfect opportunity to pinch off excess foliage and use those trimmings to grow a brand-new plant! Some succulents are easier to propagate from leaves than others- echeveria, graptoveria, sedum and sempervivum are good choices.
Here’s how to propagate succulent leaves:
1. Choose Healthy Leaves
Selecting the appropriate leaves gives you the best chance of successful propagation. You’ll usually find the optimal leaves near the base of your existing plant. See how the lower leaves on the succulents in the photo are larger and appear more mature?
These older leaves have had the chance to develop the nutritional resources necessary for reproduction. They’re the ones you want to use for propagation.
On the other hand, the smaller, younger leaves near the top of your plant typically lack these critical resources. So let them stay where they are!
2. Harvest a Leaf or Leaves
First, twist off a leaf from the stem in a way that keeps a little bit of the stem attached (this is why the twisting motion is more productive than a clean cut).
You can tell right away if a leaf is an ideal choice for propagation. Mature leaves should snap off easily, with just a small amount of force needed from you. If you find that you need to forcefully twist the leaf to detach it, this leaf is not ready to propagate.
Harvested leaves should have a nice clean edge- no ragged or torn pieces.
If a leaf gets damaged in any way, throw it out- unfortunately, it won’t grow new roots.
To go the even easier route, you can also propagate a leaf that naturally fell off of your succulent plant!
3. Allow For Moisture Evaporation
Once you have your leaf or leaves, lay them in a sunny spot for a few days to allow any moisture to dry out. A paper towel works great for this stage!
This drying time allows your leaves to form a protective callous at the leaf base. The callous seals the leaf from absorbing too much moisture and rotting rather than growing into a new plant.
4. Add Your Leaf to a Prepared Container
Next, lay your leaves flat on top of a pot filled with regular potting soil or a specialized succulent/cactus soil blend.
Succulent/cactus soil is readily available in nurseries, big box stores or online.
5. Keep The Soil Moist
Mature succulent plants prefer dry soil conditions and infrequent watering. However, you’ll need to keep your cut leaf moist during the propagation process.
Use a spray bottle or mister to give it a quick drink every day. Your goal is to keep the soil slightly moistened but not wet. In my experience, the best tool for this job is a plastic condiment squirt bottle:
6. Watch for Signs of Rot
Not every leaf will successfully grow into a new plant- that’s why it’s a good idea to harvest several leaves at a time to increase your chances for success.
Leaves that are rotting instead of growing will usually take on an unhealthy yellow color, and the tips will turn brown or black.
Pick leaves that look like this out and discard them. Then keep caring for the ones that are doing well!
7. New Growth Appears
After about three weeks, the base of the cut leaf will begin sprouting a baby succulent, and the mother leaf may start to wilt.
The new roots often have a pinkish color:
Succulents are slow-growing plants, so it will take some time for the new babies to get established. Here are mine after a few more weeks, plus a bonus leaf that I discovered growing in another succulent pot:
When the baby gets to be about the size of a fingernail, it’s ready to move into its own pot. Here’s how to plant propagated succulents:
- Fill a small pot (2-3 inches in diameter) with succulent soil.
- Carefully scoop the entire root system up, using your finger or a tiny trowel.
- Gently place the baby succulent and the mother leaf on the soil surface in the new pot and lightly cover the roots with soil.
- Continue misting/watering to keep the soil moist while the new roots get established.
- Remove the mother leaf once it fully dries up.
- Once you see new leaf growth, you can stop watering/misting and treat your succulent as a mature plant, with infrequent waterings when the soil is mostly dry throughout the pot.
- Be patient! It might take a few months until the new succulent is big enough to fill out a small pot.
Can Succulent Leaves Be Propagated in Water?
It is possible to propagate some types of succulents in a water-based environment, but I personally don’t recommend this method.
For one thing, I’ve never been successful when I’ve tried- my leaves just turn mushy and start to rot. Plus, succulents rooted in water often do not transfer well to growing in soil, so all your hard work in rooting your plants may be lost unless you want to keep the plants in water permanently.
Here’s one of the set-ups I’ve tried in the past:
It looks good to begin with, but I didn’t get any new root growth from these leaves.
If you’re curious and want to experiment with water propagation, this video from Succulents Box outlines the process:
Propagating Succulents from Cuttings
Has your succulent taken on an overgrown, leggy appearance, or has it started growing new offshoots from the main stem? Maybe your plant looks like this:
If so, you can grow a whole new plant from a stem cutting rather than a leaf.
How to go about this task? Follow these steps.
1. Harvest a Stem Cutting
While you used a manual twisting method to harvest a single leaf, the stem technique requires a cutting. Using a pair of sharp scissors, cut at the base of the stem.
2. Strip Off Lower Leaves
I cut my succulent about 2.5 inches long, and I plan to bury the stem about 1 inch deep in soil. Strip off the leaves on the stem section you plan to bury- this exposes node tissue for new root development and prevents rotting leaves in the soil.
If your stem is leafy, you can get a little extra bang for your buck by plucking off leaves and propagating them individually.
Just like with the leaves, allow the stem out to dry in the sun for a few days. This step gives your cutting the chance to absorb only the amount of moisture it needs to produce roots without becoming waterlogged.
3. Plant the Stem Cutting
Once your cutting has had the chance to lose excess moisture, plant the end of the stem directly into the soil.
Set your newly-planted stem cutting where they can soak up lots of sunlight.
4. Water Lightly to Keep Soil Moist
Just like with leaf propagation, use a squirt or spray bottle to water your succulent cutting every couple of days.
5. Watch for New Growth
Watch out for signs that your cutting is not thriving- shriveling or wilting leaves or turning a sickly yellow shade. These signs indicate that your cutting is not producing new roots and is withering in the soil. If this happens, pull the cutting and discard it, then try again with another cutting if you have one.
As long as your cutting stays looking healthy, there should be some new root development in a couple of weeks. Test this be gently pulling on the cutting- if there are new roots, the cutting should feel anchored in the ground. If not, give it a week or two and test again.
And don’t write off that leggy stem either- after a couple of weeks, you could start seeing baby succulents growing off the main stem.
Propagating Succulents From Offshoots
Some types of succulents reproduce by offshoots, also called pups. This means they form new plants with separate root systems at the base of the base of the mother plant. Once these offshoots reach a certain size, you can gently separate them from the mother plant and pot them up as individual plants.
To select your ideal stem for propagation, look for short, young offshoots. Shorter stems are likely healthy and growing, so these are ideal for propagating.
In this photo, you can see a few separate plants in this pot. It’s not quite large enough yet, but the next time I repot this succulent, I should be able to separate them.
When separating pups from the mother plant, use a light touch to gently work the roots free. You may need a clean scissors to cut a connecting stem as well. Once free, allow the wound where you cut the pup from the mother plant to dry for about a day, then plant in cactus/succulent soil and put in a bright location. Water the new pup as you would for a mature succulent.
I think this video from Sucs for You! does a great job of demonstrating separating a few different kinds of succulent pups:
Note: To learn more, visit our post where we show step-by-step how to repot your adorable succulent!
Frequently Asked Questions about Propagating Succulents
Propagation works for lots of kinds of plants, but it can be especially easy to nurture a succulent baby. In my experience, propagating succulents from leaves in soil has the best chances of success, and it’s fun to watch to new baby roots/plants emerge!
I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any other questions about propagating succulents? Have you discovered any other helpful tips? We learn best as a gardening community, so please share your thoughts in the comments!