2 Ways to Master Propagating Succulents in Soil

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Propagating succulents in containers of soil

If you haven’t already jumped on the succulent train—it’s time you hop on!

From mini-sized varieties to accent a shelf or a table to larger ones that can be potted or planted in the yard, succulents are a household staple that you can never have too many of.

Propagating succulents is the perfect way to expand your garden or give them away as gifts without spending a lot of cash.

Regeneration can take place with succulent leaves or stems. Best of all, it’s a simple process that only requires basic supplies and a little patience. 

Ready to grow your succulent population? In this article, you’ll learn about the 2 methods for harvesting and propagating succulents from a leaf or stem cutting. 

What is Propagation?

Propagation means growing a new plant from a cutting taken from a mature plant.

There are 2 main ways to propagate succulents:

  1. Grow a new succulent in soil from a leaf or portion of stem
  2. Start a new stem cutting in water

In this post, we’ll be covering the first option: Harvesting and growing leaves or stems for propagation in soil. 

Which Varieties are Best for Soil Propagation?

Within the succulent family, soil propagation works well for these varieties:

Each of these varieties encompasses a range of more specific families, but they all have many leaves that you can easily cut from their stem.

What Kind of Container Works Best?

The number of leaves or stem cuttings you’ll be propagating at once is your best clue as to what container you should pick. 

If you’re working with multiple leaves/stems, you could use one large container or seedling tray to start your new babies. Once your new plants are established, you can move them to a more permanent home. 

Do you have a single leaf or stem? Save a step and propagate your new succulent right in the pot you’ve picked out for a long-term home. 

To give you an idea of the kinds of containers that are out there, check out our 5 favorite cactus (and succulent!) planters.

Propagating Succulent 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!

Follow these 5 steps to go from a freshly plucked leaf to a new succulent. 

1. Choose Healthy Leaves

Two succulent plants with lower leaves ready for propagation harvest

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 

Succulent leaves with various stages of new growth

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. 

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

Succulent leaves with calloused ends

Once you have your leaf or leaves, lay them in a sunny spot for a few days to allow any moisture to dry out.

This helps ensure that when you plant each leaf, it won’t absorb too much water and drown.

You can see how the leaves to the far left in this photo look dried-out at the stem end. This is called a callous, and seeing one lets you know your succulent leaves are sufficiently dried-out and ready for the next step! 

4. Add Your Leaf to a Prepared Container

Succulent leaves lying on fresh soil

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. Check out this popular option if you need a little help shopping!

5. Keep The Soil Moist

Using a spray bottle to mist succulents with water

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.

6. Watch For Growth

Succulent leaf sprouting new roots

After about three weeks, the base of the cut leaf will begin sprouting a baby succulent, and the leaf will start to wilt.

When the baby gets to be about the size of a fingernail, plant it into the soil. Then, put her in a sunny spot.

Finally, watch her grow, but be patient! It might take a few months until the new succulent is big enough to fill out a small pot.

Propagating Succulents from Stems

Has your succulent taken on an overgrown, leggy appearance, or has it started growing new offshoots from the main stem? 

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 5 steps.

1. Harvest a Stem Cutting

Breaking off a new succulent stem to propagate

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.

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.

Or, as the photo above shows, you can snap off a new shoot while you’re repotting the mother plant. 

Note: To learn more, visit our post on repotting succulents!

Some succulent varieties produce rosettes at the end of the stem. If you have one of these, you can let the entire rosette dry out and grow roots, then replant it.

If your stem is leafy, you can get a little extra bang for your buck by plucking off leaves and propagating them individually.

2. Allow the Stem to Dry

Succulent stem cutting with a properly calloused end

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.

The cut end in this photo has a nice callous and is ready for planting! 

3. Plant the Stem Cutting

Propagating succulent stems in soil

Once your cutting has had the chance to lose excess moisture, plant the end of the stem directly into the soil.

(Artfully spilling your potting soil is totally optional!)

4. Place in the Sun, and Water Frequently But Sparingly

Set your newly-planted stem cutting where they can soak up lots of sunlight. 

Just like with leaf propagation, use a spray bottle to mist your succulent cutting daily. 

5. Monitor for Growth

New succulents growing from a stem cutting

After a couple of weeks, you should start seeing baby succulents growing off the main stem. 

Congratulations, you’ve successfully propagated your succulent stem cutting! 

Other Sources for Succulent Leaves and Stems

If you’re eager to build your collection of succulents but you don’t have many leaves to spare, don’t worry! You have a few options here. 

Buy them. You can speed up the process by buying pre-cut leaves, like these from Etsy

Ask your friends. Do any of your friends have a succulent garden? You could ask them if they have any leaves or stems they could share with you. 

Search local groups. Social media can be a great way to connect with other local succulent gardeners. You may be able to obtain leaves or cuttings, or you can get pointed to local garden shows or events. Also, you can gain valuable knowledge from experienced growers! 

Wherever you get your leaves or stems, it’s easy to propagate several succulents at the same time. Start them all off in the same pot, and replant them into their own containers after a couple months.

Final Thoughts

Propagation works for lots of kinds of plants, but it can be especially easy to nurture a succulent baby.

Just be patient as you wait for the cuttings to dry out, and let them soak up the sunshine while they grow.

In no time, your succulent collection will expand to fill your home with light and life!

Have you ever tried propagating succulents before? What was your experience like? Do you have any other questions? 

Share your thoughts in the comments!

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