Whether you’re a seasoned green thumb or a complete newbie, it can be difficult to keep succulents happy since they’re so different from other houseplants. When I first started growing plants I read so often that succulents are easy to keep alive, however I did not have that experience! I would therefore always recommend learning how to propagate succulents just in case you accidentally sentence them to death!
Luckily, succulent propagation is easy to master and there’s tons of methods to choose from. Throughout my life, I have had a lot of success with propagating succulents in order to save them so I’ve learnt a few tips and things to avoid all of which I’ll lay out for you in this article – how exciting!
Table of Contents:
- How Do I Propagate the Best Succulent Types?
- Why Propagate Succulents in the First Place?
- Are Propagating Succulents and Cacti Similar?
- Is Propagating Succulents By Plantlet Removal Easy?
- How Do I Grow From Succulent Leaves?
- How Can I Propagate Succulents From Stem Cuttings?
- What Is the Best Cultivation Method?
- When Shall I Replant?
- What Are Some Common Propagation Problems?
How Do I Propagate the Best Succulent Types?
Some succulents like aloe vera are trickier to propagate from cuttings. But I have found mine started growing plantlets within their leaves quite soon. If you spot any baby plantlets on aloe vera or similar succulents then I’d recommend giving them a new home because. It’s super easy and rewarding.
If you’re looking for a specific succulent to propagate by leaf, I’d say start with something like a moonstone succulent. These succulents are beautiful, definitely one of my favorites and I have had loads of success propagating these.
My moonstone succulent got bashed quite a lot in its old home. As a result, loads of leaves would fall off – luckily it was so easy to turn each of these into a whole new plant. By literally just throwing the leaf down on some soil and leaving it I have had so many new moonstone plants. They also have thick leaves so it’s easy to pull them off and easy to know when they need water since the leaf shrivel is so obvious.
I couldn’t possibly write this article without mentioning the Mother of Millions plant. It’s native to Madagascar and it certainly does justice to its name. The Mother of Millions plant, also known as Devil’s backbone or Kalanchoe daigremontiana, has tons of tiny plants at the edges of each of its leaves. These fall into the surrounding soil and quickly grow into their own plants. If you had to buy one succulent with the intent of propagating it, let it be this one.
I’ve made a little cheat sheet to include tips for how to propagate the most popular types of succulents.
|Succulent type||Succulent xfpropagation methods||A quick how to||Pro tips|
|Burro’s tail (sedum morganianum)||Leaf propagation||These plants are super sensitive and drop leaves all the time so you’ll probably find leaves in abundance without having any to remove.||If you struggle to keep the topsoil moist, try covering the soil with saran wrap or a clear bag to make a little greenhouse|
|Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)||Stem cutting or leaf cutting||I find my jade plant can grow some long stems so I like to use a stem cutting to maintain a compact shape and propagate all at once.||You might notice white, dry spots on the flat sides of the leaves, this is just mineral deposit from tap water, it’ll just rub off with a cloth. I’d recommend keeping on top of this because mold is so easy to miss if you’ve got mineral build up|
|Aloe Vera||Plantlets or leaf cuttings||Using a leaf cutting is a little less effective than my favorite method of separating aloe babies but sometimes you just don’t want to wait. |
Use a sterile tool to make a leaf cutting a few inches long, then leave it to callus over and hopefully grow roots!
|Always use sterile soil (avoid reusing soil from other houseplant pots) to avoid infection or pests.|
Why Propagate Succulents in the First Place?
If you’ve got tall or leggy succulents, succulents on the verge of death, or just fancy making more plants for free then try it out. Propagating succulents is super easy and quick, you can quickly expand your collection with minimal effort.
Propagating just means creating new plants from parts of the plant that are already grown. It happens naturally in the wild as pieces of the parent stock are divided off. We can create this process at home using a few different techniques which I’ll take you through in this article.
The fact that plants are so easy to clone is obviously advantageous in terms of survival. But more importantly, it’s so fun and sharing my plants with friends is one of the best things about owning houseplants
Are Propagating Succulents and Cacti Similar?
It’s worth knowing that whilst these two plants are similar, they are actually slightly different and some methods of succulent propagation won’t work with cacti as easily.
All cacti are succulents but not all succulents are cacti, cacti are a subgroup of plants within the group of succulents. Succulents are not actually their own family but are a type of plant found within other families. Check out this RHS guide on cacti and succulents.
Cacti can be propagated by plantlet removal or by taking cuttings too but there’s a few things to consider. There’s some types of cacti that taking cuttings could ruin the whole look of the plant so you might be best off waiting for a plantlet to grow. Additionally, cacti are mainly found in North and South America, whereas succulents are found all over the world. In terms of succulent propagation this just means it’s important to research the specific succulent species as they’re such a diverse group.
Is Propagating Succulents By Plantlet Removal Easy?
This is by far the easiest way to turn one plant into two but cannot be done at all times. Baby plants often spring up under succulents or between the leaves and often appear once the plant is more mature.
Since these succulents are formed and rooted they can be separated and replanted immediately. You can either gently twist and pull the baby plants or you can use a sharp knife to separate them. If you do use a tool, make sure to give it a thorough clean beforehand. You could risk the health of the mother plant if bacteria is introduced to the open wound. These little succulents are often called pups. Sometimes these pups are dropped into surrounding soil which then root where they fall, the plant basically does all the work for you.
How Do I Grow From Succulent Leaves?
Propagation step by step:
- Use a whole succulent leaf cutting
- Place the leaf cutting down on a dry surface for the end to dry up – this takes about two days
- Use a tray or plate of any kind and sprinkle about an inch of soil
- Place the leaf cutting on the soil so that the exposed side does not touch the soil
- Mist the soil daily until roots have begun to grow
- Cover the roots with soil and continue misting daily until mini succulents begin to grow
The first step is to choose a leaf. Check for a leaf that looks relatively healthy and just gently twist the leaf off of the main succulent plant. You need a whole leaf, it is important that the leaf is not ripped in half or it is very unlikely to grow any roots.
Leave the leaf to dry out on a paper towel or any dry surface for about 48 hours. Or until the end of the cutting calluses. Then just pop the leaf on top of a shallow tray of soil – using a tray over a pot helps to prevent having overly moist soil. Leaving it to dry prevents risk of infection or drowning (the exposed end will absorb too much water).
I’d recommend spraying a little bit of water each day to keep the soil moist but not wet. Spritz the soil but try to avoid the leaf as much as possible. Using a spray bottle is the best way to achieve this.
Then just sit back and wait patiently. Little (adorable) succulent babies called rosettes will start growing. If you can see them but you can see roots check the other side of the leaf because sometimes they grow on the side facing the soil! Expect to wait a couple of weeks for results.
A few guides recommend putting the leaf in the soil but every time I’ve tried this they have rotted so I think it’s better to lay them on top and let them put roots down.
Once the new roots have grown you can add soil over the top, it’ll help the roots to have access to water and stay cool.
Eventually, the mother leaf will shrivel up, this means all of the nutrients have been used up and the leaf has served its purpose. You can just leave the original cutting to die off and separate itself.
Water Propagation Is Difficult but Doable
Water propagating is slightly controversial in the house plant community, whilst it’s not my personal preference (more on that later) it does work well and I have had success with it.
To propagate in water simply pick a leaf, the same way as for soil propagation. Just gently twisting it away trying to keep the whole leaf in a good state.
Fill any old container like a recycled jar, Tupperware, cup (as long as it’s clean) with water. From what I’ve read it doesn’t matter what water you use, I just use regular old tap water and it’s been just fine. Next, cover the top of the container with saran wrap or “cling film”. However, depending on your leaf shape this may or may not be necessary.
Poke a few holes in the saran wrap and pop in your leaves. Make sure the leaves are just touching the water but are not too submerged.
Some people choose to leave the cutting just above the water. Aiming to encourage the roots to grow longer to seek out water, but I haven’t found much difference either way. If I had to choose, I’d recommend having the cuttings just touching the water.
Try to forget about the leaves for a few weeks, check on them occasionally to see if the water needs changing. Leave the cuttings in a sunny area for the best chances of success, bright indirect light is best.
Once they start growing roots, you have two main options: you can plant them or leave them a little longer to grow babies. There’ll be more information about how to plant succulents later.
My Personal Preference Is Soil Propagation
All in all, I have had success and failure with both methods but I do prefer soil propagation over water. I find that you see results faster and the process is easier as you don’t need to worry about root rot. Some people do argue that succulents rooting in water won’t experience root rot because there’s no soil pathogens in the water. Whilst that makes sense I still find that the leaves themselves can become mushy and brown.
How Can I Propagate Succulents From Stem Cuttings?
What you’ll need are big pieces, such as entire rosette heads from the top of leggy, tall succulents. At very least you need a whole leaf. In a large cutting you need whole leaves. If the leaves are damaged the success rate of the propagation is much lower.
I often find my echeveria succulents grow super tall. So I frequently cut their heads off, discard the stems and then replant the head.
The process is similar. But there’s a few things I’d advise specifically for propagating succulents from leaves with larger cuttings.
There’s a few ways to propagate from cuttings this way, so I’ll start with my favorite.
I like to take a cutting that has a stem of a few inches and then remove the lower leaves, exposing the nodes from which roots will grow. Take the cutting at the top of the stem – having a few extra inches of stem helps too! I like to lay this on top of some soil. Just like with leaf propagation, eventually some roots will grow from the stem. Then once the cutting has roots just pop it in some soil and water it frequently until it is rooted.
You can also use the same water rooting method as I described above for propagating leaves, just put the stem in water and keep the head of the cutting above the saran wrap.
What Is the Best Cultivation Method?
Unfortunately there’s no real answer to this question, it’s definitely not an exact science so my recommendation is to experiment and find out how you like to do things. Over the years I have had most success with simply plucking off a leaf, leaving it on the soil and forgetting it exists for a while. However I have friends who prefer water propagation – to each their own!
When Shall I Replant?
Once your succulent cuttings have grown bigger they’ll need a new home. It’s a good time to replant the succulent cuttings when the mother leaf has shriveled up and died away. Or when a full rosette has formed.
The best soil mix for succulents will be a coarse, well-draining mix. You can buy succulent soil ready to go or mix your own. To mix up your own succulent soil I’d recommend three parts potting soil, two parts coarse sand and one part perlite. This mix helps with drainage which in turn prevents root rot and pests.
Use a pot with plenty of drainage and fill it up most of the way. I like to use my finger to make holes for the roots or stem to rest in. I find that this is best in order to protect the roots as you plant them.
The first few days after planting it is good to water the succulent daily to help the succulent propagation get fully rooted. I like to water until the excess flows out of the drainage hole.
More tips on buying pots for your succulents: as well as having a drainage hole it is useful to have a shallow pot which will dry out more. I’d also recommend terracotta pots as they drain faster which aids in the prevention of root rot.
What Are Some Common Propagation Problems?
Succulent problems can crop up at any time, from propagating to newly planted, there’s a few things to look out for.
Leaves falling off: If you’ve just planted your cutting, you might find that the extra water causes the leaf to swell and fall off. It’s simple to remedy, just water the succulent less and the leaves will regrow soon.
Leaves sometimes also fall off when it is super hot out. The extreme heat signals that there will be limited water so they drop leaves to preserve energy. Move the cutting to a shadier spot and the plant should recover quickly.
Yellow leaves: Yellowing leaves are a sure sign of a watering issue. Unfortunately the issue could be overwatering or under-watering. The way to tell is by checking the soil and inspecting the leaves, if they are shriveling and dry or wilting and the soil is dry too it’s probably an issue of under-watering. If the leaves are mushy and the soil is super wet, you’ve overwatered.
Are You Ready to Propagate Your Own Succulents Yet?
Overall, succulent plants are pretty easy to propagate. It’s a great beginner propagation because you only need one leaf so you have plenty of chances. You can choose between water and soil propagation – I advise trying both methods.
Next time your succulent is looking a little too tall, too confident or too close to death for your liking try propagating it in order to enjoy the plants for longer and expand your collection!
One last tip: keep a gardening journal to write down what works and what doesn’t because the trials can easily blur into one lot! This way you can properly compare how you’ve found each method. Also whether you ran into problems and how you do it differently next time. In the end, different gardeners and aspiring green thumbs will prefer different ways to do things.
There’s More Greenery Just Around the Corner
Succulents are beautiful, but the world of houseplants is just getting started. Learn about new plants by clicking one of the articles below, delving into all our houseplant tips, or getting right to the houseplant growing basics. Let us know your thoughts and feedback here. Make houseplants happy again!