Best case scenario. I get extra plants for myself and to share with friends and family.
Worst case scenario. I kill the plant and have to say goodbye to a favorite succulent!
So glad I cast my fears aside and took the plunge. Although I’ll readily admit that nothing teaches patience quite like propagating succulents.
But now I have a mini succulent factory.
The key to it all is being patient. Good things happen to succulent people who are willing to wait.
I remember checking my cuttings and leaves everyday, sometimes multiple times a day to observe zero results, no roots whatever. And then one day……it happened.
So be fruitful and multiply ya’ll!
How propagation succulents is a lot like potty training….
I hovered. Day after day. I did everything just perfect and still no roots Not in the ones I propagated in water or the soil. Frustrating!
I waited some more. And then it happened. After about 2 weeks I noticed some growth in the plants propagated in water. It took much longer for the stems started in soil, but some still did produce roots.
Propagation is like potty training. Yup. Just when you think it’s never gonna happen and you’re hurling that pink plastic potty across the room in frustration….something clicks in their brain and they do the deed.
It was just like potty training my daughter. I thought we’d never get there but within two weeks of being persistent we made progress.
Succulents are the same way. Give them two weeks. Three even.
I was fussing too much wanting instant results, expecting too much too quick. Succulents are slow.
Give them time and try different methods to see what works for you.
Dividing – Plantlet/pup removal
You do nothing and then one day just notice pups springing up next to the mother plant.
When the pups get to be 2-3 inches in size, many are ready to live on their own.
Although every succulent is a bit different, and some will take longer than others to form a decent root system.
It’s vital that the plant have a good sized root system before removing from the mother. It can take 6 months to a year for solid roots to form.
Some pups come out much easier than others so always use a clean instrument to remove. I like the spoon method!
This technique has worked well for me as a traditional trowel is too big and bulky for the job.
Something smaller and fine-tuned is required.
Enter: My favorite ice cream spoon.
Tall, skinny and thin it’s able to dig the perfect trench around that offset ready to start a life of its own.
I was surprised by how long some of the roots were, particularly on my aloe blizzard plant but the spoon did the job right.
Frustrating when the spoon is needed for ice cream and is coated with dirt but I’ll get over it.
Remember that pruning or trimming the plant will likely encourage more pups to grow.
All get dipped in root hormone to (fingers crossed) encourage root growth.
Some will grow. Some won’t. So what! The fun is in the attempts.
Dividing – Root separation
This excited me because my initial thought was…two for the price of one!
So it was a bit of a gamble but I decided when transplanting the hardy haworthia to try to create two plants right away.
Gently using my fingers I pulled the plants apart from each other making sure each plant had its share of the root system.
It’s been over a month now and both plants seem to be thriving! Yay.
Cuttings – Leaf removal
Gently remove the leaf from the stem. Twist off leaves from the stem by wiggling them.
You need the whole leaf including the base that attaches to the stem. If the base of the leaf does not come off, or if it gets damaged, it will likely rot and not survive.
Let the cuttings dry for 3-5 days until the cut end has formed a callous or dried. This is like when you cut your finger and several days later see a callous or scab forming. Exact same concept.
If you don’t allow the leaf or cutting to form a scab, it will absorb too much water the first time you do water it and drown.
The scab also decreases the chance of pathogens/fungus rotting your leaves instead of rooting them.
Because succulents are drought tolerant if the cutting starts to shrivel up, it’s fine. In fact, what a great indicator that it’s time to start watering!
For me, sedums and echeverias can be propagated with either a leaf or a cutting, although my preference is using a leaf.
Aeoniums work with cuttings only meaning you likely won’t be able to propagate them with just a leaf.
I took five leaves from my crinkle-leaf plant. After 8 weeks, I started to notice some significant root growth in three out of the five.
Keeping in mind, I do live in a colder climate with less humidity and less light this time of year. This delays root forming.
The other two just fizzled. They don’t look dead, but they haven’t produced any roots either. And now it’s been 9 weeks so I’m not optimistic they are going to ever produce roots.
The three that did produce roots seem as though they are capable of producing a full plant. But it is gonna take time!
I let the leaves callous over for a week this time before misting with a water bottle 3-4 times each week laying sideways in the soil tray as shown below.
When I notice the soil is dry I give them a spritz.
They were all dipped in rooting hormone to encourage root growth, too.
Like your kids, every succulent is strangely different. If you don’t know what will work experiment to see what happens. It’s fun!
It’s safe to expect about 50% of your leaves/cuttings to product plants. The rest will die and that’s perfectly normal.
As your new plants start to grow and form significant root systems, plant and cover in soil and occasionally mist. If you don’t, they’ll dry out and your plants will probably stop growing.
Some will take months (and more likely years) to grow to a “normal” succulent size. It’s slow and steady. Remember my potty training analogy?
This is because it’s the way it naturally happens in the wild. The leaves would naturally fall sideways off the mother plant as opposed to being upright.
Since many of my leaves did result in developing roots, I’d encourage the sideways practice.
I have tried numerous times planting the cut end of the leaf in soil but they always rotted on me. Aways!
Cuttings are entirely different. With those, you do want to plant in soil. Since they are almost a full-grown succulent already, all they need is to be planted and watered and they should grow roots.
Remember to sterilize the scissors or whatever instrument you use to pluck the cuttings or the leaves.
Clean is important! You don’t want to contaminate your leaves or cuttings prior to attempting to grow.
Succulents are prone to disease and rotting enough on their own! This is especially true if any part of the base gets damaged when removing from the plant.
Cuttings – Beheading
You chop the head off.
Certain succulents stretch out too much and get lanky. This means it’s time to trim them back. By “pruning” your succulents you get them back a manageable state and attractive size.
The top you cut off should be able to root and form an established root system in time. The key is time. Be patient!
The kalanchoe paddle plant? It gets way outta control. It was downright top heavy and you could see those stalks were sagging bringing the entire plant down.
Beheading a succulent usually causes the base of the plant to produce more babies.
When I cut back my kalanchoe paddle plant it wasn’t long before two babies sprung up beside it. Thrilling!
It was also taking up too much room in my succulent pot!
So I chopped off the head that was most demanding. The stem I cut was roughly 3 inches in length.
I also removed the bottom leaves but kept the rest on. I let the stem dry and slowly roots formed!
It’s worth a try to propagate the leaves you pluck from the lower stem. Just like a cutting, let them callous for 3-5 days. Then lay flat in a tray of succulent soil. Mist every so often.
You may or may not get roots! But it doesn’t take much effort so you might as well try.
Hopefully it will be fine when I put it back in the succulent soil lined with perlite at the bottom for drainage.
In the winter months, it’s refreshing to prune back my succulents to get them back to a nice and cute compact size.
Techniques such as beheading also allow you to create more plants to share with family and friends.
1.) To your amazement after several weeks plants start to develop whitish roots from that small plant cutting. It’s just obvious that everything is going to plan. Yay!
2.) To your utter disgust and disappointment, your plant cutting turns to mush and smells quite vile rotting in water. Time to cleanse your vase and start again. Boo-hoo.
My experience tells me this….try again. And again. And again. Till something works.
Overall, I find water propagation to be faster than other methods.
Set glass/vase in a bright spot like a windowsill where it will receive plenty of bright light.
It’s always a good idea to remove lower leaves, let the cuttings dry and allow the cutting to dry a few days until the cut end has formed a callous prior to sticking in water.
It takes about 2 weeks to see any roots form at all and about 4 weeks to see significant root growth.
After about 6 weeks you’ll want to consider taking your plants out of water and transplanting them into soil. Preferably soil suited to succulents/cactus mix with perlite lined at the bottom.
When rooting in water, water in itself is not the main culprit that causes the plant to rot.
Succulents that sit in wet soil are exposed to fungus and pathogens already in the soil that introduce diseases to the plant and this is what causes root rot.
This means when you are rooting in soil, don’t reuse soil from pots sitting around your house. Only fresh succulent soil will do! I like the Hoffman’s brand.
Obviously when rooting in water, the plant stem tends to stay more “pure” as they are not exposed to pathogens present in some soil.
And I’ve tried distilled water, water purified through a reverse osmosis system and regular tap water. All work fine. I never add any nutrients to the water either.
Typically, you don’t need to change the water per se because the plant sucks up the water so just keep adding water to replenish.
I read all these posts online telling me I’d get roots in 1-2 weeks. Never happened in soil! It was always much closer to the 6-8 week mark.
And what works for the “master succulent gardener” may not work for you and visa versa. You may actually get a plant to propagate that you read online is impossible to do so from cuttings or leaves.
Patience. Is. Key. As is a willingness to experiment.
The amount of time it takes varies depending on the time of year, temperature of the area you are propagating in, type of succulent you are propagating and humidity.
But propagation doesn’t cost much…just your time. So what are you waiting for?