Welcome to the addiction.
After a person gets their first little Burro’s Tail or Jade Plant, they invariably develop an insatiable urge to acquire more at any cost. There are two ways to satisfy the craving for more succulents:
- Buy more succulents.
- Grow more succulents.
And since money, unfortunately, does not grow on succulents, it’s a lot more cost-effective to grow your own. Fortunately, succulents naturally come equipped with an amazing ability regrow from leaves or branches… and that means free plants!
There are three primary methods of succulent propagation, each of them easier than the last!
If you’ve ever been on our Pinterest or Instagram, you’ve no doubt seen leaf propagation in action. People love taking pictures of their leaf props – and for good reason! Nothing is more fascinating than seeing a whole new plant grow from a mere leaf.
It may seem that you need a green thumb to pull off this amazing feat, but nothing could be further from the truth. Propagating succulents from leaves is dead easy. All you have to do is pull the leaf off.
… And you’re done! No, seriously, that’s all there is to it. If you remove the leaf, nature will take care of the rest. For the sake of thoroughness, however, I’ll add some details.
- It’s vital that you get a clean break when separating the leaf from the plant. That means there should be no extra plant matter on left on the leaf or stem. This isn’t difficult to achieve since succulent leaves don’t really need to be persuaded to fall off (looking at you, Ghost Plant).
- To ensure you get that clean break, grab the leaf close to the base and wiggle it gently side to side. There shouldn’t be much “pulling” involved.
- Now that they’re separated, both the mother plant and the leaf have an open wound. You have to let it “callus” over (that’s the plant version of scabbing). Just set the leaf in a dry place and wait a week, a dish on the windowsill works great. (we highly recommend these propagation trays by Yield Lab). Don’t expose it to water during this period – that will slow or impair the callus formation and could allow bacteria or fungi to infect the plant.
- Once the mother plant is callused, resume watering and treat it like normal. The leaf doesn’t need any special attention at the moment. Don’t water the leaf propagation until roots appear. It’s pointless since they can’t drink water without roots anyway. (Read our in depth article about When You Should Water Your Succulents if you need more information on watering succulents).
- You can put the leaf on dirt at any point, but don’t try burying it (or its roots). The plant will take care of it.
- Once the roots show up, endeavor to keep them moist. Use a spray bottle to mist the leaf every couple of days. (Enter the quintessential, super affordable succulent tool kit). Keep the propagation in bright light so that the new growth doesn’t become etiolated (stretched out).
That’s pretty much it! It really is as simple as pulling the leaves and chucking them on some dirt. All of the nutrients, and most of the water, that they need is inside the leaf itself. After a few months, that leaf will shrivel up and fall off. Now you’ve got a whole new plant for the cost of one leaf!
Be aware that this only works on succulents that have distinct stems and distinct leaves. Succulents like Echeveria, Sedum, Senecio, and Graptopetalum all make great candidates. If you try this with an Aloe or a Haworthia, for example, you’ll end up with a dead leaf and disappointment. Only do it if the leaf comes off easily!
Anyone with a modicum of gardening experience will have used this technique before. It’s a trick as old as plants themselves. You cut off a part of a plant and stick it back into the dirt and it just starts growing again.
Succulents have an even easier time of this than other plants. With herbs and veggies, you sometimes have to coax out new roots by putting the cutting in water for a while first, but that is not so with succulents.
Here’s how you propagate succulents via cuttings:
- Choose where to make the cut. It needs to be near the end of the branch or stem, usually 3 to 6 inches away is appropriate. You’ll also want to make sure that the plant is growing and healthy here – propagating a weak or dying plant is a recipe for failure.
- Clear the stem above the intended cut. Remove leaves one to two inches above the place you want to cut for two reasons: you’re going to put that part underground and also it makes it easier to get a good cut. Bonus tip – depending on the plant, you might be able to propagate those leaves!
- Make a clean cut perpendicular to them stem (the stem should be flat on top, not diagonal at all). Be sure to use really sharp, really sterile scissors. That part is important because dull scissors will crush the plant while cutting it, which makes it less likely to recover. Dirty scissors transfer germs directly into the wound – that’s no good. I highly recommend using gardening scissors or shears for this process. These gardening pruning shears by Vivoson are really really good! Click Here to check them out.
- Allow the mother plant and the cutting to callus just as we did for leaves in the above technique. It should take between 3-10 days. Don’t let them get wet but keep them in direct light.
- Stick the bottom of the cutting into the dirt up to the place where the leaves start. Depending on the species of succulent, roots should start growing within a month and you can begin to water. There will be enough water in the plant already to sustain it until then.
We also recommend making sure you are using a quality succulent blended soil. It will make everything you do in regarding you plants more successful. We highlighted a few of our favorites soil on our watering succulents article, but if you missed it – we recommend this soil from SuperFly Bonzai.
In summary, snip off a bit of the succulent and stick it in the ground. It couldn’t be easier. This method only works with plants that have a pronounced stem, however. Sorry Aloe and Haworthia, that means you’re not eligible. Many of the plants we suggested for leaf propagation are also great choices here: Echeveria, Sedum, Graptosedum, Graptopetalum, etc.
This method is particularly useful because it addresses two problems:
- It “fixes” etiolated plants. When plants have insufficient light and grow leggy, that can’t be undone. You can, however, snip out the leggy part and plant the top part again to have two plants – the base of the original (which will resume growth) and a cutting. Just make sure they get enough light this time!
- It’s the fastest way to get new plants. Growing new succulents from leaves is easy and efficient, but slow. It could take up to a year to get a decent sized plant. Cuttings root and grow more quickly than leaf propagations (plus they start out bigger).
It’s finally time for Aloe to shine!
Ever notice how some plants just grow more of themselves? Sempervivum are famous for it – that’s why they’re commonly called Hens and Chicks. Haworthia do it too, as do Sansevieria. It’s a very common kind of propagation and not at all unique to succulents. It’s how grass gets around, too.
The baby plants are called “buds” or “pups” or “offshoots”. They usually grow out of the base of the mother plant and share a connected root system.
Propagating plants that reproduce through budding is a double-edged sword – on one hand, you literally don’t have to do anything at all, but on the other hand you have to wait for the plant to propagate on its own.
Being at the whim of your plants isn’t so bad, though. Keep them happy and healthy and buds should grow constantly throughout their growing season. Removing and replanting them is very similar to the process of take a cutting:
- First you have to wait until they’re big enough to remove. It varies from species to species, but once they’re at least an inch or two in diameter (or several inches tall for the vertical variety of succulents).
- Find where the pup connects to the parent. It is probably either at the base of the primary stem or connected through a thick root called a “runner”. It’s okay to unpot the plant while you’re propagating it.
- Using the same technique we used for cutting propagations, make a clean cut where the bud meets the mother plant. If they share roots, give a generous portion to the baby when separating them. The mother plant can make more easily.
- Move the bud directly into a new pot, no need to wait for callusing this time. Still, you shouldn’t water it for a few days while it heals over.
Budding is also the way most cacti propagate, so you can use this method on them too!
Inevitably, you’ll have way too many plants – especially if you are rehoming every bud that comes along. These cute little succulents make great gifts and have the added bonus of subtly converting friends to hobby. (Check out our 12 Stunning Minimalist Succulent Planters if you’re thinking about giving your succulents as a gift).
Do you have any propagation tips or tricks? Share them with us in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!
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If you enjoyed reading our blog about succulent propagation check out our other blogs. Personally I think you’ll enjoy this one: 6 Best Indoor Succulents.
If you learned something, please consider buying us a succulent for our office.