You don’t have to be gifted with a green thumb to have a home full of greenery! Succulents are the perfect way to beautify your home with very little maintenance. And, if green isn’t your thing, these hardy desert plants come in all kinds of unique colors, shapes, and sizes.
Propagation is a great way to keep your succulents healthy, sturdy, and strong. Multiplying your succulents is as easy as two times two, and once you see just how easy it is, you’ll be finding all kinds of new ways to work succulents into your space. We’ve rounded up a little succulent propagation 101 for you below to get you started.
What is Succulent Propagation?
Succulent propagation is the breeding of succulents “by natural processes from the parent stock.” So, basically, you get to clone your favorite plants! All you need is: an established succulent, a pair of hands, a sharp knife, cactus soil, a pot, and a sprinkle of patience.
5 Easiest Types of Succulents to Propagate
Aloe Vera is one of the most popular types of succulents that you can find in almost any garden shop, and often at the grocery store. Most of us are familiar with it because of its healing properties for burns and cuts, and for its use in all kinds of skincare products. We recommend cutting the offsets to propagate (see details below) as opposed to other methods due to removed aloe leaves’ tendency to shrivel.
Desert Rose (Echeveria)
The desert rose is a beautiful rosette-shaped succulent, hailing from southern Mexico and South America. There are several varieties of echeveria available, and they can stay small or grow as large as 12 inches wide, depending on growing conditions and what zone you are in.
Stone Crop (Sedum clavatum)
Named for needing “a little more care than stones”, the sedum clavatum grows to be around 4 inches tall. Commonly used as a ground cover plant, they can be grown in partial shade to full sun. The stonecrop is characterized by its stout stems and blueish green hues.
Fred Ives (Graptoveria)
These colorful succulents are a hybrid plant and can grow 4-8 inches tall and 2 inches. These plants thrive in the sun; with enough sun, they will get some really dramatic color to them. These are super satisfying plants to propagate because they have a very quick grow cycle, so you can watch them flourish fairly quickly.
California Sunset (Graptosedum)
As the name suggests, these plants grow to a warm pastel color when they are really happy, and will even produce a white flower. Similar in shape to the echevaria, this plant is built tough! Though, don’t be fooled by its tough exterior– while the graptosedum needs plenty of sun to blossom into its fullness, the leaves can be sunburnt (especially newly purchased plants).
How to Remove a Leaf for Propagation
Depending on the shape of the succulent, leaf removal can be one of the simplest ways to propagate your plant. Using your index finger and thumb, grab onto a nice healthy leaf and twist the base until it detaches. When using this method, we recommend taking a few leaves, just in case. The key is to make sure to pull the leaf from all the way down to stem, maybe even taking a little of the stem with it.
How to Take a Cutting or Offshoot for Propagation
Once a plant is well established, it can develop “pups”, or offshoots growing out of the soil or stem, that spring up from the mother plant. These pups are a perfect opportunity for propagation. Once the offshoot reaches about 1/5 of the size of the mother plant, or has a set of true leaves, it’s ready to be cut with a sharp, clean knife.
This is also often a method used for ‘leggy’ or overgrown plants. If you have a ‘leggy’ succulent, you can cut the plant all the way down to about half-one inch above the soil with a sharp knife. Leaving the established root as one cutting, you can then repot the top piece, planting the stem down into the soil, leaving the top resting on top of the soil.
Letting Your Cutting (or Leaf) Dry Out
After you pull your cutting or leaf, it will need 1-7 days to dry out. Unlike a lot of plants that really want water right after being pulled away from its mama, succulents need time to harden off a bit before placing them in their new home. The time the cutting will need is impacted by the type of succulent, the heat, and humidity in the air.
You will know that the new cutting is ready for watering once the cutting area is scabbed over.
While you’re allowing the new plant baby to scab over, you can simply rest it on top of a cactus soil mix or place it on a surface out of direct sun. If the leaves or stem cuttings begin to shrivel, don’t press the panic button! The important thing here is the roots.
Watering + Planting
Once the plant has scabbed over, it’s ready to start watering.
For cuttings with a stem, you can place the stem down into the soil, and mist the soil every couple of days keeping it gently moist until the roots begin to take hold. Then, follow instructions on caretaking for your specific variety.
Leaf propagation lends itself to gently misting the leaves every couple of days. The leaves will begin to transform into little succulent heads and have roots start to sprout out. When this happens, place the new bud on top of the soil, allowing the roots to reach down and covering the old leaf. Once the bud is rooted down, you can switch to the watering and sun schedule for your variety.
Use a misting spray water bottle to prevent overwatering. During the early stages, it’s easy to show your plants too much love (is that really a thing?) and succulents are pretty independent.
Waiting for Results
Ahhh the waiting game! If you’re anything like me, you’ll be talking to your cuttings each day and giving them little pep talks while they get nestled in, and wondering why they aren’t established yet.
Well, depending on the varietal and environmental conditions, the wait time can vary. Most succulents take a few months to a year to get to a recognizable “normal” size. So, be patient. You will want to check in every couple of days for the first month or so and keep an eye on how the roots are grounding.
Care + Maintenance
Succulents thrive under pressure! Oftentimes, over-caring for these little tough guys is the cause of problems. Less is more.
These desert dwellers crave sunlight and very little water. Learning more about the species you have will provide some great insight into how to care for them, and just how much sun, water, and fertilizer your plant babies need to flourish.
Once you determine how much light the variety you have will need, make sure to turn the pot, or move it every couple of months to avoid lopsided plants.