Updated Nov 5, 2022
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Succulents are perfect for homeowners seeking low-maintenance, eye-catching indoor plants. Succulents are native desert dwellers, which means they do well with little water and lots of sunlight. These lovely little plants thrive on neglect; you can set them on a windowsill and essentially forget about them until it’s time for a monthly watering.
Better yet, you can grow your succulent collection without a trip to the garden shop. With a little help from you, your succulents can easily produce baby plants through propagation.
Propagation involves removing the leaf, stem, or offshoot of a mature plant to produce a new one. Depending on the type of succulent you’re growing, some methods may work better than others.
|Stem Cuttings||Involves snipping a stem off a mature plant to produce new growths.|
Best for succulents like crassulas, aeoniums, kalanchoes, and sedums.
Good method for plants that have become leggy over time.
|Offsets/Division||Involves removing an offshoot of the parent plant and repotting it to grow independently.|
Also called “division” because you split the baby plant’s roots away from the parent.
Used for varieties like haworthias, aloe, and snake plants.
|Leaf Cuttings||Involves producing a new succulent from a single leaf.|
Used to grow varieties like echeverias, graptoverias, jade plants, and sedums.
Works best for succulents that grow close to the ground and produce plump, fleshy leaves.
This guide will discuss the leaf propagation method. We like this method because it allows you to experience the growth process from start to finish; you’ll surely find satisfaction in watching a tiny leaf blossom into a brand-new plant.
The following sections provide five simple steps for multiplying your succulent plants from leaves. We’ll demonstrate how to grow your own succulent with just a parent plant, a paper towel, and a little patience. Let’s dive in!
The first step is selecting a leaf for propagation. We suggest using leaves that have fallen off the parent plant by themselves. Succulents sometimes drop leaves in response to environmental stressors like elongated periods of heat and drought. Choosing one of these “volunteer” leaves helps you avoid damaging the mother plant by removing a healthy, attached leaf. However, you may have a lower success rate with leaves that fell because of stress; they’ll start the growth process at a disadvantage.
For the best results, pick a healthy leaf from your succulent. We recommend selecting a lower leaf from the plant to make the bare spot less noticeable. Grasp the base of the leaf between your pointer finger and thumb and gently twist until it breaks away from the stem.
Avoid placing the leaf directly into a pot of dirt after removing it from the parent plant. Soil contains moisture that may cause the vulnerable leaf to rot, preventing it from producing a healthy new succulent. Instead, set the leaf on a paper towel to allow it to dry out and callus.
Callusing occurs when the node of the leaf – the part that was attached to the stem – dries and hardens. You’ll know your clipping has callused when you can spot a layer of tough skin over the end of the leaf. This process may take about a week.
Remember to keep the paper towel in a dry area with indirect sunlight. While mature succulents like environments with bright sun, leaf cuttings are still vulnerable and need a safe place to start growing. Placing them away from moisture and direct sunlight is the best way to encourage growth.
Once the cutting has developed a callused tip, it’s time to move your baby succulent to some soil. Some gardeners dip the leaf cuttings into a rooting hormone during this step. Rooting products mimic natural plant growth hormones to stimulate early, vigorous root development. This step is optional; your leaf will still root without the product, though the process may take a little longer.
Place the leaf on top of a fresh container of soil. No need to bury the callused tip in the dirt; it needs ample aeration and light to sprout, so burying it might hinder the propagation process. For this step, you can place many callused leaves in one container to propagate multiple plants simultaneously.
Regarding the planting medium for the new leaves, we suggest using a succulent soil mix designed for efficient drainage. Mature succulents don’t do well with too much moisture, so well-draining soil is crucial to their long-term success.
The University of Minnesota Extension recommends planting succulents in a mixture of potting soil and perlite or coarse sand for improved drainage. Ensure the pot also has good drainage holes that allow excess water to escape.
Once the leaves are settled in their new pot, you may be tempted to ramp up the growing process by dousing them with water. However, you must remember succulents aren’t like other houseplants – too much water is detrimental to their health.
Instead of drenching the leaves, mist them lightly with a spray bottle twice a week. This method will provide the leaves the moisture they need to grow without waterlogging them or causing fungal growth.
Within a few weeks, the potted leaves will start sprouting new roots. At this point in the process, pushing some soil over the roots is OK to encourage more growth. This will help the leaves establish root systems that eventually grow into mature succulents.
Within a few weeks of root development, the leaves will develop rosettes that resemble a tiny version of the mature succulent. Once the baby rosettes have grown to at least half an inch tall, you can gently remove the mother leaf and repot the baby in its own container to continue maturing.
Before setting down your spray bottle, remember that baby succulents need more attention than mature ones. The sprout still uses lots of energy to establish roots and grow leaves, so it’ll need extra care during this time.
Set your succulent up for success by giving it food and water. Water the plant deeply, then allow the dirt to dry out before watering again. The goal is to provide the plant with enough moisture to grow but not enough to cause root rot. The University of Illinois Extension says you may only need to water your succulent once every couple of weeks while it’s actively growing. However, the best indicator of watering needs is simply touching the soil. If the potting mix is still damp, wait a few days before watering again.
Succulents aren’t fussy when it comes to fertilizer. Feed the baby plant low-nitrogen fertilizer once a month, using half the recommended dose. Too much fertilizer can “burn” the plant and cause irreparable damage to its roots.
There you have it: You’ve successfully propagated a succulent from a leaf. The baby plant is now ready to settle into its new container and continue growing into a beautiful specimen.
This video from Balcony Garden Web provides a quick recap of the succulent propagation steps we discussed:
With this guide on hand, you’ll soon be on the fast track to producing your very own succulent nursery. You’ll undoubtedly enjoy adding dozens of stunning plants to your collection without spending a dime.
As you kick off the propagation process, remember that patience is the most important ingredient. Your baby succulent will spend months transitioning from a leaf to a mature plant, which is no small feat. Enjoy watching your little plant grow big and strong, knowing you’re the gardener behind its amazing journey.
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