Propagating Succulents 101

by Kaylah Stroup

I haven’t been propagating succulents all that long but I’ve already learned quiet a bit and seen a great deal of success. Nearly every time I post photos of my babies on Instagram (…which is quite often) someone asks for help or exclaims frustration in their failed attempts to propagate. Propagation is incredibly simple once you know what you’re doing and it’s wildly satisfying! Today I’m going to share my method and a few tips that have helped me along the way.

Above left : Properly removed leaf

Above is the perfect example of a plant that has gotten leggy due to lack of sunlight, and is in prime condition to propagate. I went to my favorite local garden center specifically to find a plant for this post. This one had already begun dropping it’s leaves and growing pups in the container.

What you’re going to do is remove the leaves. It’s very important to remove them properly. I genetly twist them from side to side, holding near the base. You’ll feel a little snap when it comes off. You need to be careful not to rip the leaf or else it will not grow. There should be no piece of the leaf left on the stem. When I first started that’s what I was most nervous about; removing my first leaf. It’s really simple and after your first one it’ll be easy peasy!

Below :  Improperly removed leaf that will not grow

Remove all leaves that are a great distance apart from each other. After that you’ll be left with a pretty little rosette on a long stem. Your rosette may be made up of just three little tiny leaves, or a handful of larger ones it all just depends on the condition of your plant – either way it’s worth saving. Chop those bad boys off using sharp scissors, leaving an inch or so of stem. You’ll be able to plant them later.

Now you need somewhere to put all your leaves. I use a cake pan. It’s what I had on hand and it worked! I would never recommend something that doesn’t have holes in the bottom for your plants but because you’ll never actually be thoroughly watering the leaves or pups it doesn’t really matter. I fill the pan with cactus soil and perlite. (both of which can be found at Lowes, Home Depot or any garden center) I use approximately a 2:1 ratio. The perlite is important because it helps loosen the soil, and prevent compacting which helps with new root growth.

I lay out the leaves, and rosettes with the short stems on the soil/perlite mix and leave them alone for a couple days. The ends need to callous over or else they’ll absorb too much water and rot. After a few days I start spraying them with a squirt bottle. They don’t need much at all, just a quick mist. I do this daily. There are no hard and fast rules about watering your plants though. The best thing you can do is keep a close eye on them. Check on them every day, if they look dry, mist them. If not, leave them alone. Keep in mind that leaves without pups need less water than those showing growth.

They’re going to need lots of light to grow. Depending on your climate and your home just having your pan of leaves near a window should be sufficient. Leaves and the baby plants you’ll be growing are delicate; too much sun may burn them. After getting fairly comfortable with propagation I moved my babies outside where they receive maybe three or four hours of direct sunlight every day and they’re thriving. I wouldn’t recommend direct sunlight when you’re first starting out though. Start by a window that receives lots of natural light during the day.

Now it’s time to wait. Patience is important here! It’ll take a few weeks, some plants take waaaay longer than others, but eventually you’ll start to see growth. Keep misting regularly! The mother leaf will start to shrivel. I never remove it, I just let it shrivel up completely but if you do decide to remove it once you have decent sized new growth be sure not to accidentally rip off the roots.

When my new plants have grown to about the size in the photo above that’s when I start replanting them. They’re still very delicate and will need misted often. When replanting I use 3:1 or 4:1 cactus to perlite mixture. With ample water and sunlight your new babies should continue to thrive!

Everything in focus below is something I propagated myself

Tips for propagation success!
▴ SPRAY BOTTLE. Buy one, use it, be amazed! No, but seriously, you need one. If you try to just water your leaves and cuttings as you would a regular plant you’ll most likely drown them.

▴Don’t forget about the stem from your plant you took the cuttings from, that will produce new growth as well! Since it already has established roots it will produce growth much faster.

Growth on the stem after a few weeks
Growth on the stem after four months

▴ I once read “If it looks like a plant, plant it” and that tip has been invaluable. It seems so obvious now that I have an idea of what I’m doing with plants but as a beginner it completely opened my eyes to everything that I could propagate. Below is an example of something that I would have never thought to do anything with. That cactus is now what I would consider a mother plant, every time she produces new growth like the two bunny ears shown in the photos I remove them to make new plants. I’ve had nothing but success with that cactus and the pups, they root beautifully! This is a very general rule but if you can twist it off, like the leaves of succulents, you can grow it.

If it looks like a plant, plant it.

While researching propagation before I started I noticed that nearly everyone had a slightly different method, varying most when it came what to do after the leaves have calloused over. I decided to just do a mix of everything I read. It works wonderfully for me. If my method doesn’t work for you I definitely suggest doing more research. Don’t give up after one failed attempt! Propagation is WAY too much fun. You’ll be amazed how proud you can be of one tiny plant.

Good luck!

To see more photos of my plant collection browse the “plants” tag or follow me on instagram.