Learn how to propagate succulents so you can grow your own beautiful plants whenever you want to in the comfort of your own home. Best of all, it’s free!
Not only will this let you save money, it will allow you to always have your favorite plants around for years on end.
How to Propagate Succulents
Below are the 6 basic ways to propagate succulents. Note that most succulents can be propagated in more than one way. And, there are those that just won’t propagate through certain methods.
As such, in addition to knowing the different propagation methods, it is also important to know which species are best propagated using which methods.
Removing Offsets or Plantlets
Succulent propagation method #1 is also the simplest, via plantlets. Sometimes, they’re called offsets, pups or buds.
This natural process occurs in some succulents including hens and chicks, aloe, sansevieria, haworthia, a few varieties of kalanchoe and cacti, where the mother plant produces miniature plants that will eventually grow to individual plants.
These offsets or plantlets often grow at the base of the mother plant. They are likewise connected to its root system. Once they appear, they’ll usually take 2 to 3 weeks to grow. Although, some will take a little longer.
A good rule of thumb is to wait until they get to at least 1 to 2 inches in diameter. However, it can vary per succulent species.
After that you can remove the plantlets from the main stem. You can use your hands, but often a knife lets you be more precise. Just make sure to sterilize the blade before making the cut.
In some cases, the offsets they’ll just drop on their own.
You can then just propagate them by planting them into a new pot.
While this method is the simplest because you don’t need to do anything at all, you’re also left at the mercy of the plant because you’ll have to wait for it to decide to propagate.
Root division is the messiest propagation method in this list. But, it is also the fastest as you immediately have a semi-grown or almost full-grown succulent as a result of it.
This is also a very effective propagation method for plants that are difficult grow from cuttings.
Root division is what is it sounds like, dividing the roots.
Here, you’ll unearth the plant either from the ground or pot. If you’re doing the former, be careful so you don’t damage the roots while digging. I like to dig using a wider circumference before coming inward so my shovel never gets near the plant.
Once the plant is out of the container or the ground, you can select sections you want to divide. The goal here is to look for sections with healthy stems sprouting out from it. Then tracing the stems downward to find their corresponding roots.
Depending on how hard the soil is, you can separate the clumps using your hands or a knife. Again, with the latter, you want to apply rubbing alcohol on the blade to ensure it is sterile before making any cuts.
Finally, you can then pot up each of the divided sections.
Root division not only lets you grow new plants, it also reduces the size of the parent plants. Thus, you don’t need to repot it to a larger container.
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In contrast to the messier nature of root division, cuttings is by far the simplest. You don’t need to remove the plant from the container, deal with the root ball or separate any part of the root ball.
Instead, all you need to do is snip off stems or leaves.
However, because you’re beginning from just one part of the plant, it takes much longer (usually close to a month to root, then a few more months to start sprouting) before you get a reasonably sized plant. From there, it will take more time for the plant to mature.
So, there’s little work in the beginning but a lot more time and effort until the plant matures. In contrast, the previous method, root division, front loads the work and messiness. But, gives you a semi-grown plant off the bat.
That said, many gardeners love propagating succulents by cuttings due to its simplicity. Plus, it is perfect for beginners to get their feet. And, best of all, you get a clone of the mother plant.
When it comes to cuttings, there are two main methods:
- Leaf cuttings
- Stem cuttings
Leaf cuttings are done by taking a leaf from the mother plant and planting them. After a while, they will start rooting and eventually grow into a new plant.
This is a popular propagation method for houseplants because it is very easy to take leaves from plant them. However, you want to be more careful with succulents because of their thick fleshy foliage.
In many cases, they won’t have a visible petiole so you can’t just pluck or cut the leaf off from there like you would most houseplants.
So to get started:
- Break a few leaves off from the stem. You want to gently twist it until the comes off. The goal here is to get a nice, clean pull where the leaf is completely removed at the junction where it connects to the stem.
- For some reason, I’ve found that broken leaves or leaves that were cut off before the stem won’t propagate successfully. Or, somewhere along the way, the plant will die.
- The next step is to allow the leaf to dry out or callous. It takes anywhere from 1 to 3 days for this to happen, so a little patience is needed.
- Allowing the leaves to callous is important so that they won’t absorb too much water in its initial stages. Should this happen, it will drown and end your propagation journey abruptly.
- Once the leaves has calloused, set them down on a pot with soil. You can use a wide, shallow container if you have many leaves then just space them out so they don’t get too crowded together.
- You’ll need to water the leaves daily once the soil dries out. As it grows into a mature succulent, it will want much less moisture so you’ll gradually be pulling back on frequency.
- Now you wait. It takes about 2 to 3 weeks for the leaves to start rooting, sometimes longer depending on how much sunlight, the kind of succulent, humidity and a few other factors.
The last thing I’d like to talk about is success rate.
When you’re starting out, don’t get discouraged. I remember my first attempt at leaf and stem cuttings did not pan out well.
Only half of my leaf cuttings survived. And, of those, some did not grow well, others rooted but had no leaves. You get the idea. But, a few did succeed.
I did a little better with my first batch of stem cuttings.
That said, you get better as you go along. Also, the success rates will vary per succulent, so you can’t generalize them into one group.
So, when you’re starting out, I highly suggest going with a batch of a few leaves so you can get some that will successfully grow. I call them “small wins”, which will boost your confidence and encourage you to keep going and getting better.
Stem cuttings are very much like leaf cuttings. But instead of removing leaves from the mother plant and planting them to grow into new plants, you’ll be using stems.
I’ve noticed that stem cuttings seems to work better for beginners at least in terms of success rate. But, you’ll want to try both out to see which one you prefer.
You’ll also notice that stem cuttings will grow faster than leaf cuttings at least in the beginning. Although it will still take a few months before you see any semblance of your original succulent.
That said, stem cuttings don’t always work with all succulents. It only applies to those with visible stems or “branches”. Otherwise, you’re better off going with leaf cuttings.
Here’s how to propagate succulents with stem cuttings.
- The first step is to select healthy looking stems. You can take one or more depending on how many new plants you want to grow. When starting out, I suggest getting a few more for your initial batch.
- Use a sterile pair of scissors or pruning shears to make remove the branches from the mother plant. You can also use a knife with a sharp blade.
- When making the cut, you want to make a clean cut at the junction between the stem and the base of the mother plant.
- One you have the cuttings, set them aside on a tray or flat surface to dry. You want to wait for the cut end to callous. This takes a few days.
- While you wait, prepare a small container and fill it with potting soil. You can use cacti and succulent mix. Make sure that the container you select has drainage holes at the bottom.
- Once the ends of the cuttings have calloused, stick that end into the soil.
- Next you wait. It takes 3 to 4 weeks for the cuttings to root.
Propagation with Seeds
The last method for propagating succulents is through seed. This takes the longest. And, it is also more difficult (at least for me) because there there’s a lot more work to do on your part.
The lengthy process also means that there are many things that can go wrong before the plant even develops. Another downside to propagating from seeds is that you don’t necessarily get a clone of your original plant.
However, if you want to learn the entire growing process and you have the time and patience, I encourage you to try it at least a few times to gain that experience and knowledge.
Propagating succulents by seed begins with seed collection. In mature plants, you’ll see seeds grow in the base of the flower. You can collect them after the succulent blooms.
Another option is to pick up seeds from the garden center. This is a good way if you want to grow a new succulent you don’t already have from scratch.
- Once you have the seeds, you’ll need a prepare a planter and add succulent soil.
- Then water the soil.
- You’ll also need to soak the seeds in water for about 30 minutes or so to loosed its coating.
- Once the outer shell of the seeds are soaked, place them on top of the soil.
- You’ll want to spread them out. The space will allow each seed enough room to grow.
- Cover the seeds lightly with top dressing. You can use succulent soil or sand. Avoid burying them.
- To keep the soil and seeds moist, use a spray bottle and mist the tray with water. Be careful not to overwater it. All you need to do is dampen it a little every time the top layer of soil dries out.
- Seeds need warm, humid conditions to germinate. Ideal temperature is around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I also like to use plastic to cover the tray or planter. In addition to increasing humidity, it also helps maintain moisture and warmth.
- It will take about 2 weeks for the seeds to germinate.
- From there, wait a few more weeks and you can cut back watering to once every other day.
Go Forth and Propagate
Now what you know the different kinds of succulent propagation techniques, it is time to try it for your yourself. Like all things, it takes some trial and error so don’t be discouraged if things don’t go perfect the first couple of tried.
Once you get the hang of things, you’ll be able to grow your own new succulents for free.