The Ultimate Succulent Propagation Guide

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For succulent propagation success...

... take your leaves or cuttings during the active growing period for your particular succulent. Click on the leaf icon above to learn more about when succulents are dormant and when they are actively growing.

successful succulent propagation from the bloom stalk leaves

Leaf Propagation

"How to Grow Succulents From Leaves"

You may have picked up some succulent leaves off the ground or taken some off of one of your own plants while repotting. Succulent propagation by leaf without soil is so easy! It’s also a big test of your patience.

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What's at the end of the rainbow? Succulents, of course!!

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What You Need to Start Propagating Succulent Leaves
  • Undamaged leaves from a mature plant that have made a clean break from the succulent. See the picture on the right for what a clean break looks like.

  • A clean, dry tray (Nope, no soil yet!)

  • A bright, shady spot with good airflow (Direct sun will burn the leaves!)

  • Lots of patience. Some succulent leaves root quicker than others. The succulent propagation timeline from bare leaf to a young plant that can survive on its own can take many months for an at-home gardener. 

what a clean break looks like on a succulent leaf for propagation echeveria afterglow bloom stalk leaves
succulent propagation leaves on a clean dry tray to start

When it all boils down, learning how to propagatepropagate breed specimens of a plant by natural processes from the parent stock like taking stem cuttings, leaf cuttings or seeds succulent leaves isn’t necessarily “learning” as much as it is a practice in patience and self-restraint.

easiest succulents to propagate by their leaves

Easiest Succulents to Propagate by Leaf

In my experience, these are the easiest succulents to propagate by leaf. I just toss them onto a tray, then roots and babies appear a few weeks later. Although, in the case of smaller leaves like Sedum rubrotinctum, I toss those into a pot of dry succulent soil and let them start and end there.

  • Graptosedum ‘Ghosty’

  • Graptopetalum paraguayense

  • Echeveria ‘Dusty Rose’

  • Graptoveria ‘Fred Ives’

  • Sedum rubrotinctum

  • Graptosedum ‘Bronze’

  • Echeveria ‘Perle von Nurnberg’

  • Sedum morganianum ‘Burro’s Tail’

Rooting Hormone for Succulent Propagation

Rooting hormone powder is helpful for successfully propagating succulents because it stimulates root growth. Healthy roots lead to healthy succulents!

Simply dip the end of your callousedcallus The tougher tissue that forms on or around a cut wound. Letting the cut end of a stem or leaf dry before planting. succulent leaf into a little bit of the powder before laying it on your tray.

Baby Succulents Love Bright Shade
succulent propagation leaves on a tray growing roots and new leaves

Collect all of your calloused succulent leaves and put them on a clean, dry tray in a bright, shady spot with plenty of good ventilation and no direct sunlight.

Direct sunlight will burn the leaves even if the plant you took them from was fine in direct sunlight.

You still don’t need soil at this point! They will start their propagation journey in the open air. 

  • Nothing. Some succulent leaves just don’t propagate. They just dry out and shrivel up. That’s just how it goes sometimes.

  • Little pink roots will emerge from some leaves.

  • Tiny babies form from the calloused ends of other leaves.

  • Some leaves form roots AND babies! Yay!

succulent propagation progress picture
succulent propagation of a moonstone leaf
Time to Move Your Baby Succulents to Soil! (Finally!)

What you need next:

  • A shallow nursery tray with holes at the bottom for drainage. (I’m a stickler for drainage holes!)
  • Window screen material or mesh tape
  • Soil (more moisture-retentive or organic than regular succulent soil)
  • A chopstick or some other chopstick shaped item or
  • Miniature gardening tools 
leaf succulent propagation is ready to be planted in soil
black nursery flat lined with mesh for succulent propagation

Line the bottom of your nursery tray with window screen material so your soil doesn’t fall out. As far as soil goes with your succulent propagation babies, you want it to be more moisture-retentive than regular, gritty succulent soil. Babies need more constant moisture in their soil than established succulents because their tender, young root systems dry out quickly.

(Octover 2020 Edit: I’m trying out coconut coir for propagation and seed starting. I’ll update this page when I have more of an opinion about it.)

  • Take the leaves that have both roots and babies and put them on the soil first. They’re more likely to work out.

  • Make a little hole with your chopstick and gently place the roots in the hole. Don’t close up the hole. The roots will naturally find their way into the sides of the hole and it will naturally close on its own. The hole provides protection for the roots and not closing it ensures that the roots have plenty of space to grow and establish a healthy root system.

succulent propagation station with soil and leaves arranged in a circle
square succulent propagation tray with leaves lined up in rows

My biggest piece of advice when propagating succulents from leaves is to not move them around as much as possible. Every time a baby succulent gets moved around, roots are damaged. It is inevitable. Since there are so few roots early on, moving the leaves and babies around from pot to pot damages a higher proportion of their roots and will ultimately lead to death due to soilborne diseases.

At this point, the baby is drawing energy from the mother leaf and the mother leaf will dry up. Leaves taken from the same plant at the same time can even dry up at different rates. Only when the mother leaf dries up, you can gently pull it off.

echeveria dusty rose leaf with big roots succulent propagation
When to give your succulent babies their own pot

When a propagated baby succulent is about the size of a quarter is when I start thinking about transplanting it to either its own small 2″ pot or in a 4″ pot grouped with other similarly sized props. 

echeveria encantada bloom stalk leaf propagation

I really try not to move baby succulents as much as possible if I can help it. Their hairlike roots break very easily and open the plant up to bacteria or fungus which leads to rot. What you can do is group a bunch of small propagated succulent babies in a 4″ or 6″ plastic pot which will keep their soil a little more on the moist side compared to terracotta. They can stay in that pot until they are much bigger and have a better chance of surviving being transplanted.

keep leaves dry when propagating
Keep your leaves dry. Wetness leads to rot. Use a fine tipped squirt bottle to aim water at the roots instead of on top of the leaves.
V. Important Stuff to Remember About Succulent Propagtion From Leaves
  1. Leaves from mature plants in their growing season have a better chance of survival.
  2. No watering until there are roots.
  3. Keep leaves out of direct sunlight.
  4. Bright shade works best – dappled light under a tree, under a covered porch, under a shade sail, etc.
  5. Leave your babies alone! The process to propagate a succulent from bare leaf to a plant that can survive can take MONTHS for a home gardener.
graptosedum ghosty succulent propagation success
buy mini pixie succulents from fairyblooms here
Get your feet wet propagating with pixie succulents from Fairyblooms!

Stem Cutting Propagation

"How to Regrow Succulents"

When your succulents have matured a bit and are starting to outgrow their space, you don’t necessarily have to re-pot them or throw away your clippings in the green waste bin!

Succulent propagation by taking cuttings is a fantastic way to care for your plants and it even helps them thrive.

Succulent cuttings can be propagated to make new plants, used in arrangements, or given as gifts!

I’ve also seen succulent cuttings for sale on Facebook, Amazon, and Etsy so this part of the guide would apply to those kinds of cuttings as well!

Pro Tip: See if your local area has a Facebook Group for succulent swapping! If not, create one! This is a great way to share your cuttings and widen the variety of your own collection at the same time!

3 Simple Steps to Succulent Propagation Using Stem Cuttings

  1. Cut off a piece of your succulent then let the end dry and calluscallus The tougher tissue that forms on or around a cut wound. Letting the cut end of a stem or leaf dry before planting. for a couple of days. 
  2. Pop the cutting into dry succulent soil and wait for roots to form. There’s no point in watering when they have no way to suck up that water.
  3. When roots appear, you’ll know by giving the cutting a little tug. If there’s slight resistance, you’ve got roots and can continue watering like normal! (Here’s the Guide to Watering Succulents in case you haven’t gotten that far yet.)
Helpful Tips for Propagating Cuttings

Always use a sharp, clean blade to take cuttings when propagating a succulent. Sterilize the blade with rubbing alcohol before cutting to avoid a bacterial or fungal infection from entering the open cut.

Between the time you stick your cutting into the soil and the time that roots form, the cutting might look like crap. Bottom leaves might start to shrivel up and dry out. That’s normal. The succulent is using up those leaves as energy until roots happen. Resist the urge to water them when you see this happening!

You can also encourage root growth from your succulent cuttings by dipping the cut end into some rooting hormone powder.

Cinnamon & Succulents
  • Natural way to deter insects when mixed with the soil
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Smells good =)

You can also dip the cut end of your succulent clippings in cinnamon which has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. This will prevent any pathogens from entering the fresh wound. 

Succulent Propagation by Beheading

This right here is why beheading is the best. Look at all of those babies!!

Off with her head! Beheading is my favorite succulent propagation method. It is almost a guaranteed way to multiply your succulent collection exponentially!

It is basically the same as taking stem cuttings, but with the intent to produce babies on the stump of whatever you behead. Again, a mature, healthy succulent that isn’t dormant will have a better chance of surviving a beheading.

This is also what you’ll need to do if your succulent gets “leggy” or etiolated from not enough light

What You're Gonna Need
  1. Sharp, clean cutting instrument such as scissors, a knife or pruning shears. I usually just use scissors.
  2. Succulent pots
  3. Patience. Ha!
When is the Best Time to Behead Succulents

The best time to behead succulents is during their growing season. Otherwise, they may not produce as many babies if at all. Since it is the summer right now, I’m going through my echeveria collection and beheading them when I see that they have an adequate amount of stem above the soil.

Beheading your succulents is simple. Clean off your tools so there isn’t any bacteria on them that may get transmitted to the open cut you’re about to make.

Cut straight across the stem at a point where you’ll have enough stem length left on top to reach the soil and enough space on the bottom so that the babies have room to form.

Babies will form on the base of the stem where leaves uses to be and roots will form on the top that you just cut off.

Put the top off to the side so the cut end can dry and callus for a few days before re-planting. The end needs to harden off so that bacteria in the soil doesn’t get in the open wound and cause it to rot. You could also dip the end in cinnamon as a fungus and bacteria preventative. Succulents can survive outside of soil for weeks, so don’t rush it.

beheaded echeveria succulent propagation
If you look closely, you'll see the stump of this Echeveria that I beheaded a while ago. Since beheading, it has made a TON of babies!
recently beheaded echeveria brown rose
Echeveria 'Brown Rose'
how to propagate echeveria elegans
After beheading this Echeveria elegans 'Mexican Snowball' 3 babies formed on the stump!

After you behead your succulents and they have callused over, you can now pot them up! I prefer plain, terracotta pots as they help to regulate moisture in the soil. Fill your pot with dry succulent soil and pop the plant on top of it. After a couple of weeks, it will form roots and then you can water it as normal! Be careful not to move it much as any jostling can damage the small roots and cause root rot.

single head of graptoveria fred ives before beheading succulent propagation
Graptoveria 'Fred Ives' before beheading
beheaded graptoveria fred ives with lots of babies
After Beheading

Propagating Strings of Things

The information on rooting string of bananas (senecio radicans) from cuttings can also be applied in the same way with:

string of pearls (senecio rowleyanus),

string of tears (senecio herreanus),

string of watermelons (senecio herreanus),

string of fish hooks (senecio radicans glauca),

string of dolphins (senecio peregrinus) and

trailing jade (senecio jacobsenii).

Propagating string of bananas is unlike other succulents in that it won’t propagate from leaves alone. You need to have a bit of the stem attached.

The more stem, the better because wherever the stem/string meets the soil roots will form.

where to cut string of bananas succulent propagation

More roots means a more stable plant that will survive longer in fluctuating environments.

Where to Cut the String

Clip a string above a root nodenode The point where a leaf, shoot or root grows from a stem. Root nodes start off looking like little purplish bumps on the string and quickly turn into roots.

Coil the string on top of the soil and use floral pins to hold it down until it roots.

Protect your string of [whatever] cuttings from extreme elements while it it establishing its new root system.

Don’t fill the pot with soil all the way to the top so there’s a little lip left on the pot. Believe it or not, this will provide a little bit of protection against wind and will provide shade for the leaves that are right under it.

Too much of a lip and the pearls will not get enough airflow and won’t have adequate exposure to sunlight.

Keep string of pearls out of direct sunlight. Even established pearls don’t really like direct sunlight.

String of bananas, fish hooks, dolphins and trailing jade, to a certain degree, can tolerate more direct sunlight.

Experiment with light levels until your strings are happy.

Coming Soon: Water Propagation

Community

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