How To Propagate Your Favorite Succulents: A Step-By-Step Guide
Propagating is an easy (and inexpensive) way to add more plants to your collection. It involves taking a piece of a healthy plant and replanting it in its own separate pot and can be done with everything from aloe to snake plants.
For succulent fans out there, you'll be happy to know that this is one type of plant that can be easily propagated in a number of different ways. There are two parts of the succulent that can be used for propagation: leaves and stems. And you can either replant them directly in soil or transfer them to a water bath first.
While spring and summer are the best seasons to propagate, it can be done anytime as long as you give your succulent good light from the sun or a grow lamp.
Here's everything to know about how to propagate using the method of your choosing—because, after all, you can never have too many succulents.
How to prepare succulent leaves for propagation.
We consulted plant expert and author of Propagation 101, Summer Jeffrey, for her top propagating tips. She explained that propagating from leaves is a bit more straightforward than using stems, though this method won't work with all succulents.
Aeoniums, for example, can only be propagated from stems. Echeveria, graptopetalum, and pachyphytum are good varieties for beginners to start with, Jeffrey says.
All you'll need for this method is your parent plant and, depending on where you plan to propagate, either some soil and a cardboard egg carton, or a glass of water. Here's how it's done:
- Always start with healthy leaves. Use supple leaves that are 1 inch in length, Jeffrey notes.
- Gently tug the leaf off your plant directly from the stem; it should come off pretty easily. "When removing leaves, be careful to not damage leaf ends," she says. "Leaves should detach cleanly from the stem with a side-to-side wiggle."
- Let leaves rest in indirect sunlight for three-plus days before propagating in soil or water. This will give it time to "callus," which will make it more likely to grow new roots.
How to prepare succulent stems for propagation.
If you want to propagate any aeoniums or other succulents with a good stem, Jeffrey says, "When in doubt, propagate from healthy stems with multiple leaves." She likes to use cuttings with a stem that's at least 2 to 3 inches long.
All you'll need for this method is sharp scissors, and your soil or water depending on where you plan to propagate. Here's how to do it:
- Make sure your plant is healthy and hydrated before cutting. Water your succulent one week before cutting, for best results.
- Use clean, sharp scissors to snip a piece of stem off that is 2 to 3 inches long and contains multiple leaves.
- Let stems callus in indirect sunshine for three to five days, before propagating.
To propagate cuttings in soil.
Once you have your leaf or stem cutting ready, you have the choice of placing it in soil or water to grow. Water is typically a bit faster for sprouting roots, but either method can work well. "For particularly tricky cuttings, start with soil propagation," Jeffrey recommends.
Here's the process for propagating in soil:
- Prevent rot by making sure your pot has a drainage hole.
- Fill your pot halfway with well-draining, rocky soil that can fully dry out between waterings. Jeffrey starts her propagations with a 4:1 mix of soil: perlite.
- Place your cutting upright into the soil.
- Fill the remaining half of the pot with soil.
- Press soil down with your fingers so the cutting is in an upright position.
- Water thoroughly.
- Place somewhere with temperate sunshine.
- Water when the soil is completely dry to the touch to avoid overwatering.
To propagate cuttings in water.
And here's the process for propagating in water:
- Fill a jar with tap water.
- Place cutting directly in water after it's callused.
- Adjust as needed to keep leaves out of the water.
- Change the water weekly.
- Once there is about an inch-long root, you can take it out and allow it to dry for a day or two before planting in soil using the method above.
Best practices to keep in mind.
When propagating succulents, it's important not to give up if you're not seeing results quickly. Patience and persistence are key, as it may take some trial and error to get your first successful plant. Remember not to overwater, and avoid misting when your propagation is growing. Always keep an eye out for squishy or dead leaves, removing them as needed.
If you do have some sad-looking leaves, Jeffrey suggests making a "second-chance pile," and leaving it be somewhere with a bit of sunlight, should any leaves experience a resurgence and have propagating potential.
Just be warned—once you start propagating, you may not want to stop. As you get the hang of it, it'll be hard to resist the temptation of adding yet another plant baby—easily and at no cost—to your collection.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.