Plants & Growing

How To Propagate Succulents Effectively

succulent cuttings sat on soil

Learning how to propagate succulents at home means reducing the number of succulents you need to buy.

Making new plants from your existing ones will save you money, growing your collection for free. It can also help you to avoid bringing extra plastic pots or packaging into your home. The more you can take a DIY approach and do things yourself at home, the closer you can move to a truly sustainable, zero-waste lifestyle. 

In this guide, we will take you step by step through the simple process involved in propagating succulents. This is a strategy that can be employed with a huge range of different succulent plants. 

How Succulents are Propagated

succulent cuttings on a grey surface
Succulent cuttings

Most succulent plants are propagated through cuttings or through offsets. The type of cutting that is taken varies depending on which succulents you are dealing with. Sometimes leaf cuttings are taken, and sometimes stem cuttings. Which one you will take will depend on the particular plants you are growing. 

Often, taking a succulent cutting will simply involve taking a clean, sharp blade and cutting off a few fleshy leaves, perhaps with a bit of the stem still attached. While you may well be able to take more than one cutting at one time from a parent plant, it is best to avoid taking too many pieces at once as this may weaken or put too much stress on the parent plant.

Sometimes, things are even easier and small offsets will naturally form close to the parent plant. This is true, for example, for rosette-forming succulents like aloe and echeveria. In these cases, propagation is simply a matter of carefully cutting these small offsets away from the parent plant.

Houseleek offsets in a flower pot
Houseleek offsets

Propagating Succulents – Step By Step

Though propagating most succulents really could not be easier, there are a few steps to take to make sure that your cuttings or offsets root successfully. So let’s take a look at the simple process, step by step. 

1. Allowing Cuttings or Offsets to Form a Callus

Once you have cut and gathered your cuttings or offsets, you cannot just plonk these into soil or another growing medium right away. Instead, you have to wait for the cut section of the succulent cuttings or offsets to form a callus. In other words, you need to wait for it to harden or dry and scab over.

A callus over the wound protects it from disease or rot. It is important to let the hardened callus form before your cuttings or offsets are exposed to water or damp. Place your cuttings or offsets on a sunny windowsill or another light and dry place for a week or so before you proceed to the next step in the process. 

2. Choosing a Suitable Potting Mix

It is important to choose a potting mix specifically designed for succulents, with good drainage. The type of container you choose is also important, as that can determine how successfully water will escape and how warm it will be. 

3. Placing Cuttings or Offsets in Their New Containers

Once the callus has formed on your cuttings or offsets, you can next place them on top of a suitable potting mix in your chosen pots or containers. Place these in a suitable location. (Make sure you take into account the temperature, light and other environmental needs of the particular succulents you have chosen to propagate.)

succulent cuttings in nine small terracotta pots
Succulent cuttings in pots

4. Waiting for New Root Systems To Form

After you have placed your new succulents into the top of your containers, on the suitable potting mix you have chosen for them, you should water them lightly around once a week (depending on variety) and wait patiently for small roots to form. The length of time that it will take for succulent cuttings to root will depend at least in part on which variety of succulent you are propagating. 

With some cuttings, you will know that they have rooted successfully when you pull very gently on the cutting and it does not come away but is held in the growing medium to a degree. After a while, you may see that new leaves have formed at the stem end of the leaf, and the original leaf from the parent plant will begin to wither and shrivel up. Once it does so, it can be removed. 

5. Potting Up Your New Plants

Once your cutting or offset has formed small roots, you can pot up your new plants. Be sure to place each plant into a pot or container filled with the same medium in which it was previously grown. As this will lessen any type of transplantation shock and reduce the amount of stress on your plants. 

Watering and environmental needs will of course vary depending on which succulents you are growing. But as a general rule of thumb, succulents in pots should be placed somewhere where they receive indirect but relatively bright light for at least 6 hours each day. And should be watered consistently but lightly around once a week. 

6. Placing Your New Succulents in Their Final Growing Positions

After they have been left to settle into their new pots or containers for a few weeks, the new succulents should be well-rooted and growing strong. At this point, you can consider placing them in their final growing positions – whether in larger containers, indoors or outside, in an undercover growing area such as a greenhouse or polytunnel, or, depending on variety and your garden, in garden beds or borders. 

Slightly different processes are followed (and different cuttings taken) for different succulents. But as you can see from the above, it is rather easy and straightforward to make new succulents from those you already grow. So once you have purchased your first few succulents, you can easily grow your collection over time. 

About the author

Elizabeth Waddington

A permaculture garden designer, sustainability consultant and freelance writer, Elizabeth works as an advocate for positive change. She aims to inspire others to reconnect with nature and live in a more eco-friendly way. She also tries to practice what she preaches as she tends her own forest garden, polyculture beds and polytunnel.

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