Here at the nursery, we propagate succulents on a daily basis, even in winter thanks to the mild Australian weather. We grow and propagate all our plants and have a few tips to share. Propagating succulents is generally very easy and anyone, even a novice or a ‘black thumb’ can propagate succulents successfully. There are many ways one can propagate succulents and any one technique can be correct. Here are some easy tips we follow when propagating.
When propagating succulents, it can be very helpful to know the name or at least the genus of your succulent before you proceed and tear every single leaf off.
The reason for this is simple. Some succulents can be propagated from leaves, some from cuttings and some can only be multiplied by waiting for the chicks/pups/offsets to appear. Knowing what you’re dealing with can help you identify the best way to propagate. For instance, most plants in the Echeveria genus will multiply by growing chicks (a mini version of the mother plant). For this reason, they are also referred to as hen and chicks. Many but not all Echeverias can also be propagated from leaves. Knowing that you have an echeveria may help you decide the best course of action. Better still, knowing that you have Echeveria Prolofica, for instance, will tell you can propagate by cuttings and also leaves pretty much any time of year as Prolificas are extremely easy and, well, prolific.
As a rule of thumb, the best season to propagate is Spring. The great majority of succulents grow in Spring, Summer and Autumn and go dormant in Winter. There are a few that prefer to grow and propagate best in the cooler months depending on where in the world you are.
In more temperate climates with the absence of harsh winters plants like Aeoniums and Sedums tend to grow and root quicker and better in autumn, winter and early spring than in summer. You will notice a lot of new growth on many Aeoniums & Sedums in Winter. If there is no danger of deep frosts these can safely be propagated throughout winter.
Are you a patient type of person and like to watch succulents grow from leaves? Do you want to have your propagation efforts rewarded quickly? Do you have a mature plant that can be divided?
If you’ve established that your plant can be propagated from leaf and you really want to see the magic happen slowly, this may be the way to go. Leaf propagation will also allow you to multiply the same plant many times over as there are generally quite a few leaves on any one plant. This method is fairly easy if you follow a few steps, but painfully slow.
By far the quickest and easiest method of propagation is by taking cuttings. In the growing season, you can expect to see roots forming in about 2-4 weeks, depending on the plant.
A more advanced grower can even try growing from seed, however, this method is extremely slow and can have a very low success rate. It pays to buy seeds from reputable growers.
Once you’ve identified your succulent and decided on the propagation method, you can get down to business. If you’re propagating by taking cuttings, make sure there is enough stalk and that the cutting is big enough to survive. Read here for more detail on how to propagate from cuttings. If propagating from a leaf, start from the bottom of the plant and gently pull the leaf to one side taking it clean off. The leaf should be intact with no part of it still on the mother plant.
Now the cuttings need to rest for some 24 hours so the wound heals and does not get infected/rot in the potting mix.
Select a clean, dry tray or tissue paper and leave in a bright, covered spot such as a window sill or a verandah. Keep out of the hot sun as your cuttings are now a bit vulnerable and can easily get burnt.
Here at the nursery, we propagate our plants using succulent potting mix made of composted pine bark fines, coir, sand, minerals and slow release fertilizer. It works a treat for us with close to 100 % success rate. This method is great when you need to propagate a larger number of cuttings.
Propagating sand, coir or seedling mix can also be used for successful propagation.
Succulents are wonderfully hardy and most cuttings can be planted straight in the garden soil as well. We do not recommend using garden soil to plant cuttings in pots though.
There is another, one could say, more stylish way. Water propagation. It’s incredibly easy and effective. All you need is a jar (vase, glass, old bottle etc) with a narrow neck, water and your cutting. The water will need to be changed once a week to prevent bacteria and algae from breeding.
If you’ve decided to take the long way round and propagate from leaf, the simplest thing to do is put your leaves in an empty tray, drying rack or tissue paper and place in a bright spot that does not get any afternoon sun.
Simply place your growing medium in a small pot or propagating tray, make a small hole and insert the stalk of your cuttings. It is best to keep the leaves as far away from the potting mix as possible as in some varieties they will likely rot and fall off, though it’s not the end of the world if it can’t be helped. Pat the soil around the stalk so the cutting is firmly in and place in a bright spot with morning sun and afternoon shade or under 30% shade cloth. Plants should be repotted into succulent potting mix or other suitable potting mixes if propagating sand or coir has been used to start the cuttings off as they are not a good growing medium for the long term when it comes to succulents.
When it comes to propagating from leaf, you literally just sit back and watch. There is no need to plant the leaves in potting mix or water them. The plants will emerge on their own without any help.
If using water propagation only submerge a bit of the stalk as some succulents can rot easily if more of the plant is sitting in water.
If the cuttings are not watered, they can dry to a crisp. Some extremely hardy varieties will start growing roots even if not watered, but the great majority like a drink which will also help with growing roots.
Let the potting mix dry up before watering again so the cuttings do not sit in soggy water. This would very likely cause rotting.
As stated above, leaves do not need to be watered or tended in any way. We will talk about leaf propagation in a different post.
After a month or two, depending on the variety of succulent and the season, your cuttings should have roots and will be ready for repotting.
The above article is not a gospel, but merely our experience with propagating and growing succulents. Different people have different experiences and we understand that there are other methods out there and that the above method may not have worked for some. It is always interesting to hear peoples accounts on the topic so if you have anything to add or share, you can comment below 🙂