How to propagate succulents

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Succulents are a favorite for indoor gardeners. They grow slowly, require minimum care and don’t outgrow their pots quickly. They are simple plants needing only direct sunlight and well-drained soil.

Succulents are also some of the easiest plants to propagate. Many of them can root and produce a new plant from a stem cutting, a division, an offset or a leaf. Whether you’re looking to expand your indoor garden or share some of your plants with friends, the easiest and quickest method is by using a plant part.

An overview

Using stem cuttings, leaf cuttings and offsets is a common way to multiply succulents. Unlike other houseplants, you don’t have to worry about succulents wilting because they have a thick, waxy cuticle on their stems and leaves. Their resistance to water stress and increased growth rate are obvious benefits.

Selecting offsets and cuttings

The key to growing healthy plants from stem cuttings, leaf cuttings and offsets is choosing healthy host plants.

After you’ve cut a healthy piece of the stem, remove the lower leaves to create a bare portion to stick into the soil. You can use the leaves, as well as, the stem to propagate new plants.

Growing offsets and cuttings

Once you’ve harvested stems, leaves and offsets it’s important to let your cuttings dry out for a few days to allow any cut surface to callus over before you stick it into moist potting soil to root. Lay the stems and stripped leaves on a piece of paper to dry in a location out of direct sunlight.

Due to their resistance to water stress, failure to give succulents a drying period may cause rot.

It can take anywhere from a few days to couple weeks for the cuttings to dry out enough to pot. Once they are ready, you can use an ordinary pot or flat with commercial potting mix or propagating mix. Stem cuttings should be inserted up to the lowest leaves. Leaves should be pushed in so that the bottom 1/4 inch of each is covered by soil.

After your plants have been stuck in the potting soil, you just need to sprinkle them with water every few days to keep them from drying out completely.

How to propagate succulents

Stem cuttings. Stem cuttings must be taken at the end of a dormant period or at the beginning of active growth in the spring. However, it can also be done in the summer.

  1. Using a sharp, sterilized knife or razor, remove stem cuttings from your plant. It’s important to make a clean cut to ensure fast healing through the callusing stage. Ideally, you want to select a short cutting — about one to three inches long — from a new shoot. Next, you want to remove the bottom leaves and let your cutting dry out.
  2. Fill a small pot with propagating soil, leveling it off about a half inch from the brim.
  3. Plant the calloused stem cutting in the prepared potting mix. Succulents can be watered immediately, while cacti need to wait a few days. The potted cutting needs a warm, bright, airy location and must be kept moderately moist to thrive.
  4. After several weeks, the cutting should have an established root system and may be transferred to a larger container. You can tell the roots have grown when you can see visible plant growth above the soil.

Leaf cuttings. Like stem cuttings, leaf cuttings should normally be taken at the end of a dormant period or beginning of active growth in the spring.

  1. Just like stem cuttings, you need to use a sharp knife or razor blade to remove a single leaf cutting. Make sure to avoid taking leaves from the base of the plant as they don’t root well. For best results, take leaf cuttings from new, active growing shoots. Dip the base of the leaf cutting in a rooting hormone, and let it dry out to callus. Leaf cuttings are more difficult to propagate, so it’s important to just let them sit long enough for the wound to scab over.
  2. Fill a small pot with propagating soil, leveling it off about a half inch from the brim.
  3. Plant the callused leaf in the potting soil so that the bottom 1/4 inch is covered. Water the leaf cutting immediately and allow the pot to drain. The pot needs to be placed in a warm, airy location with at least eight hours of indirect sunlight. Mist the cutting with distilled water once a day.
  4. After several weeks, the cutting should have an established root system.

Offsets. Most succulents produce underground lateral shoots, which create offsets that can be severed in the spring or summer to create a self-sustaining new plant.

  1. Moisten the soil and carefully remove each offset from the parent plant. Then allow both the offsets and parent plant to callus before replanting.
  2. Fill a small pot with propagating soil, leveling it off about a half inch from the brim.
  3. Repot the seedlings, waiting three or four days to water them. Make sure to put the plants in a warm, dry location with indirect sunlight.

Transplanting tips

It typically takes six to 10 weeks for cuttings or leaves to root and start showing signs of new growth. The plants that have small roots growing before you remove them from the parent plant will root even more quickly and start growing in just a few weeks.

Once you can visibly see your cuttings are growing again, it’s a sign they are ready to be transplanted.

Leaf cuttings take longer to produce a new stem and established roots than stem cuttings. For leaf cuttings, you want to wait until the plant is at least one to two inches tall before transplanting.

When you are ready to transplant use a small stick to lift each individual rooted cutting from the potting soil. Then place them in the new potting soil so they will be growing at roughly the same depth as before. Finish up by firming the potting soil around your new plants and place them in a brightly lit location for a few days. Once your plants are established in their new pots you can gradually move them to a location with brighter light.

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Sara is Farm and Dairy’s online content producer. Raised in Portage County, she earned a magazine journalism degree from Kent State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, traveling, writing, reading and outdoor recreation.

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