Propagating Succulents Successfully

Propagating succulents is easy and can be done with pups, leaves, and cuttings.

Mistletoe Cactus, Golden Aloe pup, Lily Pad leaf, Agave pup, Alpenglow and Jelly Bean succulent leaves ready for propagation.

Propagating succulents may be one of the most enjoyable types of gardening.   Why?

  • It’s easy
  • It’s inexpensive
  • Can be done inside or out
  • Good results are almost guaranteed!

Here are three simple methods on how to propagate succulents.

  • Most common – succulent cuttings
  • Most reliable – pups
  • Easiest – planting succulent leaves

Most Common – Succulent Cuttings

Succulent cuttings ready to be propagated.

Mistletoe Cactus, Elephant Food and Jelly Bean succulent cuttings ready for planting.

Remove a cutting from a healthy plant. Cut several inches of a stem with leaves from a healthy plant.  Put the cutting aside on a paper towel for about a week to let the cut end form a callus.

  • Propagating in Water

Once the stem has calloused, fill a small jar with water.  The ideal size is a jar small enough to support the leaves and keep the plant from falling down into the water.  The stem should be just above the surface of the water.  Put in a sunny window.  Check the water daily to keep the water just under the cutting.

  • Propagating in Soil

Once the stem end has calloused, plant the cutting in a small pot containing damp cactus potting soil.  Place in a sunny window.

Most Reliable – Succulent Pups:

Propagating succulent pups is easy. Succulents propagation with pups can be done by anyone.

Golden Aloe and Agave succulent pups ready for planting.

Many succulents and cacti produce volumes of small plants called pups at the base of the main plant.  Others will sprout from the roots growing out from the parent plant.  Any of these pups can be gently pulled away or carefully cut away.   It is very beneficial to the parent plant to remove the pups whether you plant the pups or not.  The parent plant will become crowded unsightly.

  • A succulent pup with roots

Remove a new growth or ‘pup’ from the base of a mature plant.  Gently pull the pup from the mother plant being careful to keep the roots of the pup intact.  Immediately plant the pup in a small container with cactus/succulent potting soil.  Make sure the soil is moist.  Put in a sunny window.

  • A succulent pup without roots

Place the pup aside on a paper towel for about a week to let the cut end form a callus.  Plant the pup in a small pot containing damp cactus potting soil.  Place in a sunny window.

Reliable but with a Little More Work:

Succulent Plant Division:  How the plant can be divided depends on the type of growth the succulent produces.  Some succulent plants spread with a mass of roots.  Simply remove the plant from the pot.    Gently shake the soil from the roots and carefully separate the plant into as many divisions as you would like.  Leave enough growth with each division to begin a new plant.  Then simply repot each new division.

If the roots are more tuberous or fleshy separate the divisions with a clean knife.  Wiping the knife with rubbing alcohol is a good idea.  You can dust the fresh cut surface with a fungicide to ensure a healthy cutting, and be sure to let the surface callous over for a few days before replanting.

The division method is best carried out when the succulents are dormant or ‘resting’.  This is usually during the winter months even in the desert southwest.

Succulent Leaf Propagation:

Succulent leaves propagation is simple. Succulent leaf propagation only takes a couple weeks.

Alpenglow, Lily Pad and Jelly Bean sprouted succulent leaves.

Succulent leaf propagation is the easiest and the most interesting.  Cut a few leaves from a healthy plant.  Put them aside on a paper towel for about a week until the cut end forms a callus.  Once you determine the ends are dry place them the surface of well-draining succulent or cactus soil. Do not try to ‘plant’ them in the soil.  Just lay them on the surface. If the leaf is puffy and thick like a leaf from a ‘String of Pearls’ placing them on top of the soil is enough.  If the leaf is flat like an oak or elm leaf, press it onto the soil a little to be sure the edges are touching the soil. Place in a sunny window.

After a few weeks, you will see roots developing, new growth sprouting from the ends of the leaves, and small new plants beginning to appear.   You should see a new plant growing from the callused end of the leaf in about 3-6 weeks.

Succulents don’t require a lot of water, but while your cutting is developing roots and top growth, spray the pot with water once a day just to keep a little moisture in the soil. In about four weeks you’ll start to see new growth. Once the plant has developed its roots and begins to grow, switch to weekly watering or only when the soil is dry.   In about 3-6 weeks your new plant will be ready for repotting if you choose.

Succulents to try with leaf cutting

  • Kalanchoe
  • Jade Plant

Succulents for Pup Propagation

  • Aloe
  • Agave

Succulents for Leaf Propagation

  • Jelly Bean
  • String of Pearls

Most Adventurous – grafting succulents

You have undoubtedly seen grafted succulents or cacti for many years in garden centers.  If you were like me, though, you may not have realized the small succulent with the colorful, odd shaped growth was a graft.   If you are adventurous and looking for an interesting adventure, here you go.

First, select the plants you want to work with.  The rootstock should be hardy and healthy.  They must be in the same genus and suitable for grafting or the graft will not take.  Choose to perform the graft at the brink of the growing season.  Be sure your hands, the work area and your tools are clean.  Cleaning your tools with alcohol would be advised.  You will also need rubber bands.  Work quickly!

There are 3 types of grafts.  Flat, side and split.  A flat graft is usually done on a plant such as an easter lily cactus.  The host plant is cut straight across; the compatible graft such as a San Pedro Cactus is placed on top.  Hold the graft in place with a rubber band across the top of the plant and under the pot.

A side graft is much the same except the cut is made at an angle and more plant material is exposed.

A cleft graft is performed by making a V shape cut in the host plant.  Taper the tip of the graft and insert into the V.  Cut a thick rubber band into one long strip.  Wrap around the graft to secure it.

With each technique move the plants into a bright area but not into direct sun.  Use distilled water for a few weeks to protect from chlorine which will burn the tender growth.  This is by no means a complete guide to performing a successful graft

Some plants you can try are:

Cactaceae can be grafted with Echinopsis or Easter Lily Cactus, Trichocereus or Blue Torch, and Pereskiopsis

Asclepiadaceae or milkweed and be grafted with ceropegia woodii or Chain of Hearts.

If you are interested in trying this fascinating method I strongly recommend you visit the North Dakota State University website at www.ndsu.edu.  They literally walk you through each step.

Most Unusual:

Believe it or not, some succulent species produce, without any urging, miniature plants on the edges of their leaves, flower stems, and flower heads.  The tiny plants can be removed and planted.  They will eventually drop off and form their own new plants under the parent plant.

Examples:

  • Mother of Millions
  • Kalanchoe or ‘Mexican Hat’
  • Kalanchoe daigremontiana
  • Mother of Thousands

Propagating Succulents

Before deciding which plants to choose you can learn more about what are succulents and which make the best indoor plants.  I hope this information is as interesting to you as it has been to me.  Now start cutting, separating or grafting to your heart’s content.  Get ready for a truly enjoyable and cheap way to expand your garden.