I thought it was about time that I shared some of my experiences with succulent propagation as I get a lot of questions over on Instagram. After the obligatory period of trial and error, things have improved and I feel slightly more confident in beheading my succulents now, and less precious about pulling off leaves for leaf propagation. I want to thank my friend Lisa for her advice and instilling some confidence in me to get out my snips and chop! She knows her stuff about succulents and has an enviable collection in pretty adverse conditions… aka the cold north of England! The two plants I decided to work with were both Echeveria.
So I got this petra’s perle (top) last December because I was amazed by the deep, bright magenta of the leaves, the photo below left was at the garden centre when I bought it, and to the left is how it was looking in January this year. It really started to stretch around February and I just let it do it’s thing. The hot pink faded to resemble something like the hue of a Perle von Nürnberg.
Fast forward to July and it was looking in a right sorry state (below).
So the two main ways you can propagate succulents are by leaf cuttings or stem cuttings. Lets talk about leaf propagation first because this is definitely a trend du jour and a great way of growing your plant collection for free and it takes up very little room! Leaves don’t even need their own pot – I throw mine into a jar of perlite and coco coir (above right) or lay them in a bright spot (above left) and let them do their thing. I’ve even noticed online plant sellers have started selling succulent leaves in recent months for customers to try their hand at the process of propagation!
HPH leaf propagation tips:
The first thing to get right is how to remove the leaves in the correct way, in readiness for the leaf to root successfully.
I like to wash my hands well or use paper towel to touch the succulent as the farina (dusty coating which acts a protective layer/sunscreen) on the leaves can rub off very easily and is unlikely to come back for a long time.
Pinch the leaf at the base – right near the stem and twist away from you about 180° until the leaf breaks off – you will hear a satisfying ‘click’ when it separates from the stem! A clean break has the most chance of rooting.
Place in a bright spot away from direct light.
The other way of propagating succulents is to use the stem from a succulent that has stretched to (potentially) create two new plants, this is often referred to as beheading! I’ll explain this process below (but the process is the same as for the top of my petra’s perle here, and indeed, for all succulents like this).
I filmed the process of beheading my succulents over on my Instagram in the ‘plant care’ stories highlights – above shows some stills. These photos show where is a good place to cut the top off the succulent. I like to leave three or four ‘tiers‘ of leaves at the top and strip the stem below this, using the leaves for leaf propagation (as discussed above).
HPH stem propagation tips:
After cutting the top off the succulent, you’ll want to let the end callus over before you do anything else with it. I like to leave around a week if it’s warm and dry – you can pop it in the top of a dry bottle if you like (which you can later fill up with water).
At this stage you can choose to root either in perlite or water. I often like to do a mixture or the two: Once the stem has calloused over, I place in perlite for approximately two weeks, this a lovely dry medium that the stem can sit in (as in the photo above). You can also place the calloused stem in your usual potting mix to root if you like, but that is personal preference, I prefer to add this ‘perlite’ stage!
If at any stage the leaves begin to wrinkle, this means the plant is dehydrated. Don’t panic though – water therapy is your friend at this stage! Place in water (as you would with traditional water propagation) and allow the plant to rehydrate – it will continue rooting here, and you can then choose whether to leave the roots develop in water, or move back to perlite once dried off again.
Stem propagation two ways : the stem from which the top was cut and the leaves plucked, can also start to produce it’s own plantlets.
This is the stage I’m at right now – I will write an update when the roots develop more and it’s time to pot on. Hope you found this information helpful and will give it a go yourself. It’s quite a rewarding process if it goes well, and if it doesn’t, I’ve found it made me want to try again until I got success! I would recommend echeveria as a great starting point, and I have also had success with crassula ovata (jade plant) leaves too. If you do try propagating your succulents, please tag me in your photos on Instagram!
Thanks for reading!
One thought on “How to propagate succulents”
Oh, this is fancy propagation. I just break off pieces and plug them where I want new plants. It works for giant yucca too (although not for other yuccas that need to be divided instead of propagated by cutting.)