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While many easygoing houseplants can be propagated, none are quite so simple as succulents. Whether you're growing your garden on a budget or keeping your favorite plants healthy, propagating your succulents is an easy way to create new growth without ever purchasing a separate plant.
What Is Plant Propagation?
Plant propagation is a way to grow new plants from the ones you already have. The process is different for various species, and usually involves cutting healthy leaves or removing seeds to grow in separate containers.
Many succulent species can be propagated by stem cuttings, dividing offsets, or even by just removing a leaf and laying it on soil—it's that simple. With these tips, you can turn cutting back an overgrown plant into an opportunity to add new succulents to your collection.
Below, read on to learn how to propagate succulents and keep your indoor garden thriving.
- Working time: One hour
- Total time: Several weeks
- Skill level: Beginner
When to Propagate Succulents
Succulents can be propagated at any time of year, but it's especially effective during the summer growing season. Since conditions stay similar for indoor succulents year-round, your indoor garden can grow through propagation even during the winter.
Knowing how to propagate succulents isn’t just about keeping your plant habit budget-friendly. It's an important way to keep your plants healthy, as you can save the healthy portion of a succulent that's having issues—whether it be pests, sunburn, or overwatering. If you notice that part of your plant isn't as healthy as it used to be, you'll know that it's time to propagate the best sections and start fresh.
You might also propagate your succulents when you notice they're starting to fill up their container. Removing offsets to create new plants is a great way to free up space in a root-bound pot. Since many succulents come in large pots with several different species growing together, it's common for their roots to become entangled as they grow larger. Transplanting small sections from each plant into a new pot helps the original container stay open for your succulents to mature healthily.
Tools and Supplies You Will Need
Before propagating succulents, gather the following materials:
- Nitrile-dipped gardening gloves
- Pruning shears
- New containers
- Fresh soil
Before Getting Started
First, it's important to identify which species of succulent you have. Different variations will require specific methods for propagation—so be sure not to propagate with a method that could damage your plant. The easiest types of succulents to propagate are species that grow offsets nearby in their container. Others may require you to separate the roots or trim leaf cuttings from the original plant to keep both sections growing strong.
How to Propagate Succulent Offsets
As they grow, many plants reproduce by growing offsets—baby plants that grow from the base of the mother plant. Aloe vera, Agave Americana, Haworthia, Kalanchoe daigremontiana (Mother of Thousands), and Sempervivum (Hen and Chicks) all produce offsets that are easy to remove and replant.
Offsets can be removed one by one, or—as is often the case with Haworthia and Sempervivum— they grow several offsets at once, eventually filling the pot with a clump of plants. These clumps can be gently divided and replanted to create smaller containers with several rosettes. Alternatively, offsets may be removed and replanted one at a time as they grow.
Step 1: Prepare a New Pot
For each of the offsets that you plan to remove, fill an appropriately-sized container with succulent soil or another well-draining soil mix.
Step 2: Remove the Offsets
Submerge your fingers into the soil between the offset and the mother plant, feeling for the point where the roots meet. Holding the offset by its base, give it a gentle tug away from the mother—it may come off on its own. If not, use a clean, sharp blade to cut the roots that connect the offset to the mother, taking care to leave the offset with as many of its own roots as possible.
If the plant is a large clump of many offsets, you may need to carefully remove the plant from the pot and loosen the roots and soil with your fingers to separate the offsets you’d like to remove.
Step 3: Plant in Fresh Soil
Plant the offset in your prepared container. Water it and keep it in a spot with bright, indirect light, then care for it as usual once you see new growth.
How to Propagate Succulents from Stem Cuttings
There are two ways to propagate succulent cuttings: leaf cuttings, in which only a leaf is needed to create a new plant, and stem cuttings, in which a stem is removed from the mother plant and planted on its own.
Taking a stem cutting works best with a rosette-growing succulent whose flower-like head grows up on a long stem, like Sedum, Aeonium, or an etiolated Sempervivum. For this reason, cutting back a leggy houseplant like an Aeonium is a great way to propagate. This method can also be used for Sedum morganianum (Burro’s Tail) or Senecio rowleyanus (String of Pearls).
Step 1: Trim the Cuttings
Using clean, sharp gardening shears, cut the stems you’d like to propagate from the base of the mother plant. Remove any leaves from the lower third of the stems.
Step 2: Let It Rest
Lay the cuttings on a plate or paper towel for a few days to allow the cut end to callus over. This prevents root rot once the cuttings are planted in soil and watered.
Step 3: Plant in Fresh Soil
When the cut ends have dried out, plant the stems in small, separate containers with succulent soil or another very well-draining potting mix. It may take several months for the plant to fully root. Place your new plant in a bright, warm spot. Take care not to overwater the cutting until it has fully rooted.
How to Propagate Succulents from Leaf Cuttings
It often makes sense to propagate several leaves in the same container at once. Rosette-style succulent specimens such as Echeveria that are etiolated—tall and leggy with leaves that are spread out, rather than in a compact rosette—are great candidates for leaf propagation.
Step 1: Prepare a Shallow Container
Prepare a shallow tray (a plastic takeout container or its lid works great for this) with a layer of succulent soil. Moisten the soil with a spray bottle, but not so much that water pools in the bottom of the container.
Step 2: Trim Healthy Leaves
Using your fingers, carefully break off a healthy outer leaf off of the mother plant, snapping it off all the way down to where the leaf meets the stem. Make sure the entire leaf is intact, and that the tip of the leaf where you broke it off isn’t damaged (or the cutting may die).
Step 3: Monitor Sun and Water
Place the leaf flat on the surface of the soil, keeping the cut end from touching the soil. Put the tray in a sunny windowsill that gets at least 12 hours of sunlight per day. Allow the cut end to callus over for a few days before lightly watering the soil. Allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. Be careful not to overwater, which can cause the leaves to rot.
Step 4: Grow and Pot the Rosette
After a few weeks, you should see rootlets growing from the end of the leaf which will eventually sprout a rosette. As the rosette grows, the leaf will wither away. Once the rosettes are about an inch across, you can carefully pot them in their own containers (this can take several months). Keep them in a warm spot with bright, indirect light, and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. When you see new growth, care for them as usual.
How to Propagate Cactus Pads
While Opuntia (Prickly Pear) is a type of cactus in the Cactaceae family, it's a common plant to find growing in a bed of succulents. This species also thrives in succulent soil, so it's a great option to add a little variety to your indoor garden. If your succulent family has a few prickly members, it's also easy to propagate them into new plants: Just take care to wear nitrile-dipped gardening gloves to protect against the spines, and use tongs to pick up cuttings as you remove and replant them.
Step 1: Prepare a New Pot
Prepare an appropriately-sized pot with succulent soil. It's safe to fill the pot (rather than leaving space for planting), as the cactus pads will rest on top to start.
Step 2: Separate Cactus Pads from the Mother Plant
Wearing gloves and using tongs to protect your hands, carefully break or cut off a pad from the mother plant. Lay the pad flat on top of the soil, then water the soil well. The roots will grow from the holes near the spines on the pad over several weeks.
Step 3: Cut Back Watering
Gently lift the cactus pad with tongs to check on root growth. Once the roots look well-established, cut back on watering. The pad should begin to grow new pads the following spring.