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While many easygoing houseplants can be propagated, none are quite so simple as hands-off succulents. Many succulent species can be propagated by stem cuttings, by dividing clumps or offsets, or even by simply removing a leaf and laying it on dry soil. It's that simple.
Knowing how to propagate succulents isn’t just about keeping your plant habit budget-friendly. It also comes in handy as a way to save the healthy portion of a plant that’s having issues. Removing offsets into new plants is also a great way to free up space in a root-bound container.
With these tips, you can turn cutting back an overgrown plant into an opportunity to add new succulents to your collection.
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, agave, Haworthias, mother-of-thousands, and Sempervivum (also called 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 haworthias 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 several smaller containers with several rosettes. Alternatively, offsets may be removed and replanted one at a time as they grow.
Step 1: For each of the offsets you plan to remove, fill an appropriately-sized container with succulent soil or another well-draining soil mix.
Step 2: Stick your fingers into the soil between the offset and the mother plant, feeling for the point where the roots meet.
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: Holding the offset by its base, give it a gentle tug away from the mother plant—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.
Step 4: 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.
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.
How to Propagate Succulents from Stem Cuttings
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 plant like an aeonium is a great way to propagate. This method can also be used for burro’s tail or string of pearls.
Step 1: Using a clean, sharp blade, cut the stem you’d like to propagate from the base of the mother plant. Remove any leaves from the lower third of the stem.
Step 2: Lay the cutting on a plate or paper towel for a few days to allow the cut end to callus over. This prevents rot when you plant and water the cutting.
Step 3: When the cut end has dried out, plant the stem in a small container with succulent soil or another very well-draining potting mix. It may take several months for the plant to fully root.
Step 4: Put 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 tray (a plastic takeout container or its lid works great for this) with a layer of succulent soil.
Step 2: 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 leaf is intact and the tip of the leaf where you broke it off isn’t damaged, or the cutting will die.
Step 3: 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.
Step 4: After a few days, lightly water the soil. Allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. Be careful not to overwater, which will cause the leaves to rot.
Step 5: After a few weeks, you should see rootlets growing from the end of the leaf. After a few more weeks, you should see a tiny rosette growing there as well. As the rosette grows, the leaf will shrivel and die.
Step 6: When 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
Take care to wear nitrile-dipped gardening gloves to protect against spines, and use tongs to pick up the cutting as you remove and replant it.
Step 1: Prepare an appropriately-sized pot with succulent soil.
Step 2: Wearing gloves and using tongs to protect your hands, carefully break or cut off a pad from the mother plant.
Step 3: 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 a few to several weeks.
Step 4: Gently lift the cactus pad with tongs to check on root growth. When the roots look well-established, cut back on watering. The pad should begin to grow new pads the following spring.