How to: The art of propagating succulents

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Updated May 4, 2020

Photo of Various SucculentsSucculents have become popular in the public eye over the last decade or so, and why shouldn’t they be?

Succulents offer a plethora of attributes to admire, such as their various shapes, variety of colors and their easygoing nature. And when it comes to having these little beauties in pots, it can become addictive to collect them.

If your customers are looking to expand their succulent collection or swap around their existing plants, be sure to let them know that propagating succulents is extremely easy and even budget-friendly.

Check out a few handy tips to pass along when talking to clients about their succulent options.

Choosing a method

Experts say there are two main methods for propagating succulents: with cuttings and with offsets. Succulents, unlike seed or bulb-grown plants, can be grown by taking mature plant pieces to form new plants. This is the natural way plants spread, which makes it a lot easier to get new succulents.

When it comes to growing succulents from cuttings, it’s a good idea to be able to explain to your customers exactly what a cutting is. Cuttings are sections of plants, either a single leaf or a stem section, that have been removed from the parent plant for propagating purposes.

The type of plant will depend on whether the succulent can be propagated from a leaf or stem section. When performing a cutting, be sure to use a clean, sharp knife to cut off a few leaves that are fleshy with a bit of the stem still attached.

If harvesting leaves is the goal, it is possible to skip the knife and snap off the leaves carefully with your fingers. When using this method, be sure to still get a chunk of the stem on the leaf as well. Avoid taking too many leaves or sections of a stem from a single plant.

If your customers have rosette-forming succulents, such as echeveria, zebra plants and aloe, the preferred method of propagating would be to grow them from offsets.

To harvest an offset, again, be sure to use a clean, sharp knife to remove the offset from the parent plant. This can also be accomplished by gently removing them with your fingers. Experts say that removing plant offsets can actually improve the health of the parent plant, unlike removing sections and leaves from the stems of the plants.

Forming a callus and spreading out  

Once the process of cutting or using offsets is completed, seek out a shaded area, outdoors or indoors, to let the pieces rest. These pieces can be laid out on a tray of dry potting soil or gravel, or they can be left out on an empty windowsill or tray. To keep the pieces from rotting, be sure to avoid setting them out on damp soil.

The pieces can be left alone for about a week until they form a callus, which is, basically, a scab or hardened piece of plant tissue that can protect the cut section from disease and rot. Until they form a callus, be sure not to water the cuttings. 

Once the pieces have formed a callus, take potting mix specifically for cacti and succulents and spread the pieces out on the mix. Be sure to keep the tray in an area that’s lightly shaded either outdoors or indoors near a bright window out of direct sunlight. Arrange the pieces on top of the soil, and let them sit for a while until small roots begin to form. Water them lightly about once a week.

If propagating from leaves, tiny rosettes of small leaves will eventually form at the stem end of the leaf, and the leaf of the parent plant will begin to shrivel. When the parent leaf has withered completely, it can either be removed or just left alone.

Potting the pieces

Once the pieces have formed roots, put each piece in a small pot with drainage holes, and fill each pot with fresh potting mix specifically for cacti and succulents.

Place the pots in an area that receives indirect, bright light for at least six hours a day. Be sure to avoid direct sunlight, and water consistently, but lightly, once a week.

When it comes to long-term care, start by giving the new succulents a few weeks to settle after potting them and allowing them to become rooted properly. Keep watering them lightly and consistently for about a week.

Once the plants feel well-rooted, they can be potted in container combinations or planted outside in a garden bed. Depending on the type of succulent, sun requirements can vary from full sun to partial shade, but almost every variety will require light water. Most varieties are most content when the soil dries out between waterings.

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