top of page

PROPAGATION: Your Ultimate Guide To Propagating Succulents

Updated: Jul 10, 2023


Have you ever wondered how to get more plants from the same plant? Do you want to know how to propagate succulents like a pro? Well if so then we are here to help teach you everything you think might need to know about propagating succulents and more!


This ultimate succulent propagation guide contains all our propagation tips and tricks; where we specifically discuss propagation through stem cuttings, offset removal, and leaf cuttings.


If you have some fundamental questions about propagating succulents please check out our FAQ sheet.

Stages of Echeveria 'Silver Queen' succulent leaf propagation


Wait.. What is Propagation?


The basic meaning of the word propagation is "to multiply in number." Any method of growing new plants, including cuttings, tissue culture, seed, and plant division, is referred to by this term in horticulture.


Why Propagate Succulents?


Well for starters, not all plants produce viable seeds or grow true from seed, thus the only option to replicate those specific plants is by cloning (through cutting or division). Sometimes it's necessary to prop to restore a plant's growth pattern after it etiolated due to poor lighting. Sometimes it's necessary to prop to preserve the size or shape of a plant. Sometimes we just want more plants haha, plus propagating and watching a pup grow can be gratifying!!

Our Tip: Cuttings are less expensive than buying a plant with roots since they are shipped without soil or containers and have not yet been rooted. If you want to undertake a fun hobby try cuttings the next time you go to buy new succulents.



Jump To A Section

Plants Should Be Healthy

Plants Should be Well-Hydrated

Plants Should Be An Appropriate Size For Propagation

Plant Should Not be Dormant

Offsets

 

Before You Start | A Quick Guideline


**Propagation Disclaimer** Not all plants can be propagated by the same means. Propagation can be a gamble where you lose and you win some, sometimes not every leaf will prop like the others. Don't give up!

  • If you are ever unsure about how to propagate a specific succulent, please ask the group or a local expert.

Please, do not intentionally propagate to resell any "propagation prohibited" succulents. It is extremely unethical and illegal.

 

How to Propagate Leaves, Offsets & Stem Cuttings: What're the Differences?


In the world of succulents when we say “cuttings" we are usually referring to an unrooted section of plants, typically including a leaf or stem.

assorted leaf cuttings

Leaf Cuttings:

One leaf from the plant is all that makes up a leaf cutting. Although the term "leaf cutting" implies that you just cut the leaf in half and root it, in most cases you'll need the node (the portion attached to the stem) and want the entire leaf fully intact.

  • Note: Some succulents, such as Sansevieria and certain Kalanchoe, can be propagated by leaf sections, with no node required.


Sempervivum Caucasicum & it's offsets
Offsets:

When parent plants produce offsets, they form completely new, independent plants around themselves. Offsets typically appear at or near soil level, but they can also happen further above. A few plants that reproduce through offsets include Sempervivum, Aloe, Haworthia, and many varieties of Echeverias.

  • Note: Offsets are not the same thing as a branch or side shoot that comes from the same stem. Not every bit of new growth that emerges from a plant is an offset or “baby,” if you aren’t sure whether or not something is an offset, a quick google image search will show you what your plant’s mature growth habit will look like and you can make the determination whether to cut it off or let it grow.








Stem Cuttings:
Echeveria 'Topsy Turvy' crested cuttings

A stem cutting is exactly what it sounds like: a cut-off portion of the stem. Even though not all cuttings require leaves, they must have at least a few nodes. Stem cuttings can be taken from a plant's middle, top, or base. Not all of them will be the same. Some will look to be mature, stunning plants right away, while others will need some work.



white circles showing succulent nodes
Succulent nodes circled in white

Node: A part of a plant stem where leaf growth emerges. Usually identifiable by placement (at the base of a leaf or where a shoot emerges from a stem) or by appearance (differently textured or protruding areas of a stem). Nodes contain undifferentiated cells that can be adapted into root, stem, leaf, or bud; the plant will produce whatever growth will be most advantageous. The same node can produce multiple types of growth at once. Some plants have undifferentiated cells in more than just their nodes, but unless you know otherwise it's a safer bet to take a cutting with a node.
 

Knowing When is Best To Harvest Offsets, Cuttings, and Leaves


Step 1| Evaluate and prepare.

Unless this is an emergency procedure to save your plant (i.e. it’s rotting) follow through on this step to determine if now is the best time to propagate.


  • Plants should be healthy.| Spreading diseases/fungi that can infect your other plants is the last thing you should do because propagations are more susceptible to illnesses and are less likely to survive being reproduced. If a plant is not healthy, it is not a good candidate for propagation.

Note: If your plant has significant etiolation, its growth may be flimsy and thin. Plants with etiolation are weak, prone to infection and overwatering, and susceptible to sunburn. Before you concentrate on reproducing your plant, its health needs to be improved.


  • Plants should be well-hydrated.| Cuttings and offsets start from scratch to develop roots after being removed. Even offsets with roots will need additional support to survive the transplant procedure. Plants will use the water stored in their leaves and stems as the primary resource they will need throughout this period. Therefore, thirsty plants are starting at a disadvantage. Be sure to start with a plump succulent to prevent plants from growing too slowly or completely drying out.

Our Tip: Water your plants deeply 2-3 days before harvesting. If this isn’t enough to rehydrate your plant this isn’t the right time to propagate. Work on correcting the dehydration before continuing.


  • Plants should be an appropriate size for propagation.| There are numerous reasons why this is crucial.

    1. The first is that pruning harms plants. Although it may sound dramatic, plants need time to heal after being cut. Every leaf and stem has the potential to store water, capture sunlight, and generate energy, so while regular pruning is acceptable, we should not permanently remove every new growth because it’s what’s feeding the plant.

    2. Additionally, you want your cuts to be a respectable size because the rate of growth is inversely correlated with cutting size. Small plants grow from tiny leaves. Even if they have roots, little offsets take a very long time to grow.

    3. Small plants also demand more care and attention. It might be quicker and more time effective to wait until the parent plant is large enough to take it apart for propagation.

Our Tip: Need to fill a pot? Consider harvesting stems and offsets that are size capable of filling out the pot you wish to root them in.

  • Plants should not be dormant.\ Succulents cycle through growth spurts, blooming periods, and states of rest. If you take cuttings from dormant plants, what you have now are dormant cuttings, and depending on the species and environmental conditions propagation could take a while. They’ll be unable to take in water until rooted and could therefore dry out prematurely.

Our Tip: When gardening outdoors it’s pretty easy to tell when our plants are growing. Plants are most active when temperatures are mild and rain is plentiful. For most of us, this is spring and fall. Grown indoors with stable temperatures and consistent watering many plants may not experience a true or reliable dormancy pattern, but they will still take rests periodically. Wait until you see your plant greening up or pushing out new leaves, buds, or bloom stalks to harvest.



Remember, sections of sick, thirsty, juvenile, or dormant plants should not be removed.


These factors are not always within our control, as when we purchase cuttings online. If you need propagation assistance with any purchased cuttings, check out our FAQs or "How to Root".
 

Harvesting Cuttings, Offsets, and Leaves

Step 2| Removals

Once you’ve determined it's a good time to propagate, it’s time to start plucking leaves and chopping stems! Always start with clean hands and tools. Wash your hands well and disinfect tools with isopropyl.


Here is how to remove by:

Leaf cuttings:

Typically, you want to gather leaves that still have all of their nodes.

  1. Start with the bottom leaves and a little side-to-side wriggling. Some leaves may immediately pop off when applying pressure, while others require a slightly harder twist.

  2. Long leaves can break in half if held at the outer tip, so grasp and apply pressure as close to the stem end as you can. Simply throw them away and try again if any break.

Note: For Gasteria and Haworthiopsis the leaves are connected to the stem by more of a sheath than a distinct node. To collect these you can simply peel the leaves off the stem.

Our Tip: Usually the wider the node the more stubborn it is. It’s easier to remove leaves when plants are hydrated because hydrated leaves are more rigid.



Stem cuttings:

A plant can be divided into as many portions as you'd like. Just decide where to cut, then start snipping!

  • For plants with wide internodes (the space between the nodes) or sections of the naked stem, using pruning snips or a knife, make sure they are sharp and clean, and cut just above a leaf or node, leaving yourself a little stem on your cutting (with or without leaves).

  • For cutting between tightly clustered leaves tools like dental floss or cutting wire are very useful. Just wrap around the stem and pull away opposite from each end, and viola!

Our Tip: You may choose to remove some of the lowermost leaves on each stem cutting to expose more of the bare stem to bury once potted. This is not necessary, but if you choose to do so don’t forget to factor it into your planning before you cut. ( save the leaves to prop!)

Pro Tip: Although you don't need leaves on your stem cuttings, remember that they are a rich source of materials and energy. Stems can store some water and may be able to perform some photosynthesis too, but stems with no roots and no leaves are at higher risk for failure. For better results take cuttings with at least a few leaves attached.




Offsets:

Offsets are connected to the mother plant by stem, roots, or stolon. Sometimes we can see the connection and all we have to do is severe it, such as with many Sempervivum. Other times the plants are tightly clustered or we can’t see where to two join because it is obscured by soil.

  • For offsets attached to the stem or below soil level, start by gently pulling or wiggling it side to side. You may hear a pop as it disconnects from the parent plant.

  • If moving them side to side doesn't help, expose the connection and use a small, sharp tool to reach these tight spots and cut away without harming the mother.

Our Tip: Sometimes it is helpful to uproot the whole plant and get a better look. If the plant is potted this should be easy, pop the root ball up from the bottom and remove a bit of soil from around the offset until you can see where it connects.

Pro Tip: Offsets don't have to always be eliminated/removed. It is completely OK to keep the offsets in place to develop, spread, and colonize until they need to be thinned because there is now a limited amount of space for growth. This is especially in the case of monocarpic plants (which bloom once and die), removing every offset can leave you with nothing once that parent plant has finished blooming.

Stolon: a horizontal root, growing just above or below the soil line. Plants use stolons for self-propagation and spreading.

Once you take a cutting or a leaf from the parent plant, you have produced a clone. Wahoo! How exciting! The goal at this point is to root it and let it develop into a new plant that is just as large and majestic as the plant from which it was taken.


Let's start by learning how to heal and root our fresh cuttings and leaves!


 

Healing The Wound

Step 3| Callousing

Open wounds are caused by pruning and offset removals. There are two wounds for each cut or separation: one on the area you harvested and an identical one on the parent plant. The plants are vulnerable to diseases until these wounds have healed, which won't take long. If you'd like, you can immediately place everything in soil and water, although doing so increases the risk of infection and rot. To limit this risk, keep plants dry until healed. Callousing can take just a day or two or up to weeks or months for larger cuts (like a cactus).

  • Leave the plants sitting out in a warm, dry place, out of the direct sun, until healed.

  • You can also pot your new plants immediately into dry soil and hold off watering. With this method, it's important to note that because buried cuts are exposed to less airflow they can take 2-3x longer to callous.

Our Tip: If its wounds are covered by soil, wait a week or two before watering again. Once calloused, there is no reason not to water as needed, water when the soil is dry until the plant is firmly rooted and showing signs of taking up water.


Dusting open wounds with Sulfer to help prevent any fungal infections

 

How To Root


Step 4| Rooting props

Most might start to stress at this point, but don't worry— there's nothing to be concerned about. Rooting is quite easy!


When a plant has few or no roots, it must expend energy to create them, which requires water. Due to their abundance of water, succulents are simple to reproduce. Your succulents will get the water they require during this phase from their leaves and stems, which makes them vulnerable to drying out, especially when exposed to a lot of heat or sun. Once more, a smaller plant is much more delicate. We want to protect cuttings and fresh transplants because of this reason.

Our Tip: Succulents can be rooted using various techniques, some of which are better suited to particular species and others of which are way more complicated. Keep it simple! The plant will finish this process faster the fewer transitions it experiences. Most of the time, other processes, resources, or babying are not required because succulents are drought-hardy plants.


Let's go over a couple of straightforward methods.


Soil propagation:

This is the most straightforward method and it is all you need to do in most situations.

  1. Plant or pot by laying your leaves or cuttings on a bed of soil and/or poking the stem ends into the soil and begin watering as soon as your plants are fully calloused.

  2. You’re going to want to water whenever the soil is dry to encourage rooting. When you water, water deeply, and wet all of the soil.

    1. It is normal for new transplants and cuttings to thin, wrinkle, and even reabsorb leaves. How much depends on the species, plant size, and climate factors. Keep watering when the soil dries. As you will water, the plant will begin to plump up again indicating it has established some roots.

  3. Once completely plump again transition to watering based on the plant’s cues (check out our blog on watering for more info).

Our Tip: Not all stem cuttings will have long stems capable of being poked into the soil, and that’s ok. The plant will be more wobbly, but just lay its stem-end down on the soil and the plant will do the rest.

Pro Tip: Soil propping is the simplest way to prop, there are no extra steps before planting, and roots will grow right into the soil.



Air propagation:

A fun but also a simple way to prop. Warm temperatures, average humidity, and bright indirect light are all you need for this to work, and it can be effortless. We are advocates for keeping things simple, so air rooting vs soil propping may seem like an extra and unnecessary step, but being able to watch roots & pups grow is exciting!

  • To root stem cuttings, lay your cuttings on a shelf, in a box, or dangle/place them over an empty pot, when fresh roots begin to shoot out it is time to pot in soil and start watering.

  • This might be your preferred strategy if you have a lot of leaves. Propping leaf cuttings this way, they are very likely to dry out quickly to keep the new pup, and may not even sprout roots until they are planted. That's okay because it means that plants still need to be moved to soil and rooted after this stage when they sprout pups or some roots.

Note: This method for leaf propagation is not ideal in all climates or for all species, and there may be additional loss following transplantation. Don't worry if air propping doesn't work for you, instead, try propagating in soil.


Our Tip: Air prop in clear plastic containers or jars, even in tiny boxes, and watch them grow! To save space, many of our members are also threading leaves on wire and hanging them up somewhere where they can collect the light.

Pro Tip: If you harvested your cuttings, you have a good knowledge of their current condition, and may feel perfectly comfortable potting and watering straight away. But if you purchased them you may have no idea where they are in their growth cycle. Instead, you may choose to (but do not need to) wait until they’re actively growing to pot. In this case, active growth will be indicated by the appearance of fresh roots.

(air props)


 

Hover method:

The hover method is kind of like air propagation, but with one difference: the plants are suspended in air over water. You may have seen it with leaves stuck into holes cut into a plastic bottle or stem cuttings hanging over a cup of water.

  • The concept here is very basic: humidity promotes rooting. This isn’t something you need to do for every plant, but if you are growing plants in a dry environment hovering over water may occasionally be just what you need to cue a stubborn plant that it’s time for roots.

Hover Method Disclaimer: While humidity promotes rooting, it also promotes mold growth. This method is not appropriate for environments with average to high humidity or where fungal spores are prevalent. Before beginning, sterilize containers used for hover propagation with hot, soapy water, allow for ventilation inside the container, and change the water periodically. Water levels should remain low enough that the plants and roots never touch the water, and once roots have formed it is time to transition to the soil. Discontinue this method immediately if any spore growth is seen.

succulents hovering over water in a glass dish
The hover method


Water propagation:

Propping cuttings or offsets by directly placing them in water.


This method is popular, however, it is not recommended in most cases for 3 reasons.

  1. Most succulents are extremely drought tolerant, so it’s just not necessary.

  2. Roots grown in water are structurally different from those grown in soil or air. Plants make efficient use of their resources; there is no reason for a plant to waste energy producing tough, branched roots capable of seeking moisture through the thick substrate when the roots are growing submerged in water.

  3. Once transitioned to soil water roots need to undergo a physiological change, which requires additional time and energy. It helps to keep the soil extra moist throughout this transition, but with succulents, that’s not always possible as they will rot. Therefore the roots you just spent time producing may very well die off by the time they transition. This is why we recommend soil propping.

Our Tip: Although water propping may seem fast because initial rooting often happens more quickly in water, the overall process can take even longer than if they’d just been started in soil from the beginning. It is therefore best to evaluate the effectiveness of any propagation method based on how long it takes plants to establish and begin growing well, rather than on when you first see roots.



 

How & When To Pot Props


Step 5| Potting

By now your plants may already have their roots, time for them to be transplanted into soil if they were not propagated in any soil to begin with.

  • With roots now in the soil, we can start to water more deeply.

  • Recent transplants and extra small propagations need lots of TLC, watch them as they may begin to dry out quickly. (hotter climates will need daily waterings)

  • Shade, water, and cool temperatures are all appreciated.

  • Continue to watch them and evaluate their needs as time goes on and if transitioning outside or to direct sun remember to harden them off slowly so they do not sunburn.

When transferring your succulent props into their own individual pots, we suggest doing so when they are larger than the size of a quarter to optimize survival.

 

FAQs & Troubleshooting |


Reasons why a leaf did not prop could be simple things like

  • Damaged leaf

  • Damaged node

  • The leaf was not properly removed

  • Incorrect watering

  • Or temperatures & lighting were not in the right conditions needed

For detailed questions & answers, click here for our FAQs sheet.



If you do not find the answer to your question in this guide, please do not hesitate to message us and ask!

Happy Propping Everyone!

Succulents and propagation, succulents & propagation, How to propagate succulents, how to propagate succulents like a pro, Tips and Tricks for Successful Succulent Propagation, Frequently Asked Questions about Propagating Succulents Answered, Methods of Propagating Succulents: Step-by-Step Instructions, Understanding the Basics of Succulent Propagation, propagating succulents, succulent propagation, how to propagate succulents, succulent cuttings, leaf propagation, leaf propagation, stem cutting propagation, offset division, seed propagation, succulent stem cutting propagation, selecting healthy stems for cuttings, rooting hormone application, succulent offset division method, identifying offsets for separation and replanting, succulent care during propagation, watering and light requirements for propagated succulents, common problems in succulent propagation, troubleshooting tips for failed propagations



5,769 views3 comments

Recent Posts

See All

3 Yorum


Great reading, I just get impatient waiting and watching . But fun

Beğen

So much info! And I read every bit of it! And I actually learned a few new things,thank you so much for this guide.just great great great stuff!! Happy propagation

Beğen

Excellent guide!

Beğen
bottom of page