Introduction: How to Propagate & Grow Succulents From Leaves
In this instructable, I'm going to show you how to propagate and grow new succulents from succulent leaves. The propagation process is a slow one, but it's so rewarding!
Propagation is the process of multiplying your plants by taking cuttings or leaves from the plants and growing those. It's an inexpensive way to increase the size of your garden - all you need are established adult plants, some soil, and a small container!
Keep reading to learn the basics of using succulent leaves to grow new plants. And make sure to ask a question if there is anything I don't cover! :D
Step 1: Tools for Succulent Propagation
You don't need much, thankfully!
- Small tray (I prefer metal baking tins like these as they come with covers. You can also use a terra cotta saucer.)
- Succulent/Cactus soil
- Spray bottle (Make sure it's a fine spray)
- Succulents (healthy adult succulents are best - immature leaves may propagate very slowly or not at all)
Step 2: Remove the Succulent Leaves From a Mature Plant
It's important to note that leaf propagation does not work with ALL succulents. Mature, bulbous leaves do best like the ones shown here.
If you're unsure about whether or not you can propagate via leaves or cuttings, I would try to identify the plant you're working with. Wouldn't want to have your efforts be for nothing!
The remove leaves the easiest way, simply pinch the leaf between your fingers and rotate it back and forth next to the stem. The leaf should detach quickly without damage.
The most important part about removing the leaves is to make sure the stem end of the leaf is completely intact. If this part is damaged, the leaf will not be able to callous over properly, allowing water in that will rot the leaf. If the leaf is damaged slightly at the opposite end, that's okay!
Step 3: Succulent Leaves to Avoid Propagating
There are a few cases in which you should not propagate the leaves, but instead get rid of them. You can see my piles in the photo above!
- Succulent leaves that are wrinkled or severely damaged - these will rot.
- Small, immature succulent leaves. They can occasionally grow pups, but will most often hang out and die slowly.
- Leaves with damage on the stem end. Remember that these leaves aren't able to callous properly so they'll let water in and rot.
- Leaves with pest or insect damage.
Step 4: How to Callous Succulent Leaves
Now the most important part: allowing the stem end of the leaves to callous over for a few days.
The callous that forms will keep water out as well as provide a growing surface for the baby succulent that will form!
I allow my leaves to callous for 3-4 days. If you live in a humid area, you may want to let them callous for as long as a week. I typically leave mine on a paper towel on a counter.
Step 5: Prepare Your Propagation Container
Grab your baking tray and add a thin layer of succulent or cactus soil around two inches deep.
Use your sprayer to make the soil evenly moist. "Evenly moist" essentially means that no dry spots can be seen and the tray is slightly heavier.
You don't want to soak the soil, as that will take a long time to dry out and you could rot the leaves.
(As you can see, I had mixed cactus seedlings in my propagation container, but after some experimentation I cannot recommend using the same container for both! They need different moisture levels and I ended up killing the cacti seedlings by accident. WHOOPS)
Step 6: Lay the Succulent Leaves Out on the Soil
Once your leaves are calloused and your soil is ready, it's time to lay the leaves out!
Spread them out evenly, top side of the leaf facing up. Place the tray in a warm area with bright, indirect sunlight.
Step 7: Wait for the Succulent Leaves to Produce Pups and Roots
And now the hardest part: the waiting! You'll want to check on the tray every day and mist it if the soil looks dry. (Remember to not soak the soil - drier is better than wetter!)
This particular round of leaf propagation started on February 20, 2018 - the after photos were taken on April 30, 2018. We're looking at 10 weeks of growth here!
Tips for Leaf Propagation:
- Expect 4-6 weeks of waiting for most varieties of succulents to start producing pups or roots.
- Don't move the leaves around: they may be producing tiny roots you can not see! Moving the leaves can sever these roots and cause growing to take much longer.
- A warmer area will create faster growth. For example, starting these indoors in winter will yield slow results like the 10 weeks I've been growing these. If you live in a warmer area and can start these outside, the growth time will be quicker.
- It's common for the succulent leaves to begin to shrivel and die as the pup grows.
- If your leaves are only producing roots and no pups, chances are that the leaves are not getting enough sunlight.
- If you live in a dry and/or cold climate, try covering the tray at night to keep the temperature up and humidity in.
Step 8: When to Transplant Your Succulent Pups
A good sign a pup is ready for transplant is when the leaf it grew from is starting to shrivel up and rot away. The mother leaf supplies the pup with everything it needs, so make sure to let it fall away on its own!
Carefully remove the pup from the starting tray and plant it in succulent soil. Gradually introduce pups to stronger and stronger sun - placing these guys right into intense direct sun can cause sunburn and hurt them. Many pups start out spindly and thin but they'll fill out as they grow in their new container. :)
Enjoy your new succulents! :D
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How about Aloe Vera?
Will this work on hens + chicks? Thanks
what about donkeys tail, do you use the leaves or stem ?
Great tutorial!!! I need to try this :) I'm not much of a gardener, so the bit at the end about transplanting them, you say "Carefully remove the pup from the starting tray and plant it in succulent soil..." but does this mean you remove it from the succulent leaf too? Or do you bury the leaf? Or just move it all as is and let it figure it's self out?
If the leaf comes off easily, I'll pull it off the pup and then plant the pup on its own! But if its stubborn, you can move the whole thing and the leaf will eventually rot away. :)
You suggested identifying which species we are working with, but how can we find out which ones work with this technique? Just knowing the name of my plant won't provide that information. For example, will a Christmas cactus work?
I normally do a fast google search of the plant name + "propagation" - you can find out how people typically root them that way! Christmas cactus is a plant that propagates by taking cuttings (3-5 inches long) and letting those callous over before planting them in soil. :)
I have another instructable about that technique here: