Succulents will root without any human intervention/interference whatsoever. Most will sprout roots and form new plants wherever they fall, be it the patio floor under the parent plant, or the trunk of the car where some busy mom knocked off a few leaves. However, it can take weeks and weeks for Mother Nature to get Her process on. I have found that spraying the leaves with water every day will speed up the process, but alas, I am not only horribly impatient, I'm also terribly lazy... And thus, I came up with this method :
- easy to do, with stuff you already have
- works quickly, with little maintenance
- newly formed roots are easily seen
- works with most succulents leaves, hens-and-chicks, and sedums
- will probably also work on a variety of houseplants (will test it out and update later, but spider plants seems a good candidate for this method)
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
You will need:
- succulent leaves, mooched from a friend is best because it's free (or buy a plant and make 180 new ones)
- a hot-food container from the deli of your local grocery store is ideal, but you can also use aluminum trays with matching lids, or just any tray-like container and some plastic wrap
- small rocks or chunky gravel
- good, thick paper towels
- *rooting hormone; completely optional as this method works pretty well, and succulents are easy to root to start with, but since I had them on hand, why not?
Step 2: Line Your Container
Line your container with the rocks or gravel. It will help air circulation and ensure that your rooting environment won't stay too wet.
Step 3: Lay It On
Lay 2 layers of paper towels onto the gravel, and pour on a bit of water, a couple of spoons or so. Don't worry if you overdo it, because that's what the rocks are for.
Lay your succulent leaves on wet paper towel.
**Some folks recommend letting freshly picked leaves air-dry a couple of days in a cool, dry place to "callus" over, but since mine were scraped off said friend's patio where they've sat for a while, this was a moot point for me.
If you choose to use the rooting hormone, tap a small amount out to use in a disposable bowl or plate . I did that onto some construction paper in a paper bowl so that the white powder would be visible, and I can toss the whole thing away afterwards.
Dip the stem end of the leaves into the rooting powder, tap gently to remove excess, and lay it it on.
Step 4: Cover and Wait
The nifty hot-food container has built-in holes for ventilation, but you can either put some in yours, or loosely cover with plastic wrap. Keep somewhere with bright indirect light. (I've got mine on some cheap plastic shelving in my daughter's room because it gets great lighting)
The second pic is an aluminum tray with loose plastic wrap, lined with mulch instead of rocks (experimenting), and looks a bit downtrodden, but should still work!
Step 5: Wait for Sproutlings!
Check the moisture every few days, mostly in case of curious little persons who peeked in and forgot to replace your lid. Add a spoon of water if needed. Since the sproutlings are not directly using the water, I figured it was safe to use my ultra-heavy tap water. In about 2 weeks, your succulent leaves should look like this, or at least have some nice roots!
*Nice thing I've noticed: If allowed to dry out (thanks to little persons), progress will halt, but will resume when you re-wet the paper towel, rather than wilt and die off like soft cuttings like basil and coleus.
Step 6: Ta-da! Plant an Uber-mini-tabletop-garden!
Transfer to pre-moistened cacti growing medium. The roots are not anchored yet, so moving them is just a matter of placing the leaves wherever you want. Loosely cover the new plantings with plastic wrap or clear lids for a few days until the plants are established.
Step 7: Pitfalls
The drawback to this method is that because of the high moisture, imperfect leaves with any nick or scratch will rot quickly! And it does not seem to work for these two plants : sedum burrito, and the nameless Shrek-ear looking one. It's been 3+ weeks, and I have yet to see roots on any leaves from them. And one hybrid of hens-and-chicks just disintegrated overnight after being put in the box.
(Don't that let last bit scare you, I have other species of hens-and-chicks, as well as many sedums, that are rooting like crazy in that humidity!)
Step 8: So Tiny!
Hope this was clear and helpful! Happy growing!