Introduction: Propagating Succulent Leaf Cuttings

Picture of Propagating Succulent Leaf Cuttings

This is a popular search topic on my gardening blog so I thought I'd share it here.

I grow cacti & succulents indoors and sometimes the plants get leggy and look stretched because there isn't enough light available indoors over the winter. The way to prevent this is to give your plants the amount of light they require. But when that isn't an option you can always freshen up your plants but taking cuttings and making new plants.

If you're happy with the way your plant is growing or looking you can also use this method to propagate them and make more to grow or give away. No special chemicals or hormones are needed for most succulent plants and as you'll see sometimes you don't even need soil. No parts of the plant will go to waste.

Step 1: Choose the Succulent Plant You Want to Propagate

Picture of Choose the Succulent Plant You Want to Propagate

In this case my Echeveria ("hens 'n chicks" in some places) was etiolating because there wasn't enough light coming in the window where it was growing over the winter. Look at the image and notice how the growth that occurred over the winter is widely spaced compared to the compact growth at the top.

When a succulent plant begins to grow like this you have a couple of options. You can remove the lower leaves and plant it deeper or you can do what I did. I first removed the lower leaves and set them aside to dry for about three days in bright (but indirect) light. The reason we do this is because we have to let the cuts callous over to prevent rot. The second thing I did was cut off the top and also set it aside to dry for three days. What you're left with is just the "stump" of the original plant but even that you should keep because it will send out new leaves and plants that you can cut off and also root later.

After the three days you can simply set your leaf cuttings on a pot of soil and wait for them to root. The top portion that you removed can also be inserted into soil and rooted. The "stump" we created should be kept somewhere shady and not watered much if at all until new growth appears.

Step 2: What the Cuttings Will Look Like

Picture of What the Cuttings Will Look Like

After a couple of weeks this is what your new plants will look like. The pot on the right is the "stump" we were left with after we removed the top portion of the plant and all the lower leaves. If you look closely it is growing two new plants out of the sides of the stem.

in the pot on the right we now have an Echeveria growing nice and compact the way they do when they have the proper amount of light given to them during the growing season.

But what about the leaves I mentioned earlier?

Step 3: Even the Leaves Can Be Rooted

Picture of Even the Leaves Can Be Rooted

The two leaves in the center were actually leaves I lost on the porch when I originally removed them from the plant. They fell behind a bench and got lost and forgotten but have grown at a faster rate than the two leaves on the outer edges which were sitting on top of a pot of soil. Once your cuttings have started to form roots you can pot them up and treat them like regular plants.

As you can see you don't need any special rooting hormones or chemicals or soils to root may of the succulents you have in your home or that you can find in your nearest garden center. You don't even need a whole plant if you happen to come across a leaf of a succulent plant you like or if you ask someone for a leaf you can propagate it and grow your own plant.

On my plant blog I get asked if Aloes can be rooted like this and though I've never tried it everthing I've read indicates that they are one of the few succulent plants that can't be propagated through leaf cuttings. Jade plants cuttings can also be easily rooted. 



xavier.os113 (author)2017-05-25

I just acquired what I believe to be a Ghost plant. I'm going to try this but is there a way to clean the leaves? I'm worried that they have eggs or something on them...

suclov (author)2013-09-10

I did my cutting on my Black Prince Echeveria. However, I let it sit for more than 3 days in the garage which is dark. Can I still plant it now on a new pot and grow roots on them?

adana1 (author)suclov2017-05-19

It shouldn't make a difference. It's been 4 years since this page had activity, I wonder how it did!

JackieK1 (author)2014-09-14

does it make a difference how big the leaves are?

adana1 (author)JackieK12017-05-19


succulentgreenhorn (author)2016-09-03

I'm new to succulent growing and I'm already addicted!!? I need some advice on growing them and keeping them alive!!

reeseisrad (author)2016-07-20

When you set the leaves off in the soil do you water them?

kricked (author)2016-06-28

Awesome post about propagating! I work at a place in Orange County, California called Green Thumb Nursery! I'm going to share this with them and see if they might want to put it on for our customers to read. I know they are open to supporting other pages so I'm sure they will be interested! :)

tokorie (author)2015-09-29

Do succulent cutting need to be placed on sand and watered regularly? I read somewhere that that is the case but when I tried that, only a few cuttings(leaves) developed roots, the others just shriveled up and died. However, with cuttings simply placed on sand, without watering, I get pretty much the same results. How do I propagate my cuttings with near 100% success?

AJC10 (author)tokorie2015-12-07

Some succulents, like Aeonium, can't propogate from leaf cuttings alone. They need a piece of stem.

宇澄陆 (author)tokorie2015-11-19

Hello! I reckon it's the leaf quality that mostly affect the propagation rate. I just left the leaves on the usual soil, then roots and tiny succulents came out of all of them! I didn't pay much attention, actually, and they just grow! Just don't water them until roots come out or there'll be a high risk of rotting; don't place them under direct sunshine or the water inside them will evaporate.

ScenescapeP (author)2015-03-22

Some very beautiful succulents on your page!

I represent Scenescape, a collection of rare and exotic succulents , collected over the past 25 years from around the world. I would like to inform you about our site and FB page

It would be great to have you and your readers over. We would be happy to feature you on our page too.


Violaodorata000 (author)2011-10-29

My name is Jan and I am a succulent/plant addict. LOL. I live in Southern California, the low desert area. It seems that all the rules for certain succulents go out the window here. I have been somewhat successful with Alpine Succulents, though I have lost many in the learning process.

One thing I learned is that even tho these are "sun loving" plants, they are not "desert sun" loving plants. It may sound silly but after watering some and placing them lovingly in the sun for a few hours, they literally started burning up. A tough lesson but a good one.

Another lesson is not all Escheveria are alike. The ones that are called hybrids do not always propagate from leaf cuttings. I have a Graptoveria Opalina that looks pretty lanky. I am not sure that if I cut it off at the top, it will re-root. So I am still contemplating that. I also have an Escheveria Perle V Nurnberg with the same problem. Perle is definitely not propagating from leaf cuttings so it make me wonder. Will it survive the cut?

You don't want to put any plant in the sun right after watering them. The water heats up and burns the crap out of plants when it is hot outside.

liligoat (author)Violaodorata0002013-09-25

Hey Jan, I'm new to succulents but can definitely see an addiction coming! Its been two years so, erm, I was wondering if you figured out the propagation of your hybrids. Today I bought an Escheveria labeled just "Black." It has slightly darker tipped leaves. Not sure what its hybrid status is but it needs some care.
To anyone: Do you think it is better to cut off and re-pot the little chicks or to re-pot the whole plant? I read that the "hen" will die after a couple years but I wasn't sure how that affected the offshoots.

MYT CR8TiV (author)2013-02-20

(n_n) I rescued a broken piece of cacti from a neighbors sidewalk garden. Being their Cactus garden is by the sidewalk where there's alot of foot traffic it tends to get trampled on by people who park next to the curb where these cactus gardens are. I happen to find a baby cacti head separated from the plant and rescued it. I'm happy to see that after taking that baby cacti head and placing it in soil it's happily growing. I didn't wanna see it die on the sidewalk.

jarfon0300 (author)2011-09-22

i live in the UK. i have a sort of crassula but i have no idea what it is. it has long pointed leaves and they are dull grey-green with purple margins and the stem is purple too. anyone know what it is?
it is now autumn and i took a leaf off in the summer and it has not done anything yet. it has not rotted nor has it rooted. how long will this take.
plants in the UK slow down at this time of year and if it does not do anything soon, it will end up as part of the compost in the pot.
any tips are very welcome.

izzyboop18 (author)2010-03-02

i belive you can do the same with aloe my mom is an aloe freak literally all she ever does is snatch and throw the leaves on the ground and they grow real quick i dont know how but they grow every time she has an aloe forest practically lol so just try real hard if sh can effortless im sure you can

Damian James (author)2009-06-06

Aloes put out pups pretty readily when the growing conditions are right. I haven't tried getting cuttings to root, but have grown dozens of aloes from the pups put out by a single plant. Pups are easy to separate either when re-potting, when a knife may help untangle the roots, or with a plant that's in the ground just by feeling around it's base with your fingers. Pups that have been allowed to mature without being separated may become inextricably intertwined with the parent plant, though. You don't need to be too wary of damaging the plants in this process - my experience is that they are extremely hardy to this sort of treatment.

beckiexbomb44 (author)2009-05-21

This didn't work for me the leaf just died....any suggestions?

plantlover (author)2008-08-10

I have a slightly off topic question: I have an echeveria with tall stems that flower. When these flowers are dead, should I cut the stem or leave it to continue to grow?

MrBrownThumb (author)plantlover2008-09-13

sorry for the late reply but you can just cut them off. As you've probably discovered by now they just shrivel once the flower is done.

biochemtronics (author)2008-07-09

Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. Great information.

burnergirl (author)2008-04-21

Although I lack your systematic approach, I have tried rooting aloe leaves and to no avail! And here I thought I was doing something wrong (!)...good to know that it purportedly doesn't work and I have my experience to support that. Thanks for bringing this up!

moseph (author)burnergirl2008-06-07

they are super easy to propagate by division though, in my experience. that is, they make lots of different offshoot babies and you just split them apart.

The Saminator (author)2008-02-20

nice... Where would I buy that cool looking plant you have got there? At a nursery? And did you say this works with all cacti? thanks!!!!

WardXmodem (author)2007-11-14

Slightly off topic - I have a north-facing window, but being a bedroom -- clothes changing etc -- I prefer keeping the vertical blinds closed. It is "fairly bright", and Violets (not MY choice) "leaf" out well, but no blooms. What does well in such a shaded environment, just pleasant for company etc? DEFINITELY not succulents, they'll be a foot tall in a month ;-)

MrBrownThumb (author)WardXmodem2007-11-15

You can do a search for low light houseplants and get a good list of all the plants that would do pretty good there. But I just did an entry on my plant blog about a plant commonly called a ZZ plant. I tried everything to kill it and it survived and is known for a being a low light houseplant and is a succulent with a cool tuberous base. Others you could do use would be Snake Plant which you can propagate through cuttings.

Some others you can do would be:
Aspidistra elatior "cast iron plant"

Some of these have large foliage and can provide you with the privacy that you'd lose by keeping the blinds open.

WardXmodem (author)2007-11-14

Thank you so much! I bought 3 succulents after a trip to the Arboretum, and sure enough, I was awfully disappointed by the spindly winter growth!! You've given me the nudge to try again, and let them do what they do best - make more of themselves! The compact (short) ones sure look best. COMPLETE ASIDE, but one day, playing with a napkin, I folded all 4 corners into the middle. This formed another square, smaller. SO I folded all 4 corners into the middle. Again. And again and again. To my amazement (because I was just "playing') it UNFOLDED into a very pretty flower with smaller leaves in the middle and larger outside - reminded me of my Succulent.

MrBrownThumb (author)WardXmodem2007-11-15

You should post that as an instructable. ;0)

gridworks1 (author)2007-11-13

I started trying your instructable tonight. We have a pot that has a bunch of succulents that have grown way too long and all over the place. I'm glad you put this up and I'll let you know if it works for us... maybe pics later.

MrBrownThumb (author)gridworks12007-11-14

Hi gridworks. Good luck with your plants let me know what kind of luck you have.

LinuxH4x0r (author)2007-11-13

Good instructable. I do this all the time with my dad on both succulents, and cacti. Good luck

MrBrownThumb (author)LinuxH4x0r2007-11-13

Do you find you have a too many plants after a while? I've been giving the new plants that I started from this plant away because I can't keep them all over the winter but whenever a leaf falls I can't help but set it aside to root.

LinuxH4x0r (author)MrBrownThumb2007-11-13

yeah, we give them away like crazy (african violets are also popular). Now that I'm living in New Mexico, after our house is built, I think I'll try growing them outside (some sort of ground cover). I want have a whole outside cactus garden here. Good luck with the plants! BTW what do you suggest for this type of environment?

MrBrownThumb (author)LinuxH4x0r2007-11-14

Hi LinuxH4x0r, I'm not familiar with your zone but I'd try contacting Mesa Garden at They're a retail operations but since they're in NM maybe they can provide you with some ideas or tell you about the local cacti & succulent society where you can pick the brains of some of the experienced growers in that area. People who live in the state would have a better idea and they may even be pushing the envelope and growing C&S; that I wouldn't even consider for the outdoors. You can also search for "winter hardy cacti" and cacti that can survive in zones colder than yours should do fine in your area.

About This Instructable




Bio: Guy from Chicago interested in a wide range of things. Right now I'm really into Cacti And Succulents and plant propagation from seed and ... More »
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