Introduction: Plant Propagation - Succulents

In this activity, students will learn how to properly propagate succulents of their own from leaf cuttings. Plant propagation is the act of breeding specimens of a plant by natural processes using the parent stock. There are many forms of propagation including water and layering, but for this activity we will be focusing on propagation using cuttings and soil. Before beginning this project, students should have a basic understanding of propagation and horticulture in general in order for them to make sense of what is happening to their plants and how it is happening.

This project addresses standard 15 which states that students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use agricultural and related biotechnologies. Specifically, benchmark N where the engineering design and management of agricultural systems require knowledge of artificial ecosystems and the effects of technological development on flora and fauna.

Learning Objectives: Students will discuss the importance of plant propagation. Students will describe the factors involved in soil propagation vs water propagation. Students will discuss and propagate leaf cuttings. Students will explain the importance of indirect vs direct sunlight and when to use them in the process. The target audience for this project is 11th or 12th grade.

Before beginning this project, teachers must have background knowledge on horticulture and plant propagation. It is suggested that students have a basic understanding of this process as well but it is not necessary seeing as this project will teach them with their own products. The teacher can choose to purchase plants for the class or have students bring in their own. This will also take up to 60 days to show growth so time management and some scheduling need to be present before taking on this project.


You will need the following supplies:

Succulents of your choice about $5 each x 3 = $15

(or you may choose to have your students bring in their own plants of their choice)

Potting soil - cocoa peat or cactus mix work best! about $5

Shallow tray about $3

Spray bottle about $1


Total cost is about $24

Step 1: Leaf Cuttings

First, take the leaf cuttings from the succulents and place them in your shallow tray for later. It is best to take the leaves from the base of the plants because the ones on top are smaller, younger and still need time to grow. To prevent breakage, grab the leaves at the base and twist them gently. The amount of cuttings you need is completely up to you, I took plenty in order to fill my tray for the sake of the photos for this project but feel free to take as little or as many as you would like.

Step 2: Place in Sunlight

Next, place the leaf cuttings in direct sunlight for two to three days in order for them to dry out. If you place them in the soil immediately without allowing them to dry they will be too moist and rot and die. Learn from my mistakes and be sure to keep these out of reach of small children and animals - I have two cats at home and had the pleasure of cleaning these up twice daily during the drying process.

Step 3: Fill the Tray

After two to three days of drying, fill your shallow tray with potting soil. Cocoa peat or cactus mix work best for succulents. I, unfortunately, could not find any at my local store so I am using indoor potting soil. Spread an even layer of soil across the tray and be sure to fill it almost to the brim, but be sure not to let it overflow.

Step 4: Placing the Leaves

Now lay the dried leaf cuttings on the bed of soil and gently push the bottom parts of the leaves into the mixture. This will allow them to root and propagate new plants. Leave the top parts of the leaves exposed in order for them to have access to sunlight and water daily.

Step 5: Place in Indirect Sunlight

Finally, place the tray of soil and leaves in indirect sunlight until the new plants start to grow. MAKE SURE IT IS INDIRECT SUNLIGHT AND NOT DIRECT. If the tray is placed in direct sunlight, the leaves will get too hot and burn. Succulents are very sensitive!!

Step 6: Spray With Water

Make sure to use a spray bottle to mist the soil and leaves every day. If you over water your cuttings they will rot and die and if you under water them they will obviously dry out and die. It's all about balance!!

Step 7: Growth!

The photo on the left is a picture of the propagation of some of my succulents. This is not my photo on the right seeing as I did not have two months in order to create this instructable but after 45 to 60 days the plants should be fully propagated and you will then be able to transfer them to individual pots. Each students’ tray should look different and unique based on their leaf cuttings and the way they choose to spread them out across their pans. As a follow up project, you may want to do a re-potting activity or another assignment using these succulents your students create themselves from their parent stock.

Step 8: Whoops!

Seeing as the photos above were not my own, I obviously did not get a chance to get a photo of my plant growth before the day of the presentation. This photo, however is mine. This was taken on my way to campus this morning where I was going to take a nice, professional photo of my plant growth to add to my instructable. I was almost to the bus stop when it slipped out of my hands and ended up on the asphalt at my feet. Enjoy this very sad photo I snapped before I shed a few tears over my succulent plant babies.