How to Propagate Succulents From Leaves or Stems

Grow your plant collection without buying any new plants.

Photo: Olivia Barr

Succulents aren't just a unique design statement—they're also a great choice for beginner plant parents or folks with busy schedules. While these desert plants thrive in lots of sunlight, their thick and fleshy leaves retain water, so they can withstand infrequent watering. Can't get enough of these hearty beauties? If you want to multiply your succulent collection on the cheap, try reproducing your own through propagation, or growing a new plant through the leaf or stem of an existing "mother" succulent.

You can propagate succulents any time, but to increase your odds of success, consider trying it in the spring or summer months, when light—your plant's most important resource for growth—is most abundant. "With most plant-related maintenance, the best time to propagate would be during the 'grow season,'" Stephanie F.R. Horton, an Alabama-based interior plantscape designer and owner of Botanical Black Girl. "However, if the conditions in your region allow, you can propagate successfully year-round."

What Is Propagation?

Simply put, propagation is a method to reproduce plants. Most houseplants have the ability to form new growth through their stems or leaves, so you can grow an entirely new plant from an existing one. There are a few propagation methods, and which one you use depends on the type of plant you're working with.

Succulents, one of the easiest plants to propagate, can reproduce through either stem or cutting propagation. Follow the steps below to learn how to propagate succulents from leaves or stems.

How to Propagate Succulent Leaves

Many succulents multiply in nature by dropping leaves, which form new plantlets called pups. "The part of the pup that was originally attached to the main stem will callous over and then start to pop roots out, which find their way into the ground and bud," says Lily Cox, co-owner of Rewild, a plant store in Washington, D.C.

You can mimic this type of propagation at home if you have succulents with fleshy leaves, such as jade plants, echeveria, and sempervivum rosettes. While it'll take a few weeks to see the results, propagating a succulent through leaf cutting is a relatively easy process.

  1. Choose a plant. First, choose a mother plant you'd like to take a cutting from. According to Horton, a cutting is more likely to thrive if it's well hydrated and healthy.
  2. Pull a leaf. To propagate from a succulent leaf, gently twist and pull the leaf closest to the stem. "You're looking for firm, healthy leaves to use," Horton says. "If your leaves are severely shriveled, yellowed, black, or brown, this may be a sign of overwatering, which is generally not the best starting point for successful propagation."
  3. Allow the leaf to callous. Once you cut the leaf, you may notice the cut end is fairly wet—that's because succulents hold water in their stems and leaves to accommodate drought. Horton suggests allowing the cut ends to heal or "callous" over for a minimum of two to five days, which can help avoid root rot, before watering.
  4. Add rooting hormone. Rooting hormone, often sold as a powder, can expedite the process, but it's not necessary. Cox suggests dipping the tip of the pup in powder after it calluses and before you set it on soil.
  5. Add to soil. After the leaf cutting calluses, set it on top of dampened cactus or succulent soil. While mature succulents need more sun, too much sunlight can burn leaves and growing pups, so indirect light is best. "You should begin to start seeing roots or baby succulents forming from the cutting after about two weeks, give or take," Horton says.
  6. Pot the plantlet. When your baby succulent's roots begin to strengthen after a few weeks, the leaf will fall off on its own. Replant the pup into a well-draining container with succulent soil or well-draining potting soil.

How to Propagate Succulent Stems

If you have a variety of succulent with several stems or branches—for example, sedum, jade, haworthia, or aeoniums—you can try propagating from a stem, which is called propagating by cutting. These succulents tend to get leggy, says Cox, which happens when the stem grows longer with fewer leaves in an effort to get more sunlight. "Cutting a stem off can prune the existing plant and grow a new one," she says. "The piece with the roots will keep growing florets from where it was cut, and the piece you cut off the top will grow roots."

  1. Choose a plant. First, pick a mother plant to cut. Again, aim for a healthy-looking plant, and skip stems with leaves that look shriveled or soggy.
  2. Cut the stem. Use a pair of clean scissors or shears to cut a stem of your choosing—ideally, one that's growing several healthy leaves.
  3. Allow it to callus. Let the stem cutting callous for a few days to increase the odds of success.
  4. Remove a few leaves. After it callouses, Cox suggests removing the bottom 2 inches of leaves on the stem so you can more easily stick the clean part into soil.
  5. Stick the stem in soil. Put the calloused end of your stem cutting into a small container filled with succulent soil. As with leaf cuttings, aim for bright but indirect sunlight. Avoid over-watering, which can damage a succulent's fragile roots.
  6. Repot the succulent. Eventually, the stem cutting will begin to sprout roots. Once you see a few inches of root growth, you can plant it in a larger pot with succulent soil or generic potting soil mixed with sand.

Can You Propagate Succulents in Water?

Many houseplants, including pothos, philodendron, and monstera, can be propagated in water and transferred to soil after a few inches of root growth. But water propagation may not be the best choice for succulents, as Cox says dryness actually initiates the growth process for these plants.

If you want to use water propagation, avoid propagating leaves, which may rot if too moist. "You can find more success in water propagation with full stem cuttings that are larger and don't need much assistance being propped up," says Horton. A leaf cutting is likely to fall out of place and become submerged. For the most success propagating succulents, leave water propagation to the pothos and follow the steps above instead.

Succulent Care FAQs

What are the easiest succulents to propagate?

There are several succulents that are simple to propagate—including many sedum varieties (which can be propagated by stem or by leaves), aeonium (which uses stem propagation), echeveria (propagated by leaves), or graptoveria Fred Ives (by leaves or stems).

"Succulents with stems, like crassulas—jade and related plants—are the easiest," says Debra Lee Baldwin, horticulturist and author of Designing With Succulents. "Simply cut the stem so the top leaves or rosette stand upright in the soil. A cutting's stem needn’t be long, just enough to anchor it."

"Succulents that form offsets—small plants attached to the mother ship—also are easy," Baldwin says. "Wait until the baby plants are large enough to support themselves. One way to tell is that they've started to grow roots—sometimes into thin air!"

Which succulents are difficult to propagate?

Succulents that grow from seeds are the hardest to propagate, Baldwin says. This includes haworthias and “mimicry plants” that resemble pebbles, like lithops.

Do succulents like shallow or deep pots?

Succulents are one of the plants that work better in shallow pots. "The ideal garden pot for succulents is wider than it is deep," Baldwin says. "Succulents are shallow-rooted, and a soil-filled container that’s too deep may hold too much moisture, which risks rotting the roots."

How long does it take succulent cuttings to root?

Depending on the succulent type, the time for succulent cuttings to take root varies—but you'll find that most succulent varieties root within two to three weeks.

Where do you cut succulents to propagate?

"New growth forms from meristematic tissue," Baldwin says. "On a stem, look for bands where leaves once were attached: those rings will form roots. On a leaf, growth tissue is at the stem end. With leaf propagation, new little leaves grow upward at the same time roots grow downward. As the new plant gets established, it drains moisture and nutrients from the parent leaf, which slowly withers."

What do I do if my succulent cuttings are not rooting?

There could be a number of factors that could keep succulent cuttings from rooting. Succulent cuttings need less light than the bright sunlight succulents require, and also less water. "Don’t over-nurture!" Baldwin says. "If a succulent's leaves pop off easily, like graptopetalums and sedums, those leaves want to root where they land. So try to replicate that environment: Set them out of direct sun, atop soil that’s barely moist."

For stem cutting propagation, you need the same sort of environment. "Until they grow roots, stem cuttings are unable to take up water. Soil should be easy for roots to penetrate. Spritz occasionally to keep barely moist. If sun’s a concern, drape with a lightweight towel or shade cloth for about a week or until new plants root."

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