Propagation is an exciting way to make new succulents from your existing collection; doing it properly will ensure you have many new plants.
To properly propagate a succulent from a cutting, you must first have a cutting below a node. Then you can move forward to allow it to grow roots in soil, water, or moss before planting it in its final home.
Like many plants, the easiest way to grow new succulents is through propagation. In order to understand how you can successfully propagate your succulents, I will first walk you through what propagation means and how it’s different than growing a succulent from a seed. Once we have a trap on what propagation is, we can go over how to get a proper cutting, which materials to grow your cutting in, and how to transplant your propagated succulent into its final home.
Propagation is a sequence of trials and errors, and I hope to eliminate the mistakes for you because I’ve gone through them all myself. After years of working with succulents and learning how to propagate successfully, paired with the best research out there, you can become an expert in succulent propagation by the end of this read.
What is propagation
Asexual plant propagation, which is the type that is most commonly done in home gardens, is a process of making an exact genetic match of a plant you already have. If you succulent and want two of that same type of succulent, you will use asexual plant propagation. Sexual plant propagation is the process of combining two species to make a new genetic type of plant. We will specifically be examining the kind of propagation that is completed using existing plants instead of seeds.
Asexual propagation is completed by cutting an existing healthy plant and replanting it to grow its root system. Once the propagated plant has its roots, it can be planted as any other plant would.
Sexual propagation is completed by taking a cutting of two different existing, healthy plants and propagating them together. This creates a hybrid plant that will produce the roots of both plants. Once roots have formed, they can be planted as any other succulent would.
How to cut succulents for propagation
While the pictures of propagation you may have seen appear to be random cuttings of plants stuck in dirt or soil, it is critical to cut the plant in the right area to have a successful propagation. In order to have a cutting grow, it must include a node.
A node is an area of a stem where new growth has formed. A node occurs when the main branch or stem of a succulent puts off a new secondary stem or leaf. This area of development causes a thickening of the original stem or branch. This area can be thought of as the knuckle of your plant. In order to cut a healthy cutting that will grow, it must be cut to include the node. A cutting without a node will not grow.
In order to get a proper cutting, take your succulent and find an area with healthy leaves or stems branching off, look for the “knuckle” and cut directly below. The roots will grow below the knuckle. It is critical to have a node attached to your cutting to increase the likelihood that your propagation will work.
When choosing where to cut your plant, don’t worry too much about cutting a piece of your existing succulent. Most succulents will produce new foliage or new pups when you take a cutting. New growth will quickly replace what you took.
Before you put your succulent into your propagation material, there are two things you need to do. The first is if you are doing an asexual propagation, you need to make sure your cutting is cut on an angle that will give it the most significant surface area to absorb water. If you are completing a sexual propagation, then you need to adjust how you cut your cuttings.
In order to successfully create a sexual propagation, you need to connect both of your cuttings. One way to do this is to cut a hatch into one cutting and place the other succulent cut edge into the hatch. As they grow roots, the two cuttings should grow together. This option needs to be done in soil. Another option is to use rubber bands to connect the two succulents and then use water or soil as your material. Sexual propagation is notoriously tricky and may take a few tries to get the hang of.
What material should I propagate my succulents in?
After you’ve successfully collected your cutting, it is time to decide on what material you want to propagate in. The options are plentiful, but we will cover a few basics to get you started. For succulents, there are three main options; water, soil, and moss.
Propagating succulents in water is a trendy option and has good results. In order to propagate your succulent in water, there are a few more options to consider, such as your container. If you choose to only propagate on succulent at a time, it may be easiest to put your succulent into a very small vial or beaker where only the bottom of the node is sitting in water while the rest of the succulent is raised above the water’s surface. Another option is to put your succulent in a shallow dish with a very minimal amount of water so your succulent is resting on the bott, but water does not reach the top 2/3rds of the plant. Either of these options is great, but if you are propagating many succulents simultaneously, a large narrow option to fit all of your succulents may be better than a small but deep option that will only fit one.
Propagating your succulents in the soil is another good option, although it requires slightly more care than water. If you want to breed your succulents in soil, the most critical aspect is to make sure your soil is always damp. New life requires a lot of water. Just as seeds like to be wet for the first few weeks of life, propagated succulents need a moist environment to grow new roots. If you choose to propagate in soil, you can take your succulent leaf and set it on top of wet soil, with only the very top of the node covered by soil. In this case, your succulent cutting would be lying horizontally across the soil. As long as you keep the soil wet and do not allow it to dry out, your cutting should grow roots.
If you choose to use soil for your succulent propagation, it is important to choose the right kind of soil. First, you should choose soil that is meant for seedling and potted plants. Do not pick outdoor soil. After you have good soil, you also should add rocks, peat moss, and perlite to your soil to make sure there is proper ventilation and water drainage.
Many professional gardeners or passionate home propagators choose to use moss for their material. Moss is excellent because it provides more support and nutrients than water and also retains moisture better than soil. There are many different types of moss you can use, but one kind is peat moss. If you decide to use peat moss, it is ideal to fill a container with very damp peat moss and then set your cutting on top. Once your cuttings are on top, you can cover or partially cover the container for 75% of the day. Ensure that you uncover this for a least a few hours to reduce the risk of mold. It is still essential to keep the moss wet, but it will stay moist for more extended periods on its own.
Light and heat are other vital pieces of the propagation puzzle. Succulents are high light and high heat plants, which means their cuttings are as well. You should make sure that your cutting is getting enough sunlight throughout the day. Try to match the light requirements of the mother plant. It is also crucial that your cutting does not get too cold. Many succulents do not tolerate the cold regardless, but new life certainly does not. A warm, consistent temperature is key to helping your cutting survive. It would help if you aimed to keep your cutting at a temperature of 70-80 degrees and should not let them be below 55 degrees.
Timeline of succulent propagation
How long does it take to propagate your succulent fully? The most direct answer to this question is that your propagation is complete when your cutting has enough roots to be planted on its own in ordinary soil and continues to grow. Each succulent grows at different speeds, which means that some propagation may only take a few weeks while others may take a few months.
An Echeveria is a succulent species that often looks like a rose and has very swollen fleshy foliage. These succulents only get to the size of a hand or smaller and are easy to propagate. Propagation of an Echeveria would take a few weeks at most, and each cutting would produce pups and roots. You will know it’s ready to replant when pups or baby succulents start to form at its base, and roots form below that.
A Snake Plant is a large succulent that forms long, pointed foliage. In order to propagate this succulent, you would cut off one of its long leaves and put the cut end into the water. To make sure your snake plant cutting survives its transplant, you need to wait until it has a healthy root system. Roots should be a few inches long at a minimum, and you might see additional foliage start to grow from the base. This may take several months to happen.
A Burritos Tail is a hanging succulent that produces many “tails” that can trail up to a few feet long. In order to propagate this succulent, you will need to cut off a portion of one of the tails. After you have your cutting, you should place the trailing stem in moist moss or directly into the soil. This succulent typically grows quickly but can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to establish roots.
Patience is the most critical part of propagation. If you try to remove your cutting from water or moss too early, it may not have the proper roots to survive in the soil. If you try to transplant your cutting in the soil too early, its roots may not be strong enough. Leaving your cutting alone is the best way to make sure it produces new growth.
How to know if my cutting is dead?
Many people get anxious and worried if their cutting does not start to produce roots or pups. Sometimes cuttings do not grow and will die off, but it is vital to make sure there is no hope left for your cutting before getting rid of it. A few signs your cutting is dead; the entire cutting turns brown or appears to be molding. If this happens, it is likely that your cutting no longer has life in it and will not continue to grow. Another sign it might be time to move on is if it had been more than six months and there are no signs of new root growth or pups. This may mean that the water in the soil, moss or the vessel is simply supporting the existing cutting, but the cutting is not going to turn into a new plant.
Be patient with your succulents and give them time to grow. If your succulent is taking an incredibly long time to produce root growth, feeding it fertilizer could stimulate it to grow faster. A small amount of liquid fertilizer in the soil, water, or moss can help give your cutting the food it needs to grow. Just be sure not to over-fertilize, which can poison young plants.
About THE AUTHOR
As an experienced gardener & landscaper on my own property over the last 20 years, I'm excited to share the things I've learned along the way, as I continue to learn.Read More About Elsie Moore