When I got married a few years ago, I asked the florist to include succulents in my wedding bouquet.
Part of the reason (apart from loving them to pieces) was that I had an idea—I was going to save the succulents from my bouquet and not only keep them growing, but grow new plants. I’d basically have a living reminder of my wedding day!
It was a very romantic idea—in other words, not like me at all. Also, I had no idea how to propagate succulents. I’d only heard it was possible. So I went about researching how to do it.
The first article I read instructed me to pull off the leaves on the bottom inch of the existing succulent and repot it, then put the leaves cut-side down in moist soil. The first part works just fine. The second part is horrible advice.
Succulents need very little water. In fact, if forgetting to water plants is part of why you don’t have any, you should get a succulent. You can seriously go about a month in between waterings.
But by putting the leaves cut-side down, you’re basically asking it to gorge itself on water. The leaves will soon go from firm and green to soggy and brown. And at that point, there’s no bringing them back.
This is what I did before leaving on my honeymoon. When we came back a month later, all the leaves were goners. It was a huge bummer, but the repotted succulents had put out some roots and seemed as though they would survive.
Six months later, I tried another method: pick the leaves, set them out and then do nothing.
This felt really wrong, and several of the leaves agreed by drying out and dying. Some of them eventually sprouted tiny roots and a baby leaf or two, then limped along for another month or so after I placed them in some soil. But eventually they bit the dust, too.
Thankfully, the mother plant has continued to live on, so I’ve been able to continue experimenting. Through a fair amount of trial and error, I’ve found that the method below—a combination of the two methods above—seems to work best for me.
How to Propagate Succulents from Leaves
Things to Know About Regrowing Succulents
Before you get started plucking off leaves like a trichotillomaniac, there are a few things you should know:
- Propagating succulents is a slowwww process. After all, succulents themselves grow fairly slowly. The baby ones you see potted have been growing for the better part of a year. The progress you see with the leaves happened over the course of a few months.
- Not all succulents will propagate from leaves, but there are many that will. The succulent shown here is a variety of Echeveria. Other good ones to try include Sedum morganianum and Graptosedum “Ghosty.”
- Succulents need full to part sun (part sun is great for propagating) and they prefer temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees. If they experience temperature swings in either direction, they go into semidormancy, and growth slows to an almost non-existent pace.
But if you’re patient and willing to pay attention, you can do it, I promise!
Step 1: Choose your mother plant
Because our house sits at an angle, I don’t have any windows that get a large amount of sunlight. That means my succulents always end up getting “leggy,” growing up and out in an effort to receive more sunlight. These leggy plants make perfect leaf donors or “mothers.”
Step 2: Collect your leaves
Gently grasp the wide end of a leaf with your thumb and forefinger, and wiggle it back and forth until it snaps off from the stem of the donor plant. The narrow or stem end should look like the image below; if it’s torn or damaged, it won’t propagate.
Collect as many leaves as you want, but don’t go too crazy—leave enough to make a decent-sized, stand-alone plant. Trim the now bare stem of the donor plant to about an inch, and place the stem in the soil. Water lightly but on a weekly basis to encourage rooting, and then continue to water on a monthly basis like normal. It will eventually grow roots from the buried stem and re-establish itself.
Step 3: Prepare your propagating space
Get a shallow dish and spread some potting soil on its surface. Fill a spray bottle with water and spray the soil until it’s damp, but not soggy.
Place the leaves you’ve collected on the soil. I like to keep mine pretty organized so it’s easy to see their progress, because not every leaf will propagate. The ones that don’t will be easy to spot…they’ll wither and curl up just like any other leaf separated from the plant.
Make sure you place the dishes in a place you’ll notice them often, like on the kitchen windowsill. Also, try to make sure they don’t get too much sun; this can overheat and dry out the leaves. Some direct sunlight is okay, but like I mentioned above, part sun and indirect sunlight is great for propagating.
Step 4: Water the leaves and keep watch
Mist the leaves evenly with the spray bottle. Spray them every few days. Unlike grown succulents, baby succulents need watering often.
Eventually, you’ll start to see tiny, hot pink roots emerging from the ends of the leaves. You can turn them upside down if the roots look to be growing up, but don’t worry too much about fussing with them; they’ll find their way (albeit wanderingly) into the dirt eventually.
Some leaves may sprout roots, but no leaves. Toss these and any leaves that don’t sprout roots into the compost. They will not successfully propagate, and you’ll need room for the many that do!
Continue to spray every three or four days, and when you do, give them a solid soaking. After a while, you’ll start to see tiny leaf buds forming, and over time, they’ll get bigger.
Step 5: Pot baby succulents
After a few months, the baby succulents will be large enough to easily keep track of, with roots that are about an inch long or more. Get some succulent potting mix and plant them with the roots buried, and the original leaf and baby succulent sitting on top of the soil. Don’t worry about pulling the original leaf off—after a while (and it might be a year or more) it will fall off on its own.
Just like with propagating leaves, baby succulents need watering more often than adult plants. So water them weekly until they’re about the diameter of a quarter, then start slowly backing off the watering schedule until you’re watering it with the same frequency as the mother plant. If you notice it looking droopy at any point, give it more water. Always listen to what the plant is trying to tell you!
Once they’re big enough, try reestablishing them in cute ceramics or terrariums and giving them out as gifts. Succulents are very forgiving of being moved and repotted over time. Just make sure you’re giving them enough water to encourage rooting.
Also, you might try succulent fertilizer and see if that gives your babies a boost—I haven’t tried it, but I plan to on my next batch to see how the results differ!
Have more tips for propagating succulents from leaves? I’d love to hear your success stories.