The information included in this post is what works best for me here in NC. Your area and climate may (or may not be) different. How to Propagate Succulents from Leaves is a sponsored post, however all thoughts my own. This post also contains affiliate links to help you find the awesome products that I used.
One of the very best things about succulents (besides their dazzling beauty!) is that you can potentially make an infinite number of plants from a single purchase. I think it’s so magical that you can take a tiny leaf from a friend’s plant, place it on soil, and in a few weeks, you’ll be on your way to having a gorgeous replica of your own! (TWINSIES!)
I get asked pretty often about how to propagate succulents and the answer is simple. Throw a leaf onto some soil and leave it alone. That’s it!
Choosing the Perfect Leaf Propagate Succulents
You can get succulent leaves from a number of sources (my favorite being my own plants!). I have a couple that have gotten stretched out and these are the perfect candidates. You can also get them from a friend’s plant or even the clearance section at the nursery. Look for a plant that’s in decent shape, or may even be a little stretched but still has pretty foliage (no rot/black spots on the stem) and pluck the leaves off once you get it home.
When you go to propagate succulents from leaves, it’s important to get a clean “break”. Gently wiggle the leaf back and forth until it releases. If a part of the leaf stayed attached to the stem, it more than likely won’t root for you. The breakaway needs to be perfect and it’s best to use the lower leaves for this.
Here is an example of a leaf that has a clean break and one that does not. The one on the right more than likely will not root and will probably just wither and die in a day or two.
Which Kind of Succulent Leaves Should I Look For?
Some of my favorite leaves to propagate are from the following succulents:
- Sedum (like Burros Tail, Firestorm, Jelly Bean)
- Graptoveria (Opalina, Debbie, Moonglow)
What Kind of Succulent Leaves Should You AVOID?
Not all leaves are viable and some plants even need part of the stem in order to root (some examples of this would be Bear Paws and String of Pearls [those two on the bottom row, center]). As a matter of fact, there are other plants that you need a whole cutting in order to propagate (like aeoniums) and sempervivums need pups in order to propagate.
If your leaves are starting to turn clear, it means they won’t produce roots either. You also want to make sure the leaves are healthy – no black spots, rot, etc. The leaves are what will provide nutrients to the new plants for the first couple of weeks of their lives so it’s important that they are healthy!
Lastly, the little piece of red Gymnocalycium mihanovichii that you see there, it will need to be grafted onto something like a Hylocereus spp in order for it to live since it lacks chlorophyll and can’t survive on its own.
Prepare a place to Propagate Succulents from Leaves
I LOVE using these clear plant saucers in various sizes to propagate succulents (they are about $1 each and you can find them HERE) I usually pop a few holes in the bottom with a wood burning tool but this isn’t totally necessary since they won’t be getting much water in here anyways. For the soil, I use whatever the cheapest cactus mix that I have on hand with about 50% pumice or perlite added to it.
I then add a layer of pumice to the top (all of my pumice comes from General Pumice Products). I have found that this helps to keep the leaves up and off the soil. You can also fill the whole thing up with pumice if you’d like! The purpose of this tray is to simply get the roots going and the pumice is my secret weapon to a fast propagation. If you don’t have pumice (which I highly suggest you just go ahead and get it! We call it white gold because it’s THAT awesome) you can use perlite instead or in a pinch, just plain cactus & succulent soil.
Once you have your trays filled to the top with DRY soil and a layer of pumice, start laying your leaves on top with the bent end facing downward. You don’t have to worry about burying them or using unnessesary rooting hormone, just as long as they are laying there, they are good to go! (SO easy!)
I have never been one to make fancy patterns like you see above. You can definitely do this – and I will admit it looks cute – but it’s totally not a requirement. Place the tray in bright filtered light (out of direct sunlight!), somewhere that’s warm but not insanely hot. Let the leaves callous over for at least 3 days before you add any moisture.
Let me pause right here to show you how I do it most often. I usually just toss a handful of leaves into a saucer and let them do their own thing. I don’t touch, water, or even think about them until I see little pink roots. That’s when I move them to a more permanent place but for the time being, they just get thrown in together and forgotten about.
Propagating Succulents: Watering
I personally don’t water mine until there are roots and I most definitely don’t let water get on top of the leaves themselves. My philosophy is that if there are no straws (ie roots) to drink up the water, then it’s not needed. I have also noticed that if water is given too soon, little babies will form BEFORE the roots (and you don’t really want this).
After a few weeks when I do start seeing some roots, I’ll use my water bottle to dampen the soil in front of the leaves. This encourages the roots to become strong and to seek the moisture down through the pumice.
One thing that I forgot to mention. Please don’t pick up the leaves to check their roots, move them around, take pictures, etc etc etc. This tells them that they need to start all the way over. It’s best just to lay them on the pumice and let them do their thing on their own. Remember, not all leaves will root and not all leaves will make babies either.
Planting the New Baby Succulent
When the leaves have a decent root system and have begun making tiny baby plants, that’s when I like to add them to their own pots. I also do this because there may be a leaf beside it in the community tray that’s a little further behind and may not need the same watering and/or lighting yet. Make sure you use a fast draining succulent soil with at least 50% pumice or perlite added. (Click HERE for more info on soil.)
For this baby’s new home, I use these recycled 2″ plant cups but you can use anything. In the past, I have used plug trays, seedling trays, emptied K-cups, pretty much anything that’s not too much larger than the plant itself.
I like to keep the mama leaf on as long as possible. As I’ve mentioned before, this is where the new plant will get its nutrients. I have noticed the plants that have lost their mama leaves too soon struggle more than others so it’s best to keep it on as long as possible. Cover the roots with a pinch of soil leaving the little baby exposed.
Watering at this point is done mainly to keep the roots moist so that they don’t dry up. You’re not really “watering” the plant since the mama leaf is still so fat. I like to give them a tiny bit of water over the root system and be done with it.
I usually keep these babies in a super bright area out of direct sunlight.
Once the mama leaf dries up, then you’ll want to start really supplementing the plant’s water. I use my water bottle (as seen HERE) and give the plants enough fresh rain water to moisten the soil without making it totally sopping wet. Young roots don’t need a crazy amount of water simply because they won’t be able to take it all up. Water when dry and not too much.
With enough patience and time, your little baby will eventually turn into a gorgeous succulent!
Everyone Loves Baby Pictures, Right?
This guy is an Ogre Ear Jade that is starting to grow adorable new little ears! This variety definitely takes much longer than others. Oh, that’s another thing. The time of year will also determine how long it takes to see roots. If it’s December and you’re trying to propagate succulents, it could take twice as long than if you were doing it in June.
These are a bunch of (mostly) Jet Beads and they’ll stay in here for quite a long time as there’s really no reason to move them out since they are all developing at the same rate. Once I feel they are too big (they still have a ways to go) then I’ll move them into a new home – but until then, I just water whenever I think about it (maybe every 1-2 weeks?) and just let them do their own thing!
Almost Forgot: Cactus Leaves
One last thing I want to touch on are cactus and cactus pads. Here is one that I simply stuck down into a terra cotta pot filled with pumice and 3 weeks later – BAM – I got this teensie little root! My thimble cactus took even longer to make a root this size. Shoot, I want to say it was 2 or 3 months to see this kind of growth!
I LOVE to propagate succulents from leaves and I hope this tutorial has been helpful! If you have ANY questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! There’s a comment box below and I will be sure to answer right away!
If you’d like to purchase the pumice that I used, please check out www.GeneralPumiceProducts.com. It is FAR superior to perlite and I promise once you use it, you won’t ever use anything else!
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