How to Propagate & Grow Succulents From Leaves

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Introduction: How to Propagate & Grow Succulents From Leaves

About: I work at instructables by day, and turn into a stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @jessyratfink to see what i'm working on! ^_^

In this instructable, I'm going to show you how to propagate and grow new succulents from succulent leaves. The propagation process is a slow one, but it's so rewarding!

Propagation is the process of multiplying your plants by taking cuttings or leaves from the plants and growing those. It's an inexpensive way to increase the size of your garden - all you need are established adult plants, some soil, and a small container!

Keep reading to learn the basics of using succulent leaves to grow new plants. And make sure to ask a question if there is anything I don't cover! :D

Step 1: Tools for Succulent Propagation

You don't need much, thankfully!

Tools:

  • Small tray (I prefer metal baking tins like these as they come with covers. You can also use a terra cotta saucer.)
  • Succulent/Cactus soil
  • Spray bottle (Make sure it's a fine spray)
  • Succulents (healthy adult succulents are best - immature leaves may propagate very slowly or not at all)

Step 2: Remove the Succulent Leaves From a Mature Plant

It's important to note that leaf propagation does not work with ALL succulents. Mature, bulbous leaves do best like the ones shown here.

If you're unsure about whether or not you can propagate via leaves or cuttings, I would try to identify the plant you're working with. Wouldn't want to have your efforts be for nothing!

The remove leaves the easiest way, simply pinch the leaf between your fingers and rotate it back and forth next to the stem. The leaf should detach quickly without damage.

PRO TIP:
The most important part about removing the leaves is to make sure the stem end of the leaf is completely intact. If this part is damaged, the leaf will not be able to callous over properly, allowing water in that will rot the leaf. If the leaf is damaged slightly at the opposite end, that's okay!

Step 3: Succulent Leaves to Avoid Propagating

There are a few cases in which you should not propagate the leaves, but instead get rid of them. You can see my piles in the photo above!

  1. Succulent leaves that are wrinkled or severely damaged - these will rot.
  2. Small, immature succulent leaves. They can occasionally grow pups, but will most often hang out and die slowly.
  3. Leaves with damage on the stem end. Remember that these leaves aren't able to callous properly so they'll let water in and rot.
  4. Leaves with pest or insect damage.

Step 4: How to Callous Succulent Leaves

Now the most important part: allowing the stem end of the leaves to callous over for a few days.

The callous that forms will keep water out as well as provide a growing surface for the baby succulent that will form!

I allow my leaves to callous for 3-4 days. If you live in a humid area, you may want to let them callous for as long as a week. I typically leave mine on a paper towel on a counter.

Step 5: Prepare Your Propagation Container

Grab your baking tray and add a thin layer of succulent or cactus soil around two inches deep.

Use your sprayer to make the soil evenly moist. "Evenly moist" essentially means that no dry spots can be seen and the tray is slightly heavier.

You don't want to soak the soil, as that will take a long time to dry out and you could rot the leaves.

(As you can see, I had mixed cactus seedlings in my propagation container, but after some experimentation I cannot recommend using the same container for both! They need different moisture levels and I ended up killing the cacti seedlings by accident. WHOOPS)

Step 6: Lay the Succulent Leaves Out on the Soil

Once your leaves are calloused and your soil is ready, it's time to lay the leaves out!

Spread them out evenly, top side of the leaf facing up. Place the tray in a warm area with bright, indirect sunlight.

Step 7: Wait for the Succulent Leaves to Produce Pups and Roots

And now the hardest part: the waiting! You'll want to check on the tray every day and mist it if the soil looks dry. (Remember to not soak the soil - drier is better than wetter!)

This particular round of leaf propagation started on February 20, 2018 - the after photos were taken on April 30, 2018. We're looking at 10 weeks of growth here!

Tips for Leaf Propagation:

  • Expect 4-6 weeks of waiting for most varieties of succulents to start producing pups or roots.
  • Don't move the leaves around: they may be producing tiny roots you can not see! Moving the leaves can sever these roots and cause growing to take much longer.
  • A warmer area will create faster growth. For example, starting these indoors in winter will yield slow results like the 10 weeks I've been growing these. If you live in a warmer area and can start these outside, the growth time will be quicker.
  • It's common for the succulent leaves to begin to shrivel and die as the pup grows.
  • If your leaves are only producing roots and no pups, chances are that the leaves are not getting enough sunlight.
  • If you live in a dry and/or cold climate, try covering the tray at night to keep the temperature up and humidity in.

Step 8: When to Transplant Your Succulent Pups

A good sign a pup is ready for transplant is when the leaf it grew from is starting to shrivel up and rot away. The mother leaf supplies the pup with everything it needs, so make sure to let it fall away on its own!

Carefully remove the pup from the starting tray and plant it in succulent soil. Gradually introduce pups to stronger and stronger sun - placing these guys right into intense direct sun can cause sunburn and hurt them. Many pups start out spindly and thin but they'll fill out as they grow in their new container. :)

Enjoy your new succulents! :D

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5 Questions

How about Aloe Vera?

1

Will this work on hens + chicks? Thanks

what about donkeys tail, do you use the leaves or stem ?

Great tutorial!!! I need to try this :) I'm not much of a gardener, so the bit at the end about transplanting them, you say "Carefully remove the pup from the starting tray and plant it in succulent soil..." but does this mean you remove it from the succulent leaf too? Or do you bury the leaf? Or just move it all as is and let it figure it's self out?

If the leaf comes off easily, I'll pull it off the pup and then plant the pup on its own! But if its stubborn, you can move the whole thing and the leaf will eventually rot away. :)

You suggested identifying which species we are working with, but how can we find out which ones work with this technique? Just knowing the name of my plant won't provide that information. For example, will a Christmas cactus work?

I normally do a fast google search of the plant name + "propagation" - you can find out how people typically root them that way! Christmas cactus is a plant that propagates by taking cuttings (3-5 inches long) and letting those callous over before planting them in soil. :)

I have another instructable about that technique here:
https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Take-Grow-Succulents-From-Cuttings/

15 Comments

Awesome! I wish I had noticed this before. A few weeks ago my cat decided that she liked to play with the leaves of my son's succulent. Sadly it is no longer with us. Thanks for sharing. I'll be sure to put this to good use for next time around.

2 replies

my cat decided to use my big pot, with all the extra dirt around the plant, and a nice place to do her scratching -- she almost got to the roots, when we noticed, and we got it covered up. We worried she thought it was kind of going to be her next Kitty Box.... Cats get up to so much mischief, don't they..

They certainly keep things interesting! lol

This is so amazing -- thank you so much Jessy. I've tried numerous times in the past, and all that I've ever succeeded in doing it getting dried out .... things. Now, if you can just help me with my Venus Fly Catching plant -- I've managed to kill two of them 8-)

1 reply

You're welcome! I really want to try carnivorous plants - they're something I've been looking into. Sundews and pitcher plants are so gorgeous! If I have any luck I'll have to post an ible :D

Timely instructable! My Jade Plant is overgrown and I want to propagate it and spread the joy. I have a Xmas cactus that is putting on nodes or whatever you call them.

Spring is the best time to propagate cuttings. Cuttings taken in the fall or late summer either sulk all winter or rot.

1 reply

Can definitely attest to them sulking during winter! This round has taken forever but I was too impatient to wait :D

If you’re only doing a few leaves, a lot of deli or bakery containers are plenty big for propagating like this and they are FREE!

1 reply

that is good to know..I've been burying mine and here all you have to do is let 'em sprout from the ends laying horizontal ...thanks

1 reply

Thanks! I've been putting off my propagation adventure for way too long already and this seems like a good start! (:

1 reply

Yay! It's so much fun as long as you're patient. I'm always adding leaves to my propagation container :D

I have an aloe vera plant we were just given, and the previous owner said something about it almost being ready to transplant the little ones. Well, we looked and couldn't find any. Now we get to start again, this time informed by your instructable.

Thanks.

1 reply

Aloe is actually a succulent that produces its own "pups" from the mother plant! Here's a picture of my aloe juvenna - you can see the main plant in the middle, and a pup on each side. When an aloe plant is happy and healthy, it'll produce pups for you. :)

To remove the pups, get the aloe out of the soil and cut the pups from the mother plant with a sharp knife, making sure each plant has a good set of roots!

Sometimes aloe can be propagated by using leaf cuttings, but success is pretty rare because the leaves have such a high water content. They tend to rot before they grow roots. :(

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