Succulents are absolutely all the rage at the moment and it’s easy to see why; they are gorgeous plants, easy to take care of and make beautiful dispays when grouped together. I am planning to make a wall planter in the spring with lots of succulents and so I am in the process of propagating new plants from the leaves of my existing plants.
I purchased a mixed set of 20 succulents from eBay last year, which have grown really well and now I have a never ending supply of leaves to grow my new plants from. If you don’t have plants of your own and don’t fancy buying a batch, you can buy just the leaves online from various sellers – this will mean you have numerous varieties to get you started.
As you can see, I had a good selection to get started with.
This blog will focus on how to propagate new plants from leaves, a process I have found to be effective for sempervivum and echeveria succulents (as well as hybrids). It is also suitable for some sedums, such as jelly beans. Basically, if you can wiggle a leaf off the stem, have a go at propagating.
It is important that the leaf comes away from the parent plant intact. I find that if you give the leaf you wish to remove a gentle wiggle, it generally comes away fairly easily (it varies from plant to plant).
The leaves should come away looking like this”
Leave to ‘scab’ over
Leave the leaves for a few days to ‘scab’ over at the bottom, basically just to dry out a little. This should only take a day or two. I just leave mine on the worktop.
Now this stage, my friends, will involve a fair bit of patience. It will probably take a good few weeks at least (maybe a couple of months!) for the leaves to form roots. So if you aren’t seeing much happen very quickly, don’t worry, it just takes a while.
I have found the best thing to use for this is an old cardboard box lid (or a box cut down – light needs to get to the leaves, so the sides shouldn’t be too high) filled with an inch of soil. Simply lay the leaves on top of the soil (you do not need to push the end into the soil, as tempting as that is!) and wait. It’s really no more involved than that!
In this picture, I have leaves at different stages. Some have already developed little succulents, others haven’t yet formed roots. Some haven’t worked at all and have just dried out. Don’t expect a 100% success rate!
You have a few choices:
- Buy special succulent/cacti compost.
- Use multipurpose compost.
- Make your own compost.
Honestly, I haven’t got a preference. Multipurpose compost tends to be wetter than the special succulent/cacti compost (hardly surprising), so if you do use this, leave it to dry out a bit for a day or two first and water infrequently only from the bottom. I tend to ‘make my own’ and I use this description in the loosest sense possible. Basically, succulents don’t need lots of nutrients from the compost like other plants might, so I basically use this as my opportunity to use up any old compost in pots that has dried out (you’re warned against this because of bugs etc but everyone I know does it and I’ve never had a problem. If you’ve had a plant that’s been diseased, discard that particular compost, but otherwise just use it) mixed with perlite and horticultural sand/grit. It’s always preferable to mix multipurpose/ re-used compost with sand and perlite to help with drainage and lessen the chance of roots rotting.
I like to use the cardboard lid because it holds onto moisture and is environmentally friendly, but any old container (as long as light can reach the leaves) will work fine.
Keep a spritz bottle nearby and spritz the leaves regularly (every day ideally) so that the soil stays moist on top but not sopping wet. This will help the roots get started. You don’t want the soil/leaves too wet, as this will cause the roots to rot. Less is more with succulents.
After about 8 weeks (give or take) you should have some baby succulents!
Don’t be tempted to remove the leaf from the baby succulent until it is completely shrivelled up and comes away easily. This is because the new succulent will take up nutrients from its parent leaf as it grows.
Once your succulents have started to look like little plants, you can pot them into their own little 5cm pots. They should have formed small roots, like this chap has.
Tease the roots out from the soil, ready to go in its new pot.
Do not remove the parent leaf.
Fill your little pots with soil (again, I have used my magic potting mix of: old compost mixed with multipurposes compost, sand and grit. Succulent/cacti compost will be more than fine).
With a finger, make a small well in the soil
Carefully place the roots into the well.
Add a little more soil (I teaspoon it in as it’s easier than using your hands) and pat the roots in gently.
Keep the leaf attached even once re-potted.
The potting mix will be pretty dry, and your succulents will need a drink, so fill the container with about a centimetre of water for the soil to soak up from the bottom. Don’t water the pots from the top as this will disturb the soil too much. The soil shouldn’t stay soaking wet and the succulents should be sitting in the water a long time. If they are, there is too much water, so empty it out to avoid root rot.
Now it’s just a matter of waiting for them to grow!
Keep the succulents warm (ideally, though that said, I’m writing this blog in winter and they will work just as well in the cold – it will just be a slower process) and spritzed as the soil dries out. They don’t need to have a big drink too often as this will cause the roots to rot. It’s best to give them one drink when you re-pot and then keep the soil spritzed every couple of days.
It will take a good few weeks for the succulents to really take root and grow, but when they do, you’ll have a brand new plant.
Here’s some of mine that I’ve successfully grown into healthy plants; they are still small, but certainly mighty!
I’d really love to see how you get on, so please comment below or tag me in any Instagram pics!