Succulents are my favorite category of landscape plants. Along with being extremely drought tolerant and sculptural, succulents are some of the easiest plants to propagate.
There are four main methods for propagating these guys:
- Seed– self-explanatory I hope.
- Cutting– snipping a small part of a growing branch and causing it to develop roots.
- Grafting– cutting the top of one cactus or succulent off and sticking another on top with the hopes they will grow together.
- Leaf cuttings– many succulents will grow just from a leaf.
While you may be used to growing veggies and other common plants this way, doing it with succulents presents some challenges. First, some succulent seeds are built to be very tough (they survive some of the harshest climates in the world) so it may be necessary to either soak them in warm water overnight or rub a nail file on the outside to break the tough skin. Second, succulent seeds and cacti seeds tend to be small, extremely small in fact, to the point of being hard to see with the naked (hehe) eye.
Bearing these things in mind, the actual planting is pretty easy
- Stick the seed in some extremely well draining soil.
- Water about once a week letting the soil dry out between waterings.
Cuttings are my absolute favorite way to grow succulents. It’s extremely simple:
- Snip a small piece of a healthy branch with at least 2 inches of branch. It doesn’t really matter if it has leaves or not because succulents will root without them.
- Let the cutting sit for a few days to a week in a lightly shaded area. What you’re doing here is waiting for that fresh cut you made in the stem to have a chance to fully scab over so it won’t hold moisture and mold when you stick it in the ground.
- (Optional but I would suggest it if you only have one cutting that you really want to root). Add some rooting hormone to the crusted off cut on your cutting. Rooting hormone comes in both powder and liquid form and will work to give your cutting a bit of a competitive edge in developing roots.
- Once you’ve prepared the cutting, stick it in the soil. Planting in a pot or the ground will work but if you chose a pot, pick one that’s only slightly larger than the cutting (succulents don’t like too much room). My rule for how deep to bury them is pretty rudimentary: stick the stem in the ground up to the first branch or the first leaf.
- Water thoroughly and leave your cutting alone for a week until you need to water again.
- Continue with weekly watering for 5-6 weeks.
Grafting is extremely difficult for the home gardener. It requires a sterile situation and a pretty intense knowledge of what can be stuck to what in the succulent world. The basics are this:
- Pick a root plant that has a hearty base with a green stem to provide plenty of photosynthesis for the top plant.
- Cut this base plant in a straight cut with a very sharp knife damaging as little of the internal veining as possible.
- Select a donor plant of similar structure and cut it in a similar fashion.
- Line up the internal veins of the two subjects and stick one on top of the other.
To hold them steady try duct tape (seriously) and hopefully in a few weeks they will have bonded. Here’s an example:
By Leaf Cutting
Leaf cutting is super simple and you can readily do it in any available soil space you have. Unfortunately, it’s the least successful–about 40-60% of your leaves won’t root.
To do it:
- Start with a leaf that has either fallen off of a plant or use one you plucked from some of the awesome plants of your neighbors.
- Again, you can stick the end of the plant that was attached to the stem in rooting hormone but this time you don’t need to wait for it to harden.
- Figure out a way to rest that cut end in the top of the soil (I prop mine against the edges of the pots) and wait for it to root.
- After about a week, try watering it. If it hasn’t rooted in a month, it’s probably not going to.
There are your tips for free and easy succulents. Happy planting!