Propagating Succulents 101: How to Propagate Succulents in Soil and Water

When you first learn about succulents, they seem like an intimidating group of plants. But really, there are only a few things that make them different from other types of plants. They do best in well-drained soil and prefer bright light without direct sun exposure.

But did you know propagating succulents is actually the easiest way to increase your collection?

If you want to propagate your favorite plant but don’t know where to start, this blog post will walk through everything you need to know!

There are many reasons why you should be propagating succulents. First, it’s a free method of multiplying your favorite succulents. If you have a succulent type which you own and love, I’d recommend propagating at least one more, as a replacement, as you can never know what will happen to your existing one. Infestations can happen, or your cat can knock it over and kill it, who knows?

Second, if your succulent has become stretched out or etiolated due to bad lighting, you will want to ‘reset’ with new succulents. Instead of throwing it out and buying a new succulent, beheading the plant and propagating it is a great way to grow a new one at no cost. In this post, we’ll dive deep into all the ways of propagating succulents.

How to Propagate Succulents

There are four ways a succulent can be propagated. They are:

  1. Leaf cuttings
  2. Stem cuttings
  3. Offsets or Offshoots
  4. Seeds

Not all the methods above are possible for all succulents. For example, some succulent species can only propagate by stem cutting. Some others can only propagate by offsets. Therefore, the most important thing is to first identify the type of succulent before you begin the process of propagating them.

What You Will Need When Propagating Succulents

  • Sharp shears or scissors
  • Small trowel
  • Succulent soil
  • A shallow tray, new pots or containers with drainage holes

Propagating Succulents by Leaves

Not all succulent types can propagate by leaves. Leaf propagation can be done for Echeveria, Graptopetalum, Graptoveria, Sedum, Graptosedum, Pachyphytum, Kalanchoe, Jade Plants, etc.

Leaf propagation cannot be done for Gasteria, Haworthia, Aeonium, and Cremnosedum, to name a few. Basically, succulents with tiny leaves cannot propagate by leaves.

For the same reason, you will have a better success rate by using leaves from mature succulents. Leaves from small plants have a tendency to wilt in the propagation process.

Below is the step-by-step guide for propagating succulents by leaf cuttings:

1. Water your succulents

Water your succulents 1 to 2 days before propagating. This is to ensure the plant is full of water and any leaf you take will not dry up as easily.

2. Twist gently to remove the entire leaf

Avoid breaking the succulent leaf – you want a clean cut at the joint between the leaf and the stem for a higher chance of success.

propagating succulents from leaf

3. Allow leaf wound to callus over

It takes about a week to be fully callused over. Avoid sunlight and water during this time. Being exposed to sunlight will dry up the leaf while being exposed to water (even moisture) will cause the leaf to rot.

4. Lay the leaf on the soil

Place the succulent leaf flat on top of the soil in a shallow tray, small pot, or container with drainage holes. Do not bury the leaf, especially the part that was previously connected to the stem. New plants will emerge from the original leaf very slowly, and burying them will suffocate the new growth.

Mist the top of the soil to encourage root growth. Don’t provide too much water, otherwise, the leaf will rot. Water once a day, but depending on the heat and air moisture level, you may need to mist more frequently to prevent the mother leaf from drying out.

Place the succulent leaf in a well-lit area, either under a grow light or by the window. Do not expose the leaf to the full sun just yet – without roots to absorb water, it will die from the heat.

Continue watering (misting) the top of the soil at least once a day, until the baby succulents that emerge from the leaves grow big enough to transfer to a deeper and wider container.

Dry propagation vs Soil propagation: Sometimes baby succulents will sprout from the leaves even without doing anything!

Propagating Succulents by Stem Cuttings

Growing succulents from cuttings can be done for any plant that has a stem.

Below is the step-by-step guide for propagating succulents by stem cuttings:

1. Water your succulents

Water your succulents 1 to 2 days before propagating. This is to ensure the plant is full of water and any leaves you take will not dry up as easily.

2. Take cuttings from succulents

Use a pair of sharp shears or scissors to cleanly cut the stem, leaving at least half an inch of the stem from the lowest leaf.

3. Allow the cut end to callus over

It takes at least a week to be fully callused over. Thicker stems generally take longer. Avoid sunlight and water during this time. Being exposed to sunlight will encourage the cutting to continue growing, and without roots to sustain its growth, the plant may dry up and possibly die. Being exposed to water (even moisture) will cause the cutting to rot.

4. Plant the cutting in soil

Plant the cuttings upright into the soil. Water as how you will normally water a succulent.

Place the planted cuttings in a well-ventilated area with bright, indirect sunlight or under a grow light.


Propagating Succulents Offsets or Offshoots

Some types of succulents produce offsets naturally as a means of propagation. These include Aloe, Haworthia, Gasteria, Sempervivum, Graptopetalum, etc. This is the easiest way of propagation and has the highest success rate.

These offsets occur when roots bearing leaf clusters, shoot out from the mature plant and develop into a new succulent. Offsets can also occur on the leaves of some succulents, like the Pink Butterfly Kalanchoe. Some succulents like the Orostachys and Graptopetalum macdougallii produce offshoots through their stolon. You can use the offsets from either location to grow a new, individual plant.

Below is the step-by-step guide for propagating succulents offsets:

1. Water your succulents

Water your succulents 1 to 2 days before propagating. This is to make sure the plant is full of water and any offsets or offshoots you take will not dry up as easily.

2. Harvest the offsets or offshoots

a) Offsets from the base of the parent plant

Brush away the soil until roots are visible.

Gently pull the offsets apart while preserving as many roots as possible.

propagating succulents offsets

If the offsets are still connected to the parent plant by a stem, simply use a clean, sharp knife to cut them apart.

Brush old soil from the offsets’ roots, and let them dry out for a couple of days in a warm and well-lit place to prevent rot and disease when repotting into the soil.

b) Offsets from leaves of the parent plant

Simply pull the offsets off or using a sharp knife.

If not using a knife, gently tug on the offset, wiggling it from side to side until it pops off cleanly.

If using a knife, make a clean cut where the offset meets the mature plant.

c) Offshoots from stolon

Locate an offshoot large enough to have a few roots, then cut the stolon (runner) close to the offshoot.

3. Allow the wound to callus over then plant in soil

After you have harvested the offsets or offshoots from the mother plant, set them aside to callus for a few days.

When they’re healed, fill a planter with succulent soil, wet it, place the succulent in a shallow hole, and fill in the hole to stabilize the plant.


Propagating Succulents by Seeds

Growing succulents from seeds is a popular choice for those who want to save money on mature plants or introduce rare varieties to the mix that are difficult to find otherwise. Below you’ll find tips to get you started on the right foot with propagating succulents from seed.

1. Buy good seeds

growing succulents from seeds

Buy seeds from a reputable source. This may sound obvious, but many people have actually fallen prey to fake seeds sellers all over the internet.

While Amazon and Etsy may have reputable sources, our favorite is rareplant.me. They ship worldwide and have great customer service, which is what we look for in a reputable seller.

2. Plant the seeds

Succulent seeds are tiny, so make sure to have clean hands and a clean workspace before planting.

Start by filling your tray or own container with succulent soil.

Completely wipe down your potting area and your hands after working with the soil before you open your seeds.

Carefully take the seeds and place them on top of the soil. We recommend using a slightly wet toothpick to pick the seeds because they are very tiny.

After you have placed them in soil, you will have a hard time finding where they are. It helps to have a mark (maybe by sticking in a toothpick beside the seed) if you want to track the progress of the seeds.

3. Water the seeds

Succulent seeds that are in the germination phase need constant access to water.

When watering, be careful not to flood the seeds or wash them away. As they are very light and tiny (plus, you literally cannot see them), it is easy to do this step wrong.

If possible, use a spray bottle, set it to ‘mist’, and carefully mist the soil.

Keep the soil moist but not wet at all times.

4. Caring for the seeds

Cover the seed container with a transparent lid to slow down evaporation and keep the seeds away from any wind.

Place the seed container in a well-lit area, ideally next to a bright window indoors.

Make sure the temperature around the seeds is not hotter than 80 degrees or colder than 60 degrees.

5. Germination

Different types of succulent seeds have different germination times. Look at the information that comes with the seeds to know when to expect any form of growth.

Once the seeds start to sprout, remove the lid of the container, because the seedlings need plenty of airflow.

Continue keeping the soil moist at all times.

As the succulent seedlings grow and roots start to form, then you can reduce the frequency of your watering schedule.

Leave the seedlings in the original container before re-potting them 6 months to 1 year later.


How to Propagate Succulents in Water

You can grow succulents in water, too! You don’t need soil for this—just the healthy leaves of your plant. If you have a stretched-out succulent that doesn’t have any other good options left and wants to try propagating itself through stem cutting, give it a go.

Soil propagation vs Water propagation

You can choose to do this using either plastic bottles or glass containers.

Water propagation for leaves

The key is to propagate as many leaves at once so you’ll be more likely to get lucky with some survivors. Some leaves will only root themselves without new plants while others might succumb quickly to rot or wilt.

propagating succulents in water

Slightly fill the bottles or containers with water. Cut holes in the plastic bottles or containers and insert the leaves into those holes.

Do not let the leaves touch the water’s surface. The water vapor within the bottles or containers is enough to stimulate the growth of new roots.

Place the leaves in a well-lit area, either under a grow light or by the window. Do not expose the leaves to the full sun just yet – without roots to absorb water, they will die from the heat.

When roots start to form, transfer to soil and water as usual.


Water propagation for stem cuttings

Slightly fill the container with water.

Wrap a cling film or food wrap over the container. Poke a hole into the cling film and insert the succulent stem through the hole, with the bottom slightly submerged into the water.

Place the planted cutting in a well-lit area, either under a grow light or by the window. Do not expose the new plant to the outdoor sun just yet – without roots to absorb water, it will die from the heat.

When roots start to form, proceed to replant the new plant in succulent soil.

Conclusion

As succulent lovers, we simply cannot resist the urge to propagate succulents whenever the opportunity arises. Just remember a lot of patience is involved because succulent plants generally grow very slowly.

If some of your propagation fails, do not give up and try again. You will learn how to propagate succulents correctly with experience.