1. By: Jessie Keith

    Got succulents and cacti? Then share them with your friends! These fleshy plants are some of the easiest to propagate from cuttings. So, if you have a special succulent house plant or garden succulent you want to propagate to swap or share, it’s easy to do.

    Plants from deserts and other arid lands rarely experience reproduction from seed because water is not plentiful. One common arid plant adaptation is quick rooting of stems and leaves as a means of spreading and reproducing without the need for seeds. For this reason, many dryland plants root quickly from leaf, stem, or tip cuttings. Here are some easy methods for propagating different succulent and cactus types at home.

    Leaf Cuttings

    These jade plant leaf cuttings show the progression of rooting and plantlet development.

    Common succulents with large leaves, such as aonium (Aeonium arboreum), jade plants (Crassula spp.), and kalanchoe (Kalanchoe  spp.), are all easily propagated from single leaves. The process is simple, and the needed materials are few. Here is what you will need and what to do:

    Materials

    1. Succulent leaf cuttings
    2. Sharp knife
    3. Shallow pots with bottom saucers/tray
    4. Perlite or porous growing mix
    5. Grow lights or a bright window
    6. Rooting hormone with an anti-fungal additive (optional)

    Method

    Succulents with large, fleshy leaves are perfect for leaf-cutting propagation.

    Use a sharp knife to gently cut healthy leaves from the stem. Dip the bases of the leaves into rooting hormone; rooting hormone hastens the rooting process and reduces rot but is not necessary. gently moisten the perlite or potting mix and nestle the bases of the leaves into the mix, making sure the bases are partially covered. Place the pots in a spot with bright, filtered light and keep the perlite or mix lightly moist to almost dry. Over a matter of weeks, the bases will root and small plantlets will appear. You can pot them up once they have several leaflets.

    Pups

    This Orostachys has developed stems of pups that can be cut from the mother plant and rooted.

    Many succulents with rosettes, like Agave, aloes (Aloe spp.), Dudleya, tender stonecrop (Echeveria spp.), Gasteria spp., Orostachys, and hens & chicks (Sempervivum spp.), reproduce by sending out stems of new rosettes, called “pups”. These are very easy to snip from the stem and root in fresh, porous mix. In this case, no rooting hormone is needed. Just a small pot of mix will do. Nestle the base of each pup in the mix, and keep the mix lightly moist to dry, and the pup will root in no time.  [Click here to read an article about starting agave pups.]

    Stem and Tip Cuttings

    The cut paddle stems of prickly pear will quickly root into whole new plants.

    Succulents with smaller leaves, like sedums, or no leaves, like cacti, are best propagated by tip or stem cuttings. Tip and stem cuttings require most of the same materials as leaf cuttings. With tip cuttings, you remove the very tip of a growing point. Simply cut or snip off the tip, remove several of the bottom leaves, dip in rooting hormone and nestle it in perlite or potting mix. Stem cuttings are comparable but you cut a larger stem for a larger, more robust start.

    When taking cuttings from cacti, always wear thick gloves. Cut a candle, side stem, or pad from the cactus, dip the cut base in rooting hormone and nestle it in a pot of perlite, which is faster draining and better for cactus starts. In a matter of weeks it should root.

    Potting Cacti and Succulent Starts

    Once your cuttings have rooted, you can transplant them into their own pots of mix.

    When your cuttings have set root and begun to grow, it’s time to plant them. Choose small pots that are the right size for each plant, and fill them with Black Gold Cactus Mix, or Fafard Professional Potting Mix amended with a 2:1 ratio of perlite. Both mixes are perfect for growing cactus and succulents. Cover the roots of your new starts, water them in, and keep them just moist to dry. During the winter months, water them very little to none to avoid root rot.

    Once you learn how to propagate succulents, swap them with other succulent lovers to add new, exciting plants to your collection. These easy-to-grow house plants are always welcome to any plant lover.

    About Jessie Keith


    Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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