Succulent Propagation technique

May 3, 2011

I have a lot of succulents and I’m always happy to share, but I haven’t always been as successful as I would like when it comes to propagating new plants. Succulents are pretty easy to root but it helps to have a little info to work from.

I was discussing this with a friend who is very knowledgeable about succulents and she gave me a photo-copied sheet of different cutting points on a succulent stem. I wish I could give attribution to this great guideline to follow for cutting succulents for propagation but I was unsuccessful in finding the source.  Anyway, I realize now that I have been cutting too long a stem and will change my propagation technique to get better results.  Here’s a picture with information below it that I have created for your information.

Succulent propagation

A – Cutting this high on the stem is known as “pinching out.” The reason to pinch this high on the plant stem is to create growth for multiple cuttings or have the plants develop into a multi-headed plant. Cutting this high will force side stems to grow that will be viable cuttings themselves once they’ve grown out. The top part that is cut off is not a viable cutting and will not root so just throw it away.

B – Cutting here is optimal for creating a new plant from the top part and forcing new shoots to grow off the stem. This method works best if a few leaves are left on the stem, allowing it to recover more efficiently, producing the most new stems.

C – Cutting at this mark is officially called deadheading. A cut made here will result in a plant that will root easily. The stem most likely won’t develop any shoots and can slowly wither down.

D – Cutting lower on the stem creates a longer stem, but takes much longer to establish roots. The lower stem might produce a few shoots, but can also wither down.

E – Cutting further down the stem is not recommended because the head will have to work hard to get established and the lower stem is likely to die.

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Emma February 4, 2012 at 8:40 am

Great info & diagram – thanks for sharing!

Leslie Crawford February 4, 2012 at 5:26 pm

You’re welcome!

Bree February 6, 2012 at 7:08 am

Do you usually put rooting powder on your succulents before planting? I am great at rooting plants in water, but haven’t been very good at rooting succulents.

Leslie Crawford February 6, 2012 at 8:06 am

Hi Bree,

I do not using rooting compound on my succulents. Better to let the cut callous over for a few days before you plant the pieces. Succulents are very diverse so some are easier to root than others, so trial and error, but hopefully my diagram will help you in deciding where you make your cuts.

christy February 27, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Thanks so much for this! I’m really wanting to get into growing succulents. This is so helpful!

Leslie Crawford February 27, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Hi Christy,

You’re very welcome! Leslie

Daniella March 20, 2012 at 3:36 am

I’m slightly confused… If you cut it at point B, do you still plant the very long stem to develop roots? Do you shorten the stem? I guess I have recently been cutting succulents with a long stem and then potting – long stem and all. Is this a no-no? Is this why they are not thriving? I have no idea what I’m doing and it’s such a shame because I am so into propagating succulents. Help!

Leslie Crawford March 20, 2012 at 8:49 am

Hi Daniella,

While propagating succulents isn’t a perfect science, this guide is helpful in helping the user in picking the optimal spot for cutting. I, too, had been cutting a long stem and was left to wonder why my succulents just kind of sat there, doing nothing. Lower on the stem it is woodier, and although alive, it’s not as fresh a spot to encourage rooting. Cutting up higher at Point B allows the plant to more easily regenerate roots. The great thing about gardening is that we are constantly learning new things. Don’t worry about what you don’t know. Be brave and garden on!!! Thanks for reading!

Leslie

Linda Lewis June 30, 2012 at 11:11 am

I always heard to immediately plant your cuttings as they would die if an air bubble got in but you say to let them scab over…???

Leslie Crawford June 30, 2012 at 11:31 am

Hi Linda,

I think this would apply more to woody cuttings. Succulents are very fleshy and if planted right away, tend to rot. Sometimes, when I just want to get a project finished, I’ll plant my cuttings right away but only in bone-dry soil that I won’t water for at least a week.

KT July 8, 2012 at 12:39 pm

This is very helpful. Gracias!

Leslie Crawford July 8, 2012 at 2:42 pm

De nada! Glad you find it useful!

Tiffani August 5, 2012 at 6:43 am

After cutting you plant the head? Or the stem? If you plant the head how do you get it to stay put if it has nothing to stick into the dirt. I’m about to make my sister-in-law a succulent wreath for x-mas and I was going to start it soon and want to make sure it thrives.

Leslie Crawford August 5, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Hi Tiffini,

Great questions. Plant the head. You might get some sprouts out of the stem, but that’s pretty hit and miss. In regard to a succulent wreath, a little secret that I learned from my friend, Laura Eubanks, is to use some clear Tacky Glue to give extra holding power until the cuttings root into the wreath form and moss. It was a game changer for me because I was using toothpicks, and craft pins which I was not happy about. With the glue, by the time is washes away with repeated watering, your succulents should be rooted, provided you don’t overwater your wreath. Don’t leave it in direct sunlight or you’ll just cook your plants. Good Luck!!! Leslie

Joy September 9, 2012 at 11:16 am

Hi there,
I am so amazed at the variety of succulents and the creative outcomes with a large variety. I live in southeast Florida and I’m just not able to find a good variety. Is there an online or website that can help me find a good variety of succulents.
Thank you
Joy

Leslie Crawford September 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Hi Joy,

I don’t have a good online source to direct you to, but I would suggest googling Succulents for Sale and see what comes up. Thanks for reading!

Sandra Roe September 30, 2012 at 4:50 am

Hi, I live in South Australia and am so keen to grow, and use succulents to create some of the beautiful displays in containers. I have a variety of specimens but am seeking the more colourful ones not usually found in my area.
Thankyou for the tips you have given here. I am sure they will be invaluable to me.

Leslie Crawford September 30, 2012 at 11:27 am

You’re welcome. Thanks for reading!

Anyaa October 13, 2012 at 8:36 am

Can you please tell me the best time of year to propagate succulents? I live in Ontario, Canada so the dormant stage is just beginning. My succulent was outdoors all Summer and I’ve just brought it indoors for the Winter. Should I wait until Spring to propagate?

Leslie Crawford October 13, 2012 at 9:53 am

Hello Anyaa,

I would wait until spring. Being that far north, you’re succulent’s growth will be slowing a bit for the next few months so I would assume that trying to propagate babies would be really difficult.

Thanks for reading! Leslie

Anyaa October 13, 2012 at 10:07 am

I’m very grateful for your comments. It makes a lot of sense. Thanks you!

Linda November 3, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Hi Leslie,
Perhaps you could help me…I started a succulent garden this summer…do I leave them out during the winter (I live in Michigan) or bring them in? Do they go dormant outdoors and then flourish, come spring? Not very knowlegable about succulents, but find them fascinating and want to grow more…thank you for your diagram on propogation…good information!
Thanks, Linda

Leslie Crawford November 3, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Hi Linda,

You’ll need to bring them in during the winter since succulents are not native to Michigan, so they probably won’t thrive but it depends on the varieties you are growing. I think you’ll just have to experiment a little to see what grows best. It’s important not to overwater them – misting them once a week probably should do the trick. Make sure they get a lot of light, too.

Thanks for reading! Leslie

Anyaa November 4, 2012 at 8:32 am

I read Leslie’s question with interest as we have similar climates (Ontario and Michigan). I have seen succulents growing in local gardens – probably the common Hens and Chicks I believe – are you aware of any other varieties that might survive the cold Northern winters?

Leslie Crawford November 4, 2012 at 11:36 am

Hello Anyaa,

I’m sorry I don’t have a good answer regarding what might survive the cold winters up there. Your best bet would probably be to visit a reputable nursery and ask the question. Good luck and thanks for reading! Leslie

sabine November 29, 2012 at 7:39 am

This plant, shown above, is the most easy growing plant at the costa Blanca in Spain and in my garden. It don’t need special treatment, when the stem breaks off, it falls in the earth, I make a little hole and t igrows further without doing anything. Easy and fast growing!

sabine

Patty November 30, 2012 at 10:24 pm

I planted hens and chickens on a whim this summer in CT. Loved seeing the ‘babies’ sprout from the 3 main heads. I clipped the babies before the first freeze with the intention of drying them and gluing them to a moss wreath. The ‘petals’ curled back as they dried. They look fine. Now that I see your blog, I am wondering if, after drying for this long, can I still plant them indoors, or will they not root at this point? Today I clipped the main heads and brought them in. Will they root indoors? I love the purplish edges they developed as the weather turned colder. Your info has gotten me very excited to do more with these beauties–and others–next spring! Thank you for your advice.

Leslie Crawford December 3, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Hi Patty,

The great thing about succulents is that they are pretty resilient. Hen and Chicks are some of the best and easiest to reroot. I think they will probably work if you plant them indoors. I would only mist them. I think watering will be too much for them. Also, try to give them as much light as possible so they don’t get lanky. Good luck and thanks for reading! Leslie

Shelly January 3, 2013 at 7:02 pm

I have one of these plants outside my door and the neighbors baby use to come over and pull leaves off of it and sometimes break the stems, but now that he no longer lives here, my succulent is thriving and busting out all over. I mean it is really growing like I did something special to it.

Leslie Crawford January 3, 2013 at 8:20 pm

It’s amazing how well plants grow when they’re not being tortured. Glad to hear your plant is thriving now. Thanks for reading!

Korana January 22, 2013 at 9:54 pm

I am planning on making a living wreath and am in upstate NY. I was thinking I’d use my grow lights set up in my basement where it’s about 62 degrees. Do you think that would work? Spring seems a far way off and I’m not sure I can wait that long to try it:)

Leslie Crawford January 30, 2013 at 9:12 pm

I wish I could give you an optimistic outlook, but I’m not sure how it will work to grow succulents with grow lights in your basement. Most likely, depending on the variety of succulents, you’ll just get green, lanky succulents, but I’m a big advocate of just going for it, so I think you should, too! Thanks for reading….

Gayle Bryant February 7, 2013 at 6:19 am

Love the diagram. My question is – can I propagate by using just a piece of the stem? I saw or read somewhere that you can, but that you should lay the stem flat on the soil and it will root better than if you plant one end standing straight up. I can’t find that advice again so I am wondering if I got it wrong somehow. I have several types with long stems and a new succulent bed that needs planting, how can I get the most out of cutting what I have?

Leslie Crawford February 7, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Hi Gayle,

Yes, the stems will propagate, but it’s not always successful, more trial and error, at least in my opinion. I do lay the stem cuttings flat on top of the soil and not only do I have a better successful rate, I usually get multiple pups spaced along the stem. Go for it! You’ve got nothing to lose!!!

Thanks for reading, Leslie

Marla Petersen February 8, 2013 at 12:58 pm

My succulent has grown very tall (abt 10-12″) and has an arching growth from the center with what appears to be flowerettes, pink in color. If I snap these off and place them on dry dirt with a bit of misting, will they grow new plants?

Leslie Crawford February 8, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Hi Marla,

Without seeing the plant, it sounds like you are seeing a flower bud stalk. They will not root. If you would like to send a picture to coronadogardener@aol.com, I might be able to give you a better answer. Thanks for reading! Leslie

Sharon March 16, 2013 at 5:46 pm

For a colorful succulent, seek out ‘Angelina’ Sedum. EASY to grow and propogate, bright chartreuse green Spring foliage, rich green in Summer, then turns golden, orange and red for Fall through Winter. LOVE LOVE LOVE this plant!

Norma Gurrola April 4, 2013 at 1:42 pm

OH PLEASE HELP!! I have just started to expand my collection of succulents. I have this beautiful plant and it’s growing out of its pot. I am going to transfer it, I know how.. BUT I don’t know how/where to cut so I can expand the collection of that perticular plant. Is there a way for me to send you a picture so you can help me? I keep reading your guide over and over and I can totally use it for my other plants but not for the perticular one I want to propagade.. I hope to hear from you soon.. Thanks a bunch!!!

Leslie Crawford April 8, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Hello Norma,

I’m no expert so the best I can do is send you in the direction of the Succulent Propagation post. It’s not foolproof, just a guide. If you are repotting your succulent, take a few cuttings and just give it a try! Good luck and thanks for reading….

Donna Dyson-Horn April 24, 2013 at 2:26 pm

I am so glad that I have been able to find this site on Succulents. I had planted some hen & chicks, years ago & had forgot about them until we were moving the birdhouse that they were near. To my surprise, I had 2 Hen & Chicks growing in a perfect circle. I have transplanted one and moved the other one, more in the middle. I am in North Louisiana, is now the time to start in on my rooting of Succulents?

Leslie Crawford April 24, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Hello Donna, not knowing your area I would assume that it’s a good time to start rooting succulents. Succulents aren’t very seasonal, so give it a go and if it doesn’t work the first time, try, try again! Thanks for reading…..

Renae May 30, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Hi, I have a group if hen and chicks that have outgrowing their pot. They are all connected together. Can I just take the whole group, dirt and roots and transplant into a larger pot, without separating them? Or is it best to cut them and start repotting separately?

Leslie Crawford May 30, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Hi Renae,

You should be able to repot the whole plant without taking it apart. You may break off one of two in the process but you can just stick them into the dirt and they will just fill in with the rest of the plant. Thanks for reading, Leslie

Renae May 30, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Thanks for the quick reply, Leslie! What soil do you plant your succulents in?

Leslie Crawford May 30, 2013 at 10:52 pm

I use a cactus/succulent mix – EB Stone if I can find it, but mainly you want to know that the drainage is good.

Lori June 2, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Hi Leslie,

I would also like to thank you for this information. I have a few more questions for you if you don’t mind. I just got into playing with succulents- sooo much fun. Sometimes I will replant something and accidentally knock off a few of what would be called petals if these were flowers. Someone told me I could just plant the “petal” (is it called a cutting?) in the dirt and it’ll root. I see here that it would be best to plant it in bone dry soil and not water for at least a week, and then only mist it. That was one question answered, but it left a few more begging. Do you just plant the end of the “petal” that broke off? Do you bury the whole thing? Do you lay it flat and above the soil? How often do you mist it? How long does it take to start seeing roots? I feel like a little kid doing his first experiment growing a plant from a seed: I keep wanting to go dig it up to see what it’s doing. 😉

Leslie Crawford June 5, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Hi Lori, Glad you are finding helpful info on 3000Tomatoes.com. Succulents are great, aren’t they?! To answer your questions, you can try to plant the cuttings or the pieces that break off, but depending on the type of succulent, some do better not being planted. I just lay pieces on top of the soil and let the roots sprout first, then I lightly cover the stems and roots lightly with soil.

Regarding your question about how long it takes for roots to sprout, it depends on the particular succulent. Some will sprout roots within a couple of weeks, while others take months. I had just about given up on a cutting of copper spoons after waiting probably six months, but finally I am seeing fine pink roots.

My mantra in gardening is “Be Bold and Conquer.” Just keep trying things and know there will be some failures, but the great thing about succulents is that there will always be more pieces that break off so you’ll have plenty of practice!

Happy Gardening and thanks for reading, Leslie

Dayna June 18, 2013 at 9:45 am

Hi,

I recently planted some succulents and the ones that I cut short like the photo shows did very well. They have rooted and are growing well. The ones that I cut long and left a bunch of leaves on did not do well and have still not rooted yet. After reading this post I am going back and trimming them down to see if that works better for those. The long ones were assorted varieties but most were burro’s tail. The short ones that I’m referring to were hens and chicks.

Leslie Crawford June 18, 2013 at 10:57 am

I suspect you will have better luck. Remember, too, that the variety of succulent is a factor is the success rate. Thanks for reading!

Larissa Haney July 31, 2013 at 10:04 pm

This method is detailed in Succulent propagation by kapitany and Schulz. It is nice however to have a website to link people to.

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