Propagation of plants has been around for a long time. The fascination of creating new plant life from a single plant feels scientific and fun. Succulents are the perfect candidate for many at-home plant lovers because they do not need many special conditions for success. It is crazy to think most succulents can be propagated by removing a single leaf! Almost every type of succulent can become a new succulent in this way. There are a few succulents that cannot be propagated by leaf; we will explain more below on how single-leaf propagation works.
WHERE TO START
The first step of propagation by leaf is to make sure your succulent leaf will produce a rosette. To be safe, choose a succulent that is healthy and has lots of water stored in its leaves. For example, Echeveria is one of the best succulent varieties for leaf propagation.
To start, choose your succulent and clean off any and all dead plant/leaf debris. This will help the plant grow healthier and create a clean working area when removing healthy leaves for propagation.
Once your plant is cleaned, you’ll want to find a bottom leaf that looks healthy and is easy to access for you to remove. The most important part of removing a leaf is how you do it. If you pull too hard, the leaf may not break where it’s supposed to. Make sure you are pulling sideways and doing so slowly. This will help ensure that the leaf remains intact up to the stem of the plant.
Now, you might be wondering, ``Why is having the whole leaf important”. It’s a great question and here's why. The stem of the succulent provides all outwards and upwards growth. This is where all the water and nutrients travel through the plant. A small continuation of the stem goes into every leaf. So, in order for the leaf to grow a new succulent it benefits from having its base which once connected to the stem. A leaf that is broken before its base connection to the stem is more susceptible to rotting or excessively drying without a proper calloused end.
DIFFERENT PROPAGATION METHODS
There are two different ways that a succulent leaf can produce a rosette; the water way, or the dry way. Now, depending on where you live and where these guys will be growing is how you can determine which way you will use.
Here at Dutch Touch, we grow everything in a greenhouse which allows maximized lighting and consistent heat for our plants. With our setup, we use the dry method. We believe this is the best way to propagate succulent leaves. Succulents can be very fussy when it comes to the water you use, the lighting, and the temperature they are held at. Soaking them in water can get tricky if you do not have the correct lighting/water/temperatures. If you have access to a greenhouse or a small portable greenhouse like in this picture, then that is the best way to go.
It will ensure your leaves get enough sunlight to grow and will speed up the process.
Setting up the dry method is VERY easy. Find a clear plastic container that is about 2 inches deep and clean it out. Put your fresh succulent leaves in the container without any water. Place it in a sunny window or outside if warm enough. The leaves need to get as much sunlight as possible throughout the day.
The following step is important. Based on where the leaf is and the temperature it's holding at, you may need to spray water your leaves ONCE. Now, the reason I say once is because if you do it more than once, they are much more likely to rot. The best way to tell when they need a mist of water is to check the leaves. If they look wilted or shriveled up without signs of new growth, give them a mist. Get a good spray bottle that has a mist setting and lightly mist them once. We typically do that after 4 - 6 weeks of our leaves being in the clear container. This ensures that the plant stays moist enough to keep growing.
After your leaves are set up in a container, it’s time to wait. The hardest part about propagating succulents by leaf is that it takes quite a long time. For us, it takes about 2-3 months to get a nice size rosette with roots on the leaf.
You will know you are successful when your leaf begins to shrivel away and a small rosette forms at the base of a leaf. The water stored in the original leaf is transferred along with the energy from the original plant to begin a new one.
WHY WE THINK THE WAY WE DO
A lot of people suggest either placing the leaf cutting directly on soil or putting it in water. If that’s what works for them, then that’s great! We love seeing people trying new things and being successful.
A more in-depth reason as to why we chose the dry-propagation method is because it has shown the most success for us. Putting a freshly cut leaf on soil can cause many different problems. For example, bugs and diseases grow/live primarily in dirt. Succulents are pretty good at fighting these things off but, a new cutting without a root system will not have a fighting chance. We primarily propagate Echeveria succulents through the leaf system and have been doing so for the past 8 years.
Also, water and succulents do not get along very well. I know that’s a weird thing to read, but it’s true. Although succulents need water to survive, there is a fine line between enough water and too much water. Plant rot in succulents is very common and is probably the leading cause as to why house-held succulents die. The fresh leaf already has the correct amount of water it needs stored to keep it alive. Adding more water can overwhelm the leaf and can cause rot.
There are many different methods on how to propagate succulents through leaves. Try them and see what works for you!
Questions? Leave a comment below or send us a message!