Succulent Leaf Propagation: How to Make New Plants from Old

If leaves pop off a succulent readily, that’s a clue that those leaves probably are capable of generating roots and new little plants. Like these of Sedum rubrotinctum ‘Aurora’.

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Notice how the original leaf has wrinkled as its life-giving fluids have gone into leaf and root production? I love the beadlike quality of the new little leaves, and the way the original leaf contains everything needed to create life. Interesting, too, that where the leaf was attached to the stem, the cellular tissue can form both leaves and roots.Graptoveria ‘Fred Ives’ also has leaves that fall off easily, the better to take root and form new plants. Isn’t it interesting that the roots of the sedum are white, and those of the graptoveria (below) are rose-red?

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If you want to propagate succulent leaves, fill a nursery tray with friable soil and lay them on top. You want to try and replicate what happens in nature: The leaves land beneath the plant, and therefore are sheltered from hot sun. They’re NOT buried, and if too wet, they may rot. Here, San Jose Master Gardener Laura Balaoro shows a tray full of leaves she’s using for propagation.

Laura, greenhouse

When it comes to propagating succulents in general, I’ve had more consistent results with cuttings. Where leaves once were attached to the stem, new roots will form. So be sure you bury that all-important meristem tissue.

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It’s been my casual observation that sedums, graptoverias, pachyphytums, pachyverias and graptopetalums dependably produce new plants from fallen leaves (they also can be propagated from cuttings as well). Succulents that are more shrub-like and branching (like jade) don’t seem to do it as readily. And succulents that produce pups or offsets (like sempervivums, aloes and agaves) don’t do it at all. Has this been your experience?

To pot up a succulent that you started via leaf propagation:
Wait until the new little plant has used up the nutrients in the mother leaf, which will continue to shrivel and dry. Then bury the old leaf to help anchor it. If the shriveled leaf falls off, it’s no big deal—just make sure the roots are covered with soil and the leaves are not. Place in bright shade and keep soil barely moist. Once plants are well established, they’ll be better able to tolerate direct sun without being burned.
Cactus mix is the best soil medium because it’s fast-draining, but any commercial potting soil will do. I make my own mix, amending potting soil half-and-half with pumice to enhance drainage. But that’s not necessary if you’re careful not to let the soil get waterlogged.

In a future post, I’ll show succulents within a fascinating subset of the genus Kalanchoe: bryophyllums. These produce miniatures of the mother plant along leaf edges or tips. These plantlets eventually fall off and take root.

My goal is to share the beauty of waterwise, easy-care succulents in gardens, containers and landscapes via blog postsnewsletterspublic speaking and workshopsphotosvideosmerchandise, and social media (Facebook and Pinterest). My books: Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardensand Succulents Simplified.  www.debraleebaldwin.com 
 

About Debra Lee Baldwin

Debra Lee Baldwin gardens on "an inhospitable half acre" in Escondido, CA, near San Diego. She is an award-winning photojournalist and artist with hundreds of articles and columns to her credit. Debra's books are Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens and Succulents Simplified. www.debraleebaldwin.com.

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11 Responses to Succulent Leaf Propagation: How to Make New Plants from Old

  1. Di Lucht September 6, 2013 at 3:34 am #

    Thank you for your very informative articles. They were a great help. No wonder all my props have failed.

  2. Arthur in the Garden! September 6, 2013 at 4:42 am #

    Wonderful!

  3. Laura Balaoro September 6, 2013 at 5:20 am #

    Oh Debra, you could have cropped my photo and showed the propagation trays only. :)
    Thanks for using it though. You really are full of resources.

  4. Anne Wareham September 6, 2013 at 5:26 am #

    It’s even easier if you grow them on gravel – http://veddw.com/blog/propagating-without-trying/
    Xx

  5. Amy Beam September 6, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    I was surprised this year when I looked under my jade plant and I found a few leaves had fallen that started to take root much like sedum would. I’m curious to see if I get a new baby plant out of it.

  6. SAO September 6, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    I’ve successfully propagated Jade plants from leaves. I took a few from a plant in a hallway somewhere, and now have a tree. I was pretty casual about it, potting, watering, soil type.

    I’ve had no trouble and the fallen leaves root, too, but they all come from the same parent .

  7. Stephen Boisvert September 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    I’ve found it really depends on whether the plant easily gives up its healthy leaves. Echeveria difractens is also known as the shattering Echeveria because it will drop leaves with minimal contact particularly off the flower bract and they will all root. 100%. It is a bit uncanny.

  8. Candy Suter September 7, 2013 at 12:11 am #

    Great propagation post sweet girl. I used to have a pot with a large Gardenia on my front porch. A small Jade was sitting in a pot nearby. Little did I know that some leaves from the Jade had fallen into the pot with the Gardenia and taken root. Before I knew it I had a big beautiful Jade that actually choked out the Gardenia. Today the base of that crazy Jade is so thick it takes both hands to put my fingers around it. So yes Jade can start from leaves.

  9. Gail Klein September 7, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    Although I’m not much into ‘cute’ I sheepishly admit the tiny leaves formed at the old leaf/roots juncture of Sedum rubrotinctum ‘Aurora’. are just adorable.

    Certain South African plants are sought after by gardeners precisely because in adapting to animal disturbances, they (the plants) easily root from ‘drop-offs’.

  10. Stephen Boisvert September 8, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Sedum rubrotinctum ‘Aurora’ leaf cuttings will often not come true to the ‘aurora’ form though. Because of the peculiar calico style genetics of variegated plants the mutations often don’t carry over to the leaf cuttings because the cells at the meristem may not carry the variegation genes.

  11. Chris September 9, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    This is great, I never realized that you could grow new succulents from old ones. Thanks for sharing this information!