Succulent Babies

It has been 4 weeks since my last post and I thought it timely to do a follow-up to “a simple start to growing succulents“. If you were inspired to adopt a succulent and it hasn’t died yet, hurrah! However, if your new succulent isn’t doing so well and you’re wondering if you should say goodbye, hold off until you get to the end of this post. I’m going to share how you can use the leaves of your existing succulent to grow brand new succulent babies. This is called leaf propagation and is really easy to do with succulents that have fleshy leaves. It’ll save you money as you don’t have to buy a new plant, and it’s pretty amazing to watch how these plants just grow out of seemingly thin air.

Step 1: Twist a leaf off your succulent.

Leaf twisted off a Graptopetalum (ghost plant)

I usually go for the lower leaves so it’s not as obvious, but you can twist from anywhere on the plant. How you take the leaf off is important as you need to have it break off in one clean piece, with nothing left behind. A little twist or side wiggle usually does the trick.

It’s best to take a few leaves off as not every single one will yield a new succulent.

Close up shot of leaves twisted off for propagation
What a clean break looks like

Step 2: Rest the leaves in a bright spot.

At this stage, you don’t need any pots or soil. Just take the leaves you have and place them in a bright, dry area. I place mine on a windowsill all lined up, with their break points facing the sun.

Let these leaves sit merrily for about a week or so. During this time, the part that used to be attached to the stem will dry over and callous. The timing isn’t exact as it depends on humidity, sunlight, the type of succulent, etc. I find it’s best to just forget about these leaves for a week or two, because as they say, a watched pot never boils. If you check on them every day, it will feel like nothing is happening which can be discouraging if you’re an impatient type (which I am).

Succulent leaves drying out on windowsill
Leaves resting on a windowsill

Step 3: Look for new growth.

It’s true that good things come to those who wait. Assuming you’ve left well alone for a couple of weeks, you might be in for some really cool surprises when you check on your leaves again. Hopefully, some will have sprouted baby plants on the ends that used to be attached to the stem. Isn’t nature amazing?! The new plant will be a small, tiny version of its mother.

Succulent baby sprouted on the end of a leaf

Step 4: Place new baby plant on soil.

After the baby succulent shows itself, I wait until it has grown some height before putting it on top of good draining soil. I have read that that you can pretty much place the succulent leaf on top of soil once it has dried out, even before it sprouts a baby. But since the plant doesn’t have many roots yet at that stage, I tend to wait until it does. Also, the roots will be pretty small at the beginning, which is why you only need to put the plant on top of the soil and not into the soil as you would normal sized plants.

Succulent baby a few weeks old

Ghost plant baby in its own pot

Step 5: Water lightly.

Not being a plant expert, originally I had assumed that as long as the baby was attached to the mother leaf, it didn’t need anything else in terms of water or nutrients. However, a couple of my babies had their lower leaves shrivel after a month or so, so I realised they probably do need some kind of watering. A light mist spray around the roots every few days seems to be enough.

What about the mother leaf?

You can leave it attached to the baby succulent when you put it on top of the soil. Eventually, it will shrivel up and you can gingerly take it away. I have tried to pull off a mother leaf before the shrivel stage, only to have my fat sausage fingers squish the baby by accident. So now I don’t mess with mother and let it fall off naturally.

One shrivelled mother leaf
The mother leaf of the second succulent has shrivelled away and is ready to come off

Step 6: Watch, tweak, and tweak again.

The oldest succulent baby I have sprouted some time in November 2016, and as of today, it has three sets of leaves. As you can see, an 8 month old is still quite little! I’m not sure if this particular type just takes longer to grow. A different species I have has grown to almost the same size in just a couple of months. I guess each plant will be different, and the only thing to do is to look at your plant, see if it’s giving you any signals on what it needs, and change things if it looks like the plant isn’t growing happily.

8 month old succulent
The 8 month old baby

This is as far as I have gotten on my succulent baby journey for now. I’ll report back in a few months’ time, hopefully with healthy looking succulents that have gone through big growth spurts! In the meantime, I hope this gives you heart if your succulent is looking like it’s on its way out. Even though it’s sad, the upside is that it can be a great beginning to growing new succulents!

Thanks for reading, and as always, please comment below if you enjoyed this post, or if you have any succulent experience or advice to share!

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