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How Do Succulents Reproduce?

With close to 10,000 individual plant species, the succulent family does come with lots of variety – including reproduction methods.

Just like other plants, succulents reproduce both sexually and asexually. Sexual reproduction involves a flower and a pollination agent. Asexual reproduction, on the other hand, is about an individual succulent cloning itself into smaller plants called offshoots. It can also occur when part of the plant accidentally breaks off.

As a plant owner, you can take advantage of either of these two methods to increase your succulent collection. This is what’s referred to as propagation and there are few ways you can go about it.

Below, we take a look at these propagation methods and how you use them to grow a healthy succulent colony in your home.

Propagating Succulents

While you can propagate succulents from seeds (sexual reproduction), dividing the plant itself (asexual reproduction) is by far the best and popular way of growing your collection.

Here is why asexual reproduction is the best way to grow succulents:

  • It’s almost impossible not to be successful with asexual reproduction methods.
  • Asexual reproduction produces identical plants of similar vigor to the parents. So you actually have some control over the kind of succulents you end up with.
  • And, finally, seeds might not be always easy to come by. They also require a great deal of time to mature, germinate, and finally develop into a full plant.

With that said, here are the succulent propagation methods you can try out.

Leaf Propagation

Leaf propagation is exactly what it sounds like – growing new succulent plants using their leaves.

It’s pretty straightforward since all you need is to break off a leaf of your choice from the plant you want to propagate. Alternatively, you can also use a sharp pair of scissors or a knife to cut the leaf.

Either way, ensure you nip off the entire leaf from the stem. Leaving a part of it could mean your leaf failing to root. And you know what that means – no new plants for you.

Guidelines when growing succulents with leaf propagation:

  • Stop watering the mother plant. That cut is an open wound and watering your succulent before the site has callused (scab-formation) will interfere with the healing process. It might also cause infections.
  • Don’t water or bury the leaf in a potting medium – for now. Watering is pointless since there is no way the leaf will absorb the water. On the other hand, burying the leaf in a potting medium will lead to rot. Just place the leaf on top of the potting medium.
  • Keep that leaf propagation in a well-lit spot. A stretched-out baby plant is certainly not a good look.
  • Once the roots develop, be sure to keep up with misting the leaf every few days.

Important to note also is that leaf propagation is not ideal for all succulent species. Before trying it, be sure that you can easily tell apart the plant’s stems and leaves.

Offshoots

Offshoots, pups, buds, or offsets all refer to a young plant that usually grows at the base of its parent plant (a few succulents spit out their offsets in the leaves – for instance, the Pink Butterfly Kalanchoe). Agave and Hens and Chicks plant are some of the most common succulents that exhibit this kind of asexual reproduction.

Propagating your succulents using this method is pretty much the same as using the leaves above. As soon as the offshoots are a decent size, you can pluck or cut them off. Again, a close and clean cut is extremely important here.

Guidelines when growing succulents using offshoots or offsets:

  • Be sure to leave the bud with a good amount of roots if at all it shares any with the mother plant.
  • Give the buds a few days for the cut part to dry out. This significantly reduces the chances of rot.
  • Place your buds in a well-lit spot – but not direct light.
  • Water is unnecessary as the offsets dry over.

While you can pot the buds obtained from the base right away (they already have roots), leaf buds are quite different. Basically, you should treat them like leaf cuttings – to some extent. You should allow them to callus before potting.

Stem Cuttings

Propagating succulents from stem cuttings has a few advantages over the other methods.

For one, it’s probably the fastest to get some new baby succulents. This is only natural considering a stem cutting is actually a complete plant just that it lacks roots. Also, succulents propagated from stem cuttings are already big so you don’t have to wait that long before basking in the full beauty of your plants.

Additionally, stem cutting is quite helpful in dealing with elongated stems; mostly caused by lack of light. Since you can’t reverse the process, dividing the stem into two separate plants works out great.

As with leaf cuttings and offsets, whatever you use to cut should be as sharp as possible. You don’t want to end up with an injured stem as you struggle to cut it with a blunt tool – that’ll mean starting over.

A few other things to note when growing succulents using stem cuttings:

  • The plant should be healthy.
  • Go for shorter stems. These are still actively growing so they’re likely to pick up faster.
  • Make your cuttings during either winter or spring. Again, this increases the chances of your plant picking up.
  • Ensure the cut is perpendicular. A slope isn’t very ideal.
  • As always with the cuts, allow the cut part to callus – for about 3-10 days.
  • After sticking your stem into a potting medium, wait for up to 30 days before you start watering.

Seeds

By far the slowest method of propagation as mentioned earlier. But it doesn’t hurt to give it a go. Plus, it can be fun to keep up with all the development if you’re patient enough.

But watch out – be sure you’re starting out with viable seeds so that you don’t end up wasting your time.

To be honest, there’s really no defined way to do this which means you may have to try out different seed batches at a go – another reason why you’re probably better off sticking to the other methods of propagation.

How to grow succulents using seeds:

  1. Prepare your succulent soil mix by watering it thoroughly and set it aside on a planting tray.
  2. Soak your seeds in warm water for at least 30 minutes to soften the seed coat.
  3. Plant your seeds in the soil mix you prepared earlier. Be sure to leave a good distance between individual seeds for more robust growth.
  4. Spread a thin layer of soil on the seeds but take care not to cover them completely.
  5. Cover the tray with transparent plastic like a Ziploc bag. This helps keep the seeds both warm and moist.
  6. Start watering after week 6. The seeds should have long germinated by that time (germination starts at week 2).

Final Thoughts

So that’s the scoop as far as succulent reproduction is concerned. Basically, there is sexual which comes down to seeds and asexual that encompasses offshoots and cuttings.

You can utilize any of these to grow your succulent collection.

But for a more predictable outcome, using offshoots, stem cuttings, and leaves are certainly your best bets. Propagating succulents from seeds is a bit challenging and getting new plants is not always a given.