One of the coolest things you can do with succulents is propagate them from leaves. But what does that even mean?
It means you can grow a new succulent baby from just a leaf!
In general, propagating means to reproduce, or breed, new specimens of plants from the parent stock through natural processes.
And propagating succulents from leaves is one of the most amazing ways of reproducing succulents. One decent-sized Echeveria plant could easily give you 25 new baby plants!
In theory, it is a very simple process:
- You take a leaf from a mother succulent plant.
- Lay it on soil in indirect light.
- Leave it alone.
- Watch as new babies grow from the end portion of the leaf that was attached to the mother plant.
Here are a bunch of leaf babies growing together and propagated by laying them on soil when they were first removed from the mother plant.
It can - and should - be very simple to propagate new succulent babies from leaves. I think that, as humans, we tend to overcomplicate things. So, on social media, for example, you can find a bunch of different methods that people are using to propagate their succulent leaves.
Alternate, and unnecessary, methods of leaf propagation
Here's a couple examples of these alternate propagation methods and why we think they are unnecessary:
- Placing the leaves in plastic bags or containers to retain moisture and humidity. The extra moisture is not necessary because the new baby gets all the moisture it needs from the mother leaf.
- Cutting holes in the sides of plastic bottles and filling the bottle with water so the new baby roots get extra moisture. Again, the extra water and humidity is not necessary at this stage. Plus this creates an extra problem of getting the babies out of the plastic bottle unharmed once they have grown.
How leaf propagation works in nature
Propagating succulents from leaves is a method of species survival in nature. When a parent plant feels in danger or starts to not feel well, it will often drop it's leaves. This is one of its way of making babies and ensuring the species goes on. This can occur when it gets knocked around, or when stem rot starts to set it. It can also occur when conditions get too harsh, like the drought lasts too long, or the sun is too intense and strong.
Often, the mother plant provides a canopy of shade and relief from harsh conditions for the new sprouting baby. This gives it an extra chance at success. But even if the mother has died, or the there are not enough leaves left on her to provide a shade canopy, the leaf baby can still survive.
How succulent leaves grow new baby plants
Here's how the new babies grow:
- The leaf falls off the mother. Ideally, it has pulled a small portion of the stem with it, this helps to up the chances that a new baby will grow and survive.
- The leaf will start to grow both new roots and new leaves from the portion of the leaf that was attached to the mother plant.
- The roots will shoot down into the soil.
- The new leaves will grow up towards the light.
- Both the new baby leaves and roots will take nutrients and water from the 'parent' leaf.
- The parent leaf will eventually dry up completely and then detach from the new baby, as shown in the image below.
- At this point, the new baby should be well-rooted in the soil and have enough leaves to take in sufficient light and continue to grow.
The hardest part of propagating succulent babies from leaves is patience. It actually takes a long time and is not like growing vegetables, which sprout up pretty quickly. It can take months before the babies are mature enough to detach from the mother plant.
Tips for successfully propagating succulents from leaves
To make the process as successful as possible, we recommend you mimic the natural process as much as possible. Lay the leaves a bed of soil deep enough to support maturing roots and big enough to allow the new baby room to grow. This way, there is no replanting involved, which can damage the new roots very easily.
Here are a few more tips we have for you:
- Keep the leaves out of direct sunlight at least until new babies are forming.
- Give the new babies early morning or late afternoon sun - and make sure you acclimate them to this sunlight first.
- If you live in a very dry climate, you can mist the leaves, especially when new roots first start to shoot out but are not yet submerged in soil. This will not hurt the new babies or leaves.
Succulents that you cannot propagate from leaves
There are a few types of succulents that do not grow new babies off the leaves only. The main ones are Aloe plants, Agave plants, Haworthia plants, Gasteria plants, and Aeoniums. Aloe, Agave, Haworthia, and Gasteria are propagated mainly by detaching pups, or offsets, from the mother plants.
These types of plants shoot out runners that grow babies and the babies usually have their own roots.
Aeoniums are mainly propagated by rooting cut branches.
Types of succulents that are commonly used for leaf propagation
The types of succulents that you will mainly seen used for leaf propagation are the rosette types. Rosette types of succulents include Echeveria, Sedeveria, and Graptoveria and some Sedums. Other types of succulents that will grow babies from a leaf only are Crassula, Kalanchoe, and Adromischus. All of these types are fun to watch grow and you can have great success with these types.
Why you would want to propagate succulents from leaves
Here's a few reasons you would want to propagate succulents from leaves, even though they can take a long time to grow:
- Leaf propagation is a fun, interesting, and fascinating process to experience and witness.
- It's the best way to get a bunch of tiny little plants if you want to make fairy, pixie, or miniature gardens.
- It's a great way to gain a bunch of plants for your collection, or if you buy one of our leaf packs, a great, and very cost-effective way to add variety to your collection
Ready to try leaf succulent propagation?
If you're ready to give it a try, we have batches of leaves you can purchase specifically for propagating. We cannot guarantee a 100% success rate, but we do our best to provide the most viable leaves and a fun, colorful variety for you.
Most of all, we hope you'll give it a try and have the chance to enjoy and witness this fascinating process of mother nature.