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Starting Succulents Cuttings – The Good, Bad, and Ugly

So, you have some succulents and they are taking over their pots. Maybe you are a little crazy like me and want succulents in every corner of your home. Maybe your friends love your little juicy plants so much that they want one of their very own. Starting succulents cuttings is a brand new hobby and/or obsession. You’ve been warned.

How to Get a Cutting

The first step in propagating your cuttings is, well, the cutting! For this you are going to need a sharp knife, some scissors, and possibly some gloves depending on whether your succulents have spines (I’m talking to you, cacti!) or, as in the case with the pencil cactus, a toxic latex sap.
First you have to determine whether your succulents are doing the hard work for you. If you look down at the bottom of your plants, you may notice little versions of your plants or new stalks where there weren’t before. If so, you are in luck! Your happy little succulents have gone and propagated themselves! To get a whole new generation of your plant, simply follow the new stalk or bud down to the root and separate it from the main root. Depending on the plant you might need to cut it off the main root with a sharp knife but some varieties can safely be pulled away from the parent root. Make sure that you get at least a few of those little “feeler” roots, put your cutting in a new container, and you are good to go! Since you already have roots established, you can care for your new baby the same way you do your established plants. This is how my Aloes have taken a dominant role in my mixed planters.

If your succulents have pups with no roots, simply cut the pup away from the stem. What do I mean by pups? Some people might call them buds. Basically they are little versions of your plants that have started growing off a different part of the plant but not necessarily the roots. Set these pups aside.
The third way is to cut off a branch or “limb” of your succulent plant. Try to cut it as close to the main branch as possible and use a sharp knife or a pair of sharp scissors. Set these aside for the next step.

The final way is to carefully twist off the leaves of your succulents. Grasp them near the stem and gently rotate them between your forefinger and thumb while gently pulling. Set these plump little water sources aside.

Drying

OK, so the next step in the propagation process isn’t all that glamorous or exciting. It’s simply taking your cuttings and putting them in a safe place so that the cuts can dry over, kind of like a scab. Depending on the humidity level in your home this can take anywhere from one to three days.

It can be agonizing watching your cuttings laying there helpless while they heal over but also important. Do not spritz them. Do not water them. The cut areas are where you want the roots to grow so you want to give them the best possible chance by being patient.

If you want to use a rooting hormone on the cuts, now is the time to do so. I haven’t tried this with my cuttings yet, so I cannot comment on whether these are a good investment. I will be doing so in the future, so keep an eye out for that post! I have also heard that dabbing them in a bit of powdered cinnamon will help with rooting. Again, I have not experimented with this but plan to at a later date.

You will lose some cuttings! Do not despair! You didn’t do anything wrong. I have had anywhere from a 50 percent to a 10 percent loss on my cuttings so far. I do not know the science or reasoning behind it, maybe some didn’t have enough juice to keep it alive, maybe some didn’t have enough energy to heal the cuts. Whatever the case, do not expect that every one is going to live. It’s going to be OK. Your parent plants will make more pups, branches, and leaves. Really.

Rooting

This is the slightly more involved part. It requires a spritzer bottle and a good deal of patience. Once your cuttings are scabbed over, they are ready to start growing roots. What I do at this point is to put them on a paper towel in the window (sunlight and the warmth seems to help this go faster. I am also going to see if darkness helps (like with seedlings) or putting them in a starter greenhouse improves my results. But for now, my paper towel method seems to be working.

Lay them out neatly so you have a good view of their cut areas. You don’t want to move them around or fuss with them too much. Starter roots are pretty small and delicate from my experience and you don’t want to undo any work they have done.

Then, daily, give them a spritzing. I know, right? FINALLY, you can spritz your little heart out! Keep up the spritzing and in a few days you will be rewarded with some little nubs on your cuttings and maybe even some tiny little feeler roots. Yes! Success! You’ve propagated your first cuttings.

When to Plant

There are conflicting opinions of when, exactly, it is best to put succulent cuttings in soil. What I like to do is after they start growing nubs are starter roots is to lay them on top of a shallow layer of sand or gravel. I then water these whenever the top inch of soil is dry. This, in my opinion, gives the new roots something to do in searching out water and trains them to go deeper than the surface moisture they have been getting.

Once they have an established main root with new roots growing off of it, I will then transfer them to their own pot to grow.

Happy Propagating

Succulents are so forgiving and easy to grow. It’s easy to get a little carried away sometimes. Right now along with my 40 plants, I have about 20 cuttings going. It’s just so rewarding when I make little clones of my parent plants!

Until next time,

~Mishi
 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Starting Succulents Cuttings – The Good, Bad, and Ugly

  1. Unique, and interesting article on succulents. I didn’t realize that there was so much involved with propagating. I also liked learning about the best time to plant. You are obviously quite the expert.

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