Succulent Leaf Propagation: How to Make New Plants from Old

– Posted in: Succulents

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.

Aerial roots3

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 , , , , , , and social media ( and ). My books: , and .   
 
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Debra Lee Baldwin

Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified, all Timber Press bestsellers. Her goal is to enhance others' enjoyment and awareness of waterwise plants and gardens by showcasing the beauty and design potential of succulents via books, articles, newsletters, photos, videos, social media and more. Debra and husband Jeff live in the foothills north of San Diego. She grew up in Southern California on an avocado ranch, speaks conversational Spanish, and at age 18 graduated magna cum laude from USIU with a degree in English Literature. Her hobbies include thrifting, birding and watercolor painting. Debra's YouTube channel has had over 3,000,000 views.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin
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