Propagating Succulents From Leaves

Propagating Succulents From Leaves.

Propagating succulents from leaves is important if you want to multiply your collection. Leaf propagation is one of the easier ways of propagating succulents. However, it can be tricky depending on your climate. Hopefully, after reading this post, you’ll have much better success propagating from leaf cuttings.

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Harvesting Succulent Leaves

Obviously, the first step when propagating succulent leaves is harvesting the leaves. Unfortunately, not just any leaf will do.

The best way to do this is to start at the bottom and work your way upwards towards the healthier leaves. The other way is to harvest the leaves from the flower stalks. It’s best to work with fresh leaves, so, do this before the flower stock has fully bloomed.

It is important to extract the leaf in its entirety. The growing point can be found at the end of the leaf where it used to connect to the stem. Take part of the stem if you have to, this is the beauty of working with flower stalks as you can do whatever you want with it and not damage the main plant.

Leaves come in different shapes and sizes. You will generally find that they have two faces the front or the ventral side and the back or dorsal side where you see the spine.

Leaves differ from leaf to leaf but generally, you just want to keep track of the curvature at the back. We use the curvature to help identify the topside and the backside of the leaves. In the majority of the leaves, the curvature is very obvious, and identifying the top and backside is relatively easy.

Laying the Leaves on the Soil

There are different ways fo laying the leaves on the soil when propagating succulents from leaves.

Leaf on the Side

The first method is laying the leaf on its side. You just stick it on the soil to keep it upright with the edge or the tip of the leaf above the soil. Some people like keeping the meristem above the ground, others prefer to have it half-buried.  I personally prefer to have it above the ground. You can still have great results either way.

Leaf Facing Up

The next position is facing up. This is where you need to use the curvature to identify the back and the top face of the leaves. Just lay the leaf on the soil surface. Since it is facing up, the growing tip is above the soil and not buried.

Leaf Facing Down

The third method is facing down. This is similar to the previous position, however, only the growing tip is touching the soil. This is more obvious with leaves that have a more pronounced curvature.

If you lay them this way. the meristem will have direct contact with the soil. In some cases, this method of placing leaves might stimulate the growth of roots and plantlets.

I have observed that placing the tip in direct contact with the soil stimulates roots to grow more rather than the plantlets. Therefore, I prefer the meristem not to touch the ground.

Leaf Pointing Upwards

The fourth method is leaf tip pointing upwards and the growing end pointing downwards. In this method, the meristem is buried in the soil.  

I think people do it to save space because you can establish very many leaves next to each other. It’s possible that some people have success with this method. However, my observation when propagating succulents is that without exposure to light, the tips form roots rather than plantlets.

I don’t know if the observations I have made apply to all succulents. However, I prefer not to place the leave’s meristem directly inside the soil.

I have found that what works for me is to either start them laying on their back or on their side and once the plantlets grow, I just stick them more under the soil. You don’t have to do it exactly like I do, feel free to experiment and find whatever works for you.

Drying (Callousing) Succulent Leaves

Propagating succulents from leaves can be broken down into phases. The drying off phase follows immediately after freshly plucking the leaves from the stem.

Since the leaves have a fresh cut, you will need to allow the wound to callous over by keeping it

Dry. I would recommend leaving it out to dry for at least a week but generally, five days is good enough.

During this time, we don’t need to lay them on the soil. In fact, this might be more preferred because it reduces the risk of infecting the fresh wounds. Especially if you are unsure about your growing medium.

Just lay them out on a tray facing upwards. In my case, I just keep all of my leaves on a plastic tray away from soil in the bright shade until they start to sprout.

Initial Sprouting

The second phase is marked by initial sprouting. In this phase, you start seeing some tiny growth coming out from the end of the leaf. You’re lucky if you can see tiny leaves and roots coming out at the same time. Otherwise, it’s more common to see roots come out initially and the leaves coming out much later and vice versa.

At this point, you will want to start misting the soil keep it moist but not dredged. Do the misting every time the soil looks dry you do not want them to be too wet this may cause rotting.  

You don’t have to worry about missing a misting session or two as the new growth can still get water and vital nutrients from the parent leaf. In fact, I often don’t bother misting them until much later in the process when the root system has developed.

Just like in the previous phase keep your cuttings in bright shade away from direct sunlight. Direct exposure will quickly dry them out if not fry off the delicate growth.

At this stage is also when I prefer to lay the leaves on the soil. I simply create a small hole on the surface for the tiny roots to go in and lay them.

Growing Phase of Propagating Succulents from Leaves

The third phase is the growing period which ranks high as one of the slowest phases if not the slowest in the whole process.

Again, you will want to keep the leaves in the bright shade as the new growth is still quite delicate.  You could still be quite relaxed with your misting as the leaves still have enough water supply from the parent leaf.

Parent Leaves Dying

The fourth phase is when the parent leaves start drying out. This is a critical stage because the parent leaf is getting depleted. You have to be more vigilant about keeping the moisture level up to make things easier for the new growth.

I transfer the new growths to another container so I can heavily mist them without worrying about overwatering the younger leaves that have not yet reached this stage. If you are not vigilant you can lose many plantlets at this stage.

Final Phase of Propagating Succulents from Leaves

The fifth phase is what you have been waiting for all along. It’s what you have been doing all this hard work for. The plantlet is finally established and is no longer dependent on the parent leaf.  

It has developed its root system and is ready to move out of the nursery. You could transfer it to a new pot on its own or you could co-plant it with similar types of plants.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure it has enough space to spread its roots. When it gets large enough you can move it to a bigger pot.

Remember to keep the new succulents in bright shade. You can introduce partial sun exposure once the succulents have matured which is recommended so that they don’t become etiolated.

Conclusion

Propagating succulents from leaves can be tasking especially for the first time. You should also know that getting from the freshly cut leaves to the young succulent can take about four to five months of growth so don’t be discouraged.

If your plantlets die during the parent’s leaves dying phase, check your watering. Find the balance between overwatering and underwatering.

You can also read more on how to identify different echeveria types before you set out propagating them.

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