A Succulent Cutting
(Image credit: frwooar)

There are quite a few ways to take cuttings off succulent plants, so it's no wonder why it may seem intimidating. Read here to get information on cacti and succulent propagation.

Propagating Cacti and Succulents

There are several ways to take cuttings off of succulent plants. Sometimes you'll root the whole leaf. Sometimes you can cut a leaf into sections. Short stubs are taken from cacti. If you are detaching leaves, you have to be sure not to ruin the mother plant's shape. If you take a few from the back of the plant, it's probably not going to be a problem.

Propagating Succulent Leaf Pieces

Larger plants, like the snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata), can be increased by cutting stems and leaves into pieces. All you would do is be sure to water the plant for a few days before you plan to take the cuttings. If you don't, the leaves will be flaccid, and flaccid leaves do not root readily. Use a sharp knife and sever just one or two leaves at the base of each leaf. Make sure you take them from different areas of the plant. If you take them all from one side, you will ruin the shape of the plant. Take one of the severed leaves and place it on a flat surface. Using your sharp knife, cut the leaf into pieces about 5 cm deep. Make sure you cut cleanly because if you tear the leaf instead, it won't root and will die off. Take a shallow, but wide, pot and fill it with equal parts of moist peat and sand, then firm the compost mixture. Take your knife and form a slit and push a cutting about 2 cm down into the slit. You want to make sure the cutting is the right way up. Lightly water the compost, and then place the pot in gentle warmth.

Rooting Succulent Leaves

Many succulents, like October daphne (Sedum sieboldii 'Mediovariegatum'), have small, circular, flat leaves. You can increase these easily in spring and early summer. Just press leaves into the surface of a pot filled with equal parts of sand and moist peat. Make sure the pot is well draining. It's best to cut off a few stems rather than taking off a few leaves from several shoots. Just snap the leaves off, without squashing the stems. Lay them out and let them dry for a couple of days. Then take the leaves and press each one on the compost's surface. After you have them all laid out, lightly water the leaves. Take the pot and put it in gentle warmth and light shade. Some succulents like the jade plant (Crassula ovata) can be taken off and inserted vertically into a pot with well-drained compost in spring and early summer. It's not necessary to have high temperatures. Just select a healthy, well-watered plant and gently bend the leaves down. Doing so causes them to snap off close to the main stem. This is what you want. Lay the leaves out and let them dry for a couple of days. Fill a clean pot with equal parts of sand and moist peat and firm it to about 1 cm below the rim. Take a pencil and form a hole about 20 mm deep and insert your cutting into it. Firm the compost around it to steady the "plant." Water this pot and place it in light shade and gentle warmth.

Taking Cacti Cuttings

Most cacti have spines and are known quite well by these. This should never stop you from taking cuttings from them. If necessary, wear gloves while handling the cacti. Cacti that grow a mass of small stems from around the base are the easiest to increase. Mammillarias and Echinopsis spp. can be increased this way. Using a sharp knife, take off a well-formed young stem from around the outside of the clump of cacti. Sever the stems at the base so you don't cause unsightly short stubs to be left on the mother plant. You always want to keep the attractiveness of the mother plant steady. Also, don't take the stems all from the same position. This will also spoil the mother plant's appearance. Lay the cuttings out and leave them alone for a couple of days so their ends can dry. Then insert the cuttings into the cactus compost. This will let them root a lot faster than if you insert them into the compost immediately after you cut them. Take a small pot and fill it with equal parts of sand and moist peat and firm it to 1 cm below the rim. You will want to sprinkle a thin layer of sand on the surface and make a hole about 2.5 cm deep. Insert the cutting into the hole. Firm your compost around the cutting and place it in gentle warmth and light after lightly watering it. Rooting should happen in a few weeks if you've done this in spring or early summer when the plant is most likely to root. So don't be afraid of succulents or cacti. They are plants just like the rest of them and just have a different way of being handled. The process of increasing these plants is just as simple as with other plants, so you should have no trouble at all increasing your beautiful collection of these wonderfully different plants.

Heather Rhoades
Founder of Gardening Know How

Heather Rhoades founded Gardening Know How in 2007. She holds degrees from Cleveland State University and Northern Kentucky University. She is an avid gardener with a passion for community, and is a recipient of the Master Gardeners of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award.