Dividing Succulents – Propagating Succulents

How to Separate Succulents

When you love succulents, it quickly becomes an obsession, with a growing desire for more plants! One of the best ways to grow your collection is by propagating succulents – or making more plants from the ones you have. There are several ways to do this. Today, let’s look at multiplying your plants through division. (New math? Actually, it is very, very old…) Dividing succulents, or any type of plant, is a terrific way to save money at the nursery, by selecting a single, large potted plant, rather than paying for several smaller ones. Or, you can refresh an established planting by moving smaller plants and giving all of them more space in which to grow.

{Please note, some links in this post may be affiliate links to sites that pay me a small commission if you click on the link and make a purchase. This commission is at absolutely no cost to you. I only recommend products and companies that I have worked with and truly love! ~Kat}

What Types of Succulents Can Be Divided?

dividing succulent plants with grass-like root structure

Dividing succulents, or really any type of plant, is the quickest and easiest method of plant propagation. You simply separate independently rooted portions of the plant and replant them with more root space and resources. But this is not a method that works for all succulent varieties at all times. Essentially, there are three conditions or types of succulents that can be divided:

  • Plants with a growth pattern like grass, not like an oak tree
  • Those plants that have formed pups or offsets
  • Plants with close planting proximity – two or more plants in the same container or root space

Let’s look at each of these conditions. The succulent varieties above all share a similar growth pattern. Do you see how each plant is actually made up of several, smaller plants? Each is made up of a cluster of independently rooted sections of top growth, similar to the way a plot of grass is made up of many individually rooted blades. Plants with this grass-like growth pattern are ideal for division, and can be divided all throughout their life. Unlike stem cuttings, or propagating from a single leaf, succulent division is about simply separating succulent plants into smaller, rooted portions.


Dividing Succulents From Offsets

Succulent propagation - How to divide succulent plants - echeveria with pups

Other succulent varieties grow more like an oak tree, with all of their top growth and branches supported by a single, common set of roots. Succulents with this tree-like growth pattern can usually be propagated by cuttings or by leaf, but can only be divided under certain circumstances. When the plant matures, many varieties form baby plants, called “pups” or “offsets” at the base of the mother plant. Over time, these pups form their own root system, separate from the mother plant’s. These pups can then be divided from the mother plant, keeping each root structure intact.

The echeveria above is a great example of a succulent with a “tree-like” growth pattern. While a single echeveria rosette cannot be divided, pups can be divided from the mother.


Dividing Succulents Planted in Close Proximity

Succulent propagation - How to divide succulent plants, pot of aeonium kiwi planted together

The third circumstance for dividing succulents is close planting proximity. You often find succulents planted two or even three plants to a single pot at the nursery. This is an accepted practice for selling plants. When there are not a sufficient number of larger plants available, the seller may pot up groups of smaller plants to fill the container size they advertise. These aeonium kiwi have a tree-like growth pattern. An individual aeonium cannot be divided. But because this pot has three small plants together, we can divide the plants safely. Their roots will have begun to intertwine, but each plant has a separate root structure, and they can easily be divided with no harm to any individual.

You may find the same thing in your garden. If you planted two small plants to take the visual space of a single large plant. They can easily be divided at a later date.

Dividing Senecio Blue Chalksticks

dividing succulent senecio serpens blue chalksticks plant

Let’s take a closer look at dividing succulents with a “grass-like” growth pattern. In its pot, this Senecio serpens ‘Blue Chalksticks’ might at first look like a single plant. But look more closely, without the pot. Do you see how it is truly a cluster of independently rooted plants? The little ones represent new growth. Yet even they have developed their own root structure. This is a succulent with a grass-like growth pattern, so it will be easy to divide. If you are not sure you see this yet, look here:

Gently Massage the Rootball to Divide Succulents

dividing succulent senecio serpens blue chalkstick plants with grass-like root structure

If you are not sure whether a newly purchased succulent can be easily divided, just gently massage the root ball. This will not harm the roots, no matter what type of succulent it is. If it can be divided, you will see the plant sections begin to separate on their own. From there, you may need to dig your fingers into the soil between the roots, and gently pry the plant sections apart.

Separating Succulents Into Smaller Plants

dividing succulent senecio serpens blue chalkstick plants into smaller clumps

Here, I have divided the original plant into 3 smaller sections. They can each be planted separately at this stage.  However, you could also divide them further. You will make that decision based upon your goals for the divided plant.

Dividing Sedum Clavatum

dividing succulent sedum clavatum plants with grass-like root structure

The rosettes of this Sedum clavatum may make it harder to see that it is made up of smaller plants. But do you see how the rosettes are not organized around a single center? Instead, each rosette is growing its own way, with larger and smaller rosettes loosely grouped together. This is a strong indication that this is truly a cluster of smaller plants, growing together with independent root structures. Those roots are entwined, to be sure. But you can separate them without breaking them or cutting them from their top growth.


Dividing Succulents Into Sections

dividing succulent sedum clavatum plants into smaller clumps

Once again, you can choose just how small to make your divisions. You could make each rosette into its own, tiny plant. I wanted to use these for a planter, so this size worked well for me. If you simply want to grow as many plants as possible, divide into smaller sections, and then pot them up.

Tools for Dividing Succulents

basket of garden tools

Dividing succulents is the most gentle method of propagation. Plants like those above often require no cutting or clipping — your hands are the only tools you will need. Rather than cutting the plants, I think of it as persuading them apart. In the case of dividing a mother plant from her pups, or for larger plants, you may find a knife, (or shovel for very large plants) helpful in cutting connective root structures apart. This is especially true when dividing succulents like Sansevieria, which produce rhizomes, or modified stems which grow underground.

Preserving healthy roots and their connection to top growth is the key to dividing succulents. This is why the plants take so little stress from division and grow so quickly when propagated this way.

Succulents That Can Be Divided

Succulent propagation - these sempervivum are succulents that can be divided

There are many succulents whose growth pattern is grass-like and perfect for dividing. These succulents form new growth on its own, independent root structure, making them ideal for dividing as they develop: Aichryson, anacampseros, cotyledon, crassula, euphorbia (some), faucaria, fenestraria, jovibarba, kalanchoe, orostachys (some), peperomia, rhipsalis, rosularia, sedum, sempervivum, and senecio. Many more varieties form pups at the base of more mature plants, which can be divided from the mother plant.

Succulent propagation - How to divide succulent plants, this planter is filled with divided succulents

To plant up this birdhouse planter, I needed to divide each of the succulents I decided to use. Are you ready to start multiplying your succulents through division? I would love to know. Please take a moment to leave a comment. And feel free to ask any questions!

You can do this!

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Succulent propagation - How to divide succulent plants

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6 thoughts on “Dividing Succulents – Propagating Succulents”

  1. Excellent tutorial! It was so easy to understand and your photos were perfect to illustrate the method of propagating the succulents.

  2. Hi Kat, I am wondering when is the best time to plant succulent seeds.
    I live in Brisbane, QLD, Australia and its winter now? So is cool, but temperature doesnt reach below 11 degrees. It is dry mow also, unlike the summer which can be very humid and hot, temps mostly in the 30’s.
    Thanks
    Rebecca.

    1. Hi Rebecca,
      From your description, it sounds like now will be a perfect time to sow your succulent seeds! While they may take a bit longer to sprout now, than when your temps are nearer to the low 20s, they will have longer to develop before your really hot and more challenging weather sets in. I would start them now, and just give them the time they need. That way, they will be better developed by the time the temps begin to climb.
      Thanks for reading!
      ~Kat

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