Propagating Succulents from Stem Cuttings

How to Grow Succulents from Cuttings

One of the most fun things about this hobby (obsession?) is propagating succulents for yourself. If you are seriously addicted to these beauties, you really need to know how to make more plants from those you already have. You can grow your collection for free, just by taking advantage of the natural abilities the succulents have devised for their own reproduction and survival. You will find many (many!) uses for succulent cuttings, and some vendors sell succulent cuttings for much less than fully rooted plants. Learning how to grow succulents from cuttings is really easy. Because I find it easier to learn something new when I understand the why’s involved, let’s look at how to propagate succulents from the plant’s perspective. 🙂

{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}

Propagating Succulents

mixed succulents in a window box

When you propagate succulents (or any type of plant), you are taking 1 plant, and making another, or many other individual plants from it. Like all life forms, plants strive to live and to reproduce. Because they cannot run away to avoid damage due to wind, foot traffic, being munched on, etc. they have evolved methods of reproduction that can make use of these environmental hazards to make more plants.

There are three methods for propagating succulents:

These propagation methods apply to all plants, not just succulents. The easiest method that applies to the greatest number of succulent varieties is stem cutting propagation. This is the method we will focus on today. I will cover leaf propagation and division in future posts.


Propagating Succulents from Stem Cuttings

portulacaria afra is perfect for demonstrating stem cutting succulent propagation

There is something fairly magical about some of the stem tissues of succulent plants. Some of the cells of the plant, those located at the junction where the stem meets leaf, are capable of something amazing. These cells can form different types of growth depending upon the needs of the plant. If the greatest need is for water, these cells form roots. If the plant needs to collect sunlight to change it into nutrients, these cells form leaves. These undifferentiated cells form the “meristem tissue” of the plant. Meristem cells in plants are somewhat similar to stem cells in animals.

If a plant growing in nature has a branch broken off that drops to the earth, what happens? With succulents, that fallen branch will often sprout roots from its meristem tissues that reach into the soil, providing moisture for the remaining leaves. In time, it becomes a whole, new, self-sustaining plant. Stem cutting propagation makes use of this natural ability that plants have. It takes a part of the stem from a plant that was growing leaves and persuades it to form roots instead.

Taking Stem Cuttings for Succulent Propagation

take stem cuttings for succulent porpagation

Portulacaria afra and its variegated siblings are among my favorite succulents. And they are perfect for demonstrating stem cutting propagation! See how many of the stems have smaller stems of their own? This gives you many opportunities for making stem cuttings to root.

Be sure to use clean, sharp pruners to take your cuttings. It helps to prevent unnecessary stress for the cutting and to prevent the introduction of bacteria. I really love my titanium coated trimming scissors, but any good, sharp pair works well.

What Size Cutting for Propagating Succulents?

what size stem cutting is best for succulent propgagation

You can root any of these cuttings. All you truly need is the meristem tissue, and an intact, healthy leaf. However, you will find that cuttings of 2-4 inches long, with 2 sets of nodes for rooting, and 2 sets of leaves will be the quickest and easiest to root. You will see a node, or uncover one by removing leaves from the stem:

Remove Leaves from Stem Cuttings to Uncover the Nodes

remove leaves from the stem cutting to propagate your succulents

Do you see the 2 sets of nodes on this cutting? Each node is a point where new roots will form. So 2 sets of nodes will give you at least 4 rooting points (assuming each set has a node on each side of the stem, which is how this portulacaria grows). Four rooting points will give this new plant a good amount of rooting to take up moisture and to anchor the plant in place. It is important to keep the rooting zone in proportion to the part of your cutting that will become the top growth of your new plant. The healthy leaves will continue to provide the cutting with moisture and nutrients while it begins rooting.


Which Way Up? How to Orient Your Stem Cuttings

orient your stem cuttings to point down for root formation

Also, take care with your cuttings to root the end that was lower on the plant when it was growing. Plants have a strict sense of up from down, and it is important to root the cutting from the point that was lower than the end that will retain its leaves. With a single stem, this is easy to determine. With a plant that has made multiple branchings, the end of the stem that is closest to the stem from which it was growing is what you will consider as “down”. You can usually tell by the way the leaves are oriented, which part of the stem should be pointed “down” in order to root. If the plant you are taking cuttings from is not clear, make note of this as you take your cuttings.

Let Stem Cuttings Callous Over

allow stem cuttings to callous over for a couple days

As you take cuttings, lay them out in the direction they should be oriented. Set aside leaves you remove for leaf propagation! 🙂 I set my cuttings on a flat of fast draining succulent soil, out of direct sun for a few days after cutting them. This gives them a chance to callous over, which reduces the chance of rot down the road.


Insert Stem Cuttings into Soil for Rooting

put stem cuttings in dry soil for propagation

After 2-3 days, go ahead and insert the root end of your stem cuttings into the dry succulent soil. Give them a bit of space, but since they will not be grown to maturity here, crowding is not a problem. Once you have inserted them into the dry soil, return them to a spot out of direct sun, but that does get indirect light. Wait about 2 weeks, and then mist the soil well. From this point on, continue to mist well once each week.

Most Succulents Can Be Propagated from Stem Cuttings

aeonium branch should be cut down for stem cutting propagation

The vast majority of succulent varieties propagate well from stem cuttings. This branch of aeonium kiwi can be cut down to many cuttings, one for each rosette. If you have several plants you want to take cuttings from, there is no problem rooting them in the same flat.


More Stem Cuttings for Propagating Succulents

cut crassula ovata stem for succulent propagation

Crassula ovata is another variety that does very well with stem cuttings. Although the nodes look quite different from those of the aeonium and portulacaria, they are still quite obvious. The lines around the stem occur at each node point. This branch can be cut down into several stem cuttings.

Stem Cutting is Rooting

small roots are forming on stem cutting

So, you have taken all of your cuttings. You gave them 2-3 days on top of dry succulent soil, out of direct sun. Then you inserted them into the soil, and left them dry for 2 more weeks. Then you misted the soil well. Continue to mist the soil well once a week for a while. Be sure to take a good look at your cuttings each time. You will see the leaves begin to dry out a bit, and become a bit wrinkled. This is a sign the succulent plant needs water. When the succulent needs water, this stimulates the development of roots. In time, you will see the leaves begin to plump up a bit more, and to look better. This is a sign that they have begun to root, and the roots are able to take up water!  Yay! (It is so exciting!) If a gentle pull on the cutting meets resistance – it has rooted. You can see a forked root here, and there are additional tiny little roots forming. It is time to plant this little one up, and slowly introduce it to more light.

How Long Does Succulent Propagation Take?

blue echeveria clock

Propagating succulents by stem cuttings can be done successfully much of the year. The amount of time it takes from cutting to rooting will vary with the season, length of daylight hours, temperatures, succulent variety, etc. This is not a fast process. But it is reliable. If you know you need x number of succulent plants at a certain time, plan to buy them. But to increase your collection, propagating them is a great way to go. You will also find some terrific bargains online if you are willing to receive cuttings rather than rooted plants. There are some excellent vendors who do offer succulent cuttings, either for use in crafts or as an inexpensive alternative to purchasing plants.

Should You Use Succulent Rooting Hormone?

flat filled with succulent stem cuttings

Over the past 20 years, I have experimented many, many (many) times with propagating plants of all types. I have used rooting hormones, aspirin, willow bark water, and nothing at all. I do find the hormone powder useful with really stubborn, woody perennials. But for succulents, it just does not seem to make any difference that I can tell. Why buy and use something you just don’t need?

Propagating succulents from stem cuttings works beautifully with the vast majority of succulent varieties, including echeveria, aeonium, sempervivum, crassula, kalanchoe, portulacaria, sedum, senecio and more. Essentially any succulent that is formed by a stem with leaves can be reliably propagated this way. So – now that you know all about propagating succulents from stem cuttings, what plant will you start with first? I hope you are eager to get started. If you have any questions, please let me know – I am happy to help!

You can do this. I promise!

P.S. For my FREE course, 7 Steps to Succulent Success, please subscribe! Thanks so much!

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step-by-step how to propagate succulents from stem cuttings

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12 thoughts on “Propagating Succulents from Stem Cuttings”

  1. I bought succulent cuttings online. 3 of them died, sad. The rest seem to be doing ok despite the cold and dreary days. I did let them out to callous when the weather was bright & warm. I wonder if they might have caused their death. How soon will I see rootings? I have them under Grow lights. I can send a picture, if needed. Thank you.

    1. Hi Jamie,
      If the weather was too cold for them, that could have done been what killed your cuttings. Did they become soft, squishy and mushy? If so – that was the cold.
      When you are propagating succulents indoors, leave them to air dry for 3-4 days to callous over. They won’t need to be outdoors to do so.
      How soon the rooting occurs will vary depending upon the type of succulent, the conditions it is in – even the time of year. Some succulents are nearly dormant in the winter, so they will take longer at this time. So long as the cuttings are plump and firm, they will be fine until the roots develop. The grow lights can certainly help to keep them warm, but don’t give too much light before they root.
      Please do send me the photos – I want to help you get them growing! 🙂 Email me at Kat@TheSucculentEclectic.com.
      Thanks!
      ~Kat

  2. Hi Kat,
    I’ve just been given a lovely variety of potted succulents (young plants). However they were wet when they came and as I live in a moist area I’m having trouble drying them out and I can see some of them are not happy already and will probably soon rot. I’m worried about leaving them in their pots. Could I transfer them to the garden bed where they might drain better?

    Also I have a cutting of a lime green succulent, it’s kind of medium size variety with thin-ish leaves and loose rose shape head. Would I leave it to dry for a few days before sticking the stem into soil? Or grow it from broken off leaves?

    Thanks for your helpful site and your time!

    1. Hi Mary,
      In a situation like this, I recommend you remove the plants from the wet soil. Remove the soil, and rinse off the roots if necessary. Leave them out of the soil and out of the sun for a day. Then re-pot into dry, fast-draining succulent soil. Give it another couple of days then water and let drain. I know this seems drastic, but really wet soil and plants that are already suffering – that is an “emergency”!
      If your area is quite humid or rainy, try adding pumice to your soil to improve the drainage. About 1/3 pumice to 2/3 succulent soil. Read more about succulent soil and pumice here: http://thesucculenteclectic.com/best-succulent-soil-what-succulents-need/
      For your cutting, I would leave it to dry and callous over for about 2-3 days – out of the sun. Then insert the stem into the dry succulent soil. Give it another week or so, then mist the soil well every 1-2 weeks. It will soon begin to root!
      Please let me know if you have any further questions!
      ~Kat

  3. Hello, one of my succulents is grown indoors and I was cleaning and i put my echeveria out in the porch. I forgot to put her back indoors and it rained and her soil got very wet. While I was gonna change her into dry soil, her stem at the bottom was squishy and mushy and the part of the stem that was mushy broke and now my plant had no roots! Would this be like planting as if it were a stem cutting? Please help! I love this succulent.

    1. Hi Andrea,
      You have two options here – stem cutting propagation or propagating the leaves.
      Can you send me a photo of your plant, so I can see what you are seeing?
      I think you will likely want to pop off some leaves to propagate as well as planting the stem cutting.
      You have the article on the stem cuttings. Do you know how to do leaf propagation? If not, please write to me so I can help you in detail – Kat@thesucculenteclectic.com
      ~Kat

  4. Hi Kat

    Great post and site. I beheaded an Echeveria and the remnant stem – kept in its potting mix, placed under a grow light and watered as usual – has pups growing off it. Can you tell me how to propagate these? They are about 2 1/2 inches long. It’s summer here in the UK and 75-80F at the moment by the way. Should I wait until autumn (Fall)?

    So pleased to find someone else who loves Portulacaria afra. Such an elegant succulent. In your experience, what is the most common reason for constant leaf drop on these? I find they go yellow, then fall off – a lot. I’ve tried less sun, more sun, ditto water, but can’t stop it happening. Any advice appreciated.

    Also, I removed a small side stem from a Portulacaria afra and suspended it over, then in, water. It has grown roots, albeit puny ones, but two of the four leaves have dropped off. How would you advise moving this on to the next stage?

    I can email a picture of the Echeveria stem and the PA cutting if it helps. Thanks so much for your time.

    1. Hi John,
      Thanks so much for writing!
      Your echeveria pups will be simple to root. I do recommend that you wait until the fall if you expect the summer temperatures to rise further. Once the temperature is around 75 degree as a high, you can then remove those pups. The extra time may result in the pups developing their own root systems. Depending upon the type of echeveria, you may find the pups easily come away in your hand when you insert your thumbs between the main stem and the baby plant. Otherwise, I take a clean, sharp blade and slice between the main stem and the baby plant, taking care to retain the pup’s roots, if any have developed.

      Then set the pups aside for 2-4 days to allow any slice to callous over. Then set it on a pot of dry succulent soil, in bright shade. Lightly cover any roots with soil. If there are no roots and not much of a stem, just set the rosette on the soil. Lightly water the soil and let it dry. Once dry, in a few days, again water lightly and let it dry. Continue this watering method for a few weeks. Then gently lift the plant. If it comes right up, it has not yet rooted, and needs more time. If it resists you – it has rooted in! 🙂 Once it has rooted in, gradually move it into more light, and gradually increase the amount of water you provide, but continue to water only when the soil is dry.

      Yes! The Portulacaria afra is an elegant plant — what a great description! But your issue sounds odd… What type of soil do you have your plant in? It should be in a great draining, succulent soil that is nutritionally lean. And do you have it outdoors, or in? Please do send me the photos so I can better answer this for you. Please email e at kat@thesucculenteclectic.com. I will be happy to help!

      I have never tried the water therapy method of rooting cuttings. I suppose I should, to be better able to help people who go that route. I find the portulacaria to be about the easiest succulent to root from cuttings. I put them straight into succulent soil as soon as I cut them, then wait a week or so before the first watering. I think I would suggest the same to you at this point, except to start a light watering as soon as you put it in the soil – because they have already calloused over and begun to root. The yellow leaves here are surprising to me. I would really love to see some photos. Since the cuttings are not in soil, the issue is unlikely to be water related. Again, I wonder about possibly way too much light, or way too little.
      Sorry about this – but those photos will really help.
      Thanks!
      ~Kat

      1. Hi Kat

        Thanks so much for your incredibly helpful response; it really is appreciated. I will follow your instructions to the letter regarding the Echeveria pups (sadly I don’t know the variety) when the weather becomes a tad more clement. Look forward to seeing how they turn out.

        The Portulacaria is in regular succulent compost. An interesting issue, however, is that (as you will see from the photos I will email after this) I often find that a repotted plant is unstable in loose compost and so I end up packing it in very tightly. This may hinder drainage. Certainly the water (always filtered) pools atop the compost before disappearing downwards, so to speak.

        Perhaps the answer is to use a mix of succulent compost, perlite or vermiculite and grit. This will reduce the richness of the mix (so more nutritionally lean, as you so fetchingly put it) , and the grit will add stability. What do you think?

        It’s the potted PAs that drop leaves, just to clarify. Often after watering. To avoid this, I barely water them, but eventually they need a drink and then… cue droppage. Do you top or bottom water your Portulacarias out of interest? I am concerned that that the plant will take up too much water with the latter, if that’s possible.

        Many thanks again. You are a star. Photos en route shortly…

        Cheers, John

        1. Hi John,
          I am happy to help! 🙂

          I think the succulent soil should be fine. I would encourage you to use a stake in the soil that reaches to the bottom of the container. Lightly tie the portulacaria stem to this stake to provide some support while you are waiting for it to root into the surrounding soil matrix. Please tell me what succulent soil you are using? I would not pack it so hard – I think the support will do a better job for you and your succulents. Adding perlite is a very short-term fix. It is SO lightweight, it will often “float” up through the soil, and soon will sit on top of the rest of the soil. I prefer using pumice as a soil amendment for this and other reasons.

          I typically water mine from above the soil, and pour water in under the foliage.

          I’ll take a look at your photos. Together we will get your plants healthy and happy for you!

          ~Kat

  5. Hi Kat,
    Thanks for such a wonderful and detailed post! It really has been helpful! I do have a question about propagating my rainbow elephant bush. I bought a plant that had only a single stem, but it was pretty tall (~10″). When I wanted to transplant it to some well-draining soil, I found that the roots were super tiny and it could not support itself in the looser soil. I knew it wasn’t the best season to propagate the plant, but I didn’t really want to tie the plant to a bottle until spring to keep it upright.
    So, I followed your instructions, and I made cuttings from the plant, and I let them callous, but I found that even within one day that some started to shrivel and drop a couple leaves. I figured maybe they weren’t as strong as one would typically propagate, so after one day I put them in soil and misted the top of the soil. The ends of the cuttings seemed to be closed off and calloused, but I’m not sure if I still jumped the gun and planted and misted them too early. I’ve noticed a few more leaves drop and look shriveled after a day in the pot. Any recommendations?
    Thank you very much!
    Lindsay

    1. Hi Lindsay,
      This is one of my all-time favorite plants! Let’s see if we can figure out what the trouble is.
      I wonder if the plant has been getting enough water? Sometimes, these plants will drop their leaves in very dry conditions, so they don’t lose more moisture through the leaves. At this point, though, let’s continue forward to see if they root well. While you are waiting, only mist the soil when it is dry.
      Would you be able to send me a couple of photos so that I can see what you are seeing? kat@thesucculenteclectic.com.
      Thanks!
      ~Kat

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