Thursday, February 2, 2012

Making new plants from succulent leaf cuttings

Many plants can be propagated by cuttings, but nothing could be easier than making new plant babies from echeverias, graptopetalums and similar leaf succulents. I have a lot of these crammed together in tight quarters, and I (or other people) often brush up against them, breaking off leaves in the process. As annoying as that may seem, it’s actually a great opportunity for propagation.


Ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense). The leaves of this plant seem to break off before you even touch them! That’s why I have more ghost plant babies than anything else!


Echeveria subsessilis ‘Azure Blue’ where many of the leaf cuttings shown below came from

Instead of throwing the leaves away, I usually put them on top of the soil in a nearby pot or even just on a table—whatever is closest and handiest. Invariably I forget about these leaves, but when I check them a month or more later, I’ll see the signs of plant magic: new growth!

Initially there will be just the slightest protrusion from the broken-off end.


Graptopetalum amethystinum leaves with new plants forming at the broken-off ends


Mother plant where they came from

Weeks later you’ll see a tiny rosette forming.


Graptopetalum paraguayense

And a few more weeks later there’ll be adventitious roots growing into the soil.


Echeveria subsessilis ‘Azure Blue’

That’s when it’s time to gently dislodge the newborn and put it into its own pot.


Echeveria subsessilis ‘Azure Blue’


Graptopetalum paraguayense offspring propagated from broken off leaves

Of course you could take a systematic approach and simply place leaf cuttings into their own pots to begin with, but I rarely seem to be able to get myself that organized.


Echeveria subsessilis ‘Azure Blue’ leaf cuttings

And as you can see, it’s not necessary! This group of plants—and propagation thereof—appears to be fool-proof. Try it for yourself!



This was an entire rosette of Echeveria subsessilis ‘Azure Blue’ that got knocked off. I simply put it on top of some lava rocks in another pot and several new rosettes are sprouting from the old one.


This method works works great with echeverias such as this Echeveria glauca.


This is a length of stem left over from one of the two plants above (cuttings I was given by a friend). Instead of tossing the excess length of stem, I simply placed it on top of the soil in another pot—and voilĂ , new babies sprouting right from the stem.


Today I gathered up all my recent leaf cuttings and put them into their own pots


It looks like I will end up with two dozen new plants…


…perfect to pass along to friends and neighbors!

Very quickly you’ll end up with more plants than you need, but what could be better than sharing with friends and family—or donating to your local succulent society for a a plant sale. And if you’re really ambitious, you could start hoarding succulent cuttings for a vertical wall like this one.


  1. I agree, they really are the simplest to propagate -- if not slow. I guess plants that readily root in water (basil, coleus, a zillion others) are simpler, but you've got to love that new plants form from stems, leaves, or whatever!

  2. It's pretty addicting, but really... What to do with 300 echeverias at the end of the season... :)

  3. How much root do you need before planting it? It's been over a month and I'm just starting to get tiny hairs (not very long, barely visible). How long do they have to be before I can stick it in a pot. Thanks!

    1. You can pot it up now. Be sure the soil is dry. Keep it dry for another week, then water. Let dry before watering again. Good luck!

  4. I'm trying hard to propagate echeveria leaves. I've got them to produce a lot of roots, but they're not producing rosettes. What am I doing wrong? Some cuttings have shriveled, have many roots, but still no rosette. Are these alright or can they be saved? How can I get any of them to produce rosettes?

  5. does the stem needs to be dead to make new plants or it can produce new ones even if it's alive? mine is only like on the tip of the stem and the rest is just naked

  6. does the stem needs to be dead to make new plants or can it produce new ones even if it still has a little bit of leaves at the top? cuz the rest is just naked XD

    1. Actually, the stem has to be alive. Dead stems can't make new plants. I hope this helps.

    2. thanks! it does help XD

  7. Can you "reuse" a leaf to make more than one plantlet, or is it "one and done". Thanks!

    1. Melissa, I've never seen two plantlets growing from a single leaf, so I'd say it's a one-shot deal.

    2. Thanks! I'm new to propagating from succulent leaves, and didn't know if I could remove the current plantlet and get a second one to sprout. Guess I'll "leave" it alone! =)

  8. Questions: I have 3 leaves from, I think a ghost plant, from a friend of mine. I have taken the advice of multiple sites (including yours) but I want to double check that I'm doing this right.

    1: I have them on a bed of cactus mix with gravel pebbles on top to keep the leaves themselves off of direct moisture but the ends (where they will sprout) are right near open soil. They were originally in a west facing window so I am keeping said leaves in a shaded but rather toasty place behind a larger plant on my front porch until they get use to direct sun. Is this alright?

    2: Do they need to be watered (even just a little) during this time or just ignore them?

    3: Since my friend was hoping to prune back the rather wild thing we harvested leaves from, can you root whole rosettes with stem and leaves or is it better to whack the whole thing up? Also, can you safely "water root" Ghost plants or not?

    Thanks in advance for your time. Great blog btw! Check out my own blog for my Kalanchoe misdaventures.

    1. These are great questions. Let me take a stab at answering them:

      1. Yes, this sounds like a great spot. I think heat is the most important factor.

      2. I would not water until new plantlets are beginning to form. Then I would lightly mist them every three days or so. When the plantlets are bigger, maybe the size of a dime, you can water them once a week.

      3a. Yes! Rooting entire rosettes, with a piece of stem attached, is the easiest and fastest way. They will root very quickly. Water lightly--maybe once a week. You don't want the soil to be permanently soggy.

      3b. I've never tried to root ghost plants in water, but give it a try! I'd love to hear what the outcome is.

      I hope this helps.

    2. Thank you very much! :3 Sorry I didn't see sooner. 1 Last thing: Do you just leave the leaves (hehe)on top of their dirt or do you actually "plant" the leaves? and if so, how far? up to an inch deep?

    3. No worries :-)

      I leave the leaves on top of the soil. The plantlets will eventually root right into the soil.

    4. Quick update: My friend tried water rooting some Ghost plant Rosettes with stems and she says they grow roots like crazy! 1 of the stems was bigger around then 2 of my fingers but she water rooted it and in about 3 weeks there were enough roots to successfully plant it. She was so happy and grateful for the help I got from your blog, (she really loves that plant) So I'm just giving a little thanks back on her behalf.

      TL:DR Water rooting Ghost plants is indeed possible and possibly faster than dirt rooting. :) Have a great day!

    5. That is SO GREAT to know! Thank you for sharing. I'll give it a try myself. Like your friend, I really like the ghost plant.