The Most Successful Propagation Method For Succulents – Water VS Soil

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Fun Fact: Did you know that you can grow a new succulent plant from the ones that you already have. All that you need is a leaf to propagate and grow a new succulent. 

It is really easy to grow some new plants yourself for free, avoiding any costs and trying something new in the process. 

There is a multitude of different ways that you can grow/ propagate succulent leaves to achieve this. One way that you can propagate your succulents is to propagate them in water, the second is propagation via soil. There is another way, the less effort and more ‘lax method of just doing nothing. 

All these methods are tried and tested, they can all work very well given the correct environment, but some may prefer to do one method rather than others. We will go through all of these methods and give you all the information you need so that you can propagate your succulents to the very best that you can. 

If propagating your succulent fails, you can always check out these places to buy succulents online!

The Basics

Let’s take a look at the basics first. First of all, let’s have a look at what you want to use, most succulents can be propagated in water, you can either grow the roots from healthy single leaves or if you have a stretched out/vast succulent then you can take stem cuttings and root those.

Succulents always have plump and fresh fleshy leaves, plants such as the Echeveria plant have the best chance of success. So these are a great choice to make when you are first attempting to grow and propagate succulent plants, these give you a good chance at success the first time round as you learn how to propagate your plants. 

Succulents like string of pearls or variegated string of hearts are also easy to propagate

Do remember that not every cutting will grow into a new succulent. It is also wise to propagate a few leaves at the same time. This way you will have more chances of a survivor.

Some succulent leaves will only grow roots and no new plant, others may rot, wilt, and wither away to your disappointment. It is best to be ready for possible failures when you are doing anything with plants, but remember that you can find success if you try out doing many at one time. 

Propagation in Water

Before you jump the gun you want to remove the leaves to propagate.

To do this you want to use healthy leaves, we suggest using larger and more mature leaves, as their roots will likely grow faster than smaller leaves will. Larger leaves usually have a higher success rate too. This will apply to any method you use. 

Similarly applicable to any method is how you remove the leaf. Carefully remove it from its stem, with most succulents this will be an easy job to do. 

Just gently wiggle the leaf to pull it off, you MUST have a clean break, if you do not then the leaf won’t grow roots if part of it is broken off while another part stays attached to the mother plant. Hence, you need to be careful in the separation. 

Now, to propagate your succulent leaf in water, you need to let the leaf cuttings dry and callus over a few days. Once you have done this you need to put the leaves into a small narrow neck bottle that is filled with water- one bottle per leaf.

Try to keep their ends just above the water surface, if they keep falling into the water then you can cover the top of your bottle with a piece of plastic wrap, poking a hole in it and sticking the leaf through to prevent it from drowning. 

Once you have done this, you simply wait. Place the cuttings in their bottles into a bright spot, a window is very good for this to ensure they get adequate sunlight.

Then with time, the leaves will begin to sprout roots that reach for the water. As time goes on they may even start to sprout baby succulents too. 

Wait until the healthy root systems have developed and then you can plant them. To do this you should use succulent potting soil. Once the old leaves are all withered up you need to gently remove them or you can simply wait until they naturally fall off. 

Do not forget that baby succulents need more water than a mature succulent, you should keep watering them every other day with a spray bottle until they have grown and matured. Once they are matured you can start a regular succulent care cycle.

Learn more about propagating succulents and other plants:
Make plant babies using the water propagation method

Propagation in Soil

So, having looked at how to propagate your succulents in water, it is now time to learn how to propagate them in soil. Is it all that different? Somewhat, yes. 

Though you should use the same technique to detach the growing leaf from the mother plant as you would with water, using the leaf to create your own succulent is the same regardless of method. You ALWAYS need a clean cut removal to grow a baby succulent. 

When you are propagating your succulent leaves directly into the soil you need to fill a shallow tray with succulent soil. You can use a mix of perlite or pumice, you can usually get succulent soils from online stores or even from an outdoor gardening store.

Once you have filled your tray place the callused leaves on top, much like you would with water, but this time place them into the soil, or even just place them on top of it. 

If you are placing them into the soil then you should plant them with the calloused end inside the dirt, however, remember, you would not see the roots growing this way.

Also do not be overzealous with water, do not water or provide absolute minimal water to the leaves until the roots start to grow. Too much water before the roots grow will almost always make the leaves rot, which would be anti-progressive.

A good tactic to use is to place the leaves on top of the soil and spray a tiny spritz of water right in front of them, just to give them the motivation to reach for the moisture they need. One spritz is enough before they start to grow roots. 

Once the roots and baby succulents have started to grow, then you can start to provide more water for your growing plant. You should do this by just misting the roots, do not wet the leaves themselves.

You should do this every few days to prevent the roots from drying up. Similar to the water-method, you should also keep your succulent cuttings in bright light, however, try to avoid direct sunlight until the plant has established itself.

The far end of a windowsill or a slightly shaded area of a window could be ideal before the plant has been established and rooted. 

Once the plant has established itself and is growing baby succulents, you can then transfer them into their own pots. Be cautious of disturbing the roots too much, cover only the roots with soil in their new pot and keep the baby succulents above the soil. 

Please note, while it may be tempting to pick up the leave to look at their roots and track their progress, don’t. If you disturb the roots it can cause damage and stress them out which will, in turn, cause them to wilt away and shrivel and die. 

The soil method is the best way to propagate Trachyandra Tortilis (a super unique curly-leafed succulent)

Can you propagate by doing…Nothing?

In the modern age, everything we do has a ‘can I do it by doing nothing at all’ question to it. With most things, there is no easy way, however, with planting a succulent, there is. So, yes. You absolutely can propagate a succulent plant by doing nothing. 

It is pretty easy to do, especially if you are in a hurry. If you notice a part of one of your succulent plants has broken off, you can simply pick it up, throw it into a small pot and place it on a bright windowsill or similar place.

Then just set and forget it. Some succulents will have leaves that will just fall off the minute you think about them, these can be useful for propagating and are a good practice plant as they will provide you with the means without the hassle of careful plucking and leaf removal. 

For the most part, you can just do nothing and leave the plants to grow on their own. However, we also recommend doing a tiny bit of care when the succulents start to grow.

Once the baby succulents sprout up it is worth keeping a spray bottle nearby and just giving them a light spray whenever you walk past them to provide them with the moisture they need. You only need to do this once the baby succulents have sprouted. 

You will also eventually need to pot the succulents in the soil of course, but aside from that, you can just let nature do its thing as you go about your busy daily life. 

If you go down to a garden center or even just to a shop that sells succulents you may see this happen just as a happy accident. A leaf may drop off a plant and it went unnoticed then it just lays where it landed and starts to root and baby succulents will start growing. 

Do not forget to keep the original (parent) leaf on until it is dry as a bone, until it is dried out it is the primary source of nutrients for the baby succulent. 

Water V Soil: Which is better?

So, you are probably wondering what technique works best out of the water and soil propagation methods. There are different pros and cons to each method and some may favor one method over the other. 

Some people may find water propagation more favorable for plenty of succulent houseplants. One reason this can be favored is that you will see its roots as they grow. Roots also tend to show up fairly quickly and leaves will probably start growing baby succulents fairly quickly too. 

This being said, propagating on the soil will also see roots and baby succulents growing fast without too long of a wait, or that much effort. 

Obviously, the do-nothing-at-all method will get more points above the others as you can just put your feet up and occasionally spray it with a mist when the roots appear.

However, using the do-nothing  method can also have the downside of the succulent roots being smaller and some of the baby succulents being stretched out fast because of a lack of light inside the pot. This can be different when you put a few leaves on your windowsill instead of inside a cramped pot. 

This means that the real competition is between water and soil. Both methods work, but, that being said, roots growing from leaves on soil tend to be stronger and firmer than water roots.

Baby succulents that grow from leaves in water also tend to be a little misshapen due to being stuck in the bottle neck that they are known in. On soil, a new succulent will have more room to grow and a more symmetrical and natural rosette styled shape. 

If you grow a succulent in the soil you can also avoid the issue that you may have with removing the succulent from the water bottle and placing it into the soil.

With the fragility of the roots, it can be more difficult to do that with soil. Since soil-based roots tend to be more firm and strong they aren’t quite as fragile.

Depending on the type of soil you grow them on as well, you may be able to transfer some of this soil with the plant to their new pot when planting them, thus eliminating any damage that could be done to them in the planting process. As you will not necessarily need to come into any direct contact with the roots. 

We like the water method and the do-nothing method, but for ease and precision, as well as sturdiness, we vote for soil propagation overall. Try these methods out yourself and find which method you prefer most. 

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