Two recent events—the fall sale of the Monterey Bay Area Cactus and Succulent Society in San Juan Batista and the annual Succulent Extravaganza in Castroville—attracted throngs of gardeners who gained new appreciation for the variety and appeal of succulent plants, and brought home great numbers of plants.
By bringing hundreds of small succulent plants for sale at these events, the organizers provide an important service for gardeners. They also demonstrate that making more succulents is really easy. Anyone can do it!
Propagating succulents avoids the costs of buying plants, particularly for mass plantings or large arrangements that feature many of the same plants.
This practice also appeals to gardeners who want to renew a succulent plant that has grown leggy, or too large for the intended location.
A third reason for large-scale propagation is to create plants for giving or selling to other gardeners.
Popular methods for propagating succulent plants are based on stem cuttings or leaf cuttings. Today’s column focuses briefly on those methods.
Step One: Make the Cutting.
Any succulent plant that has an elongated healthy stem can be propagated. Using a sharp knife or razor blade, cut a two-to-four inch piece from an actively growing stem. Remove the lower leaves, if any, and dip the stem in rooting hormone (available in garden centers). Then, rest the cutting in a shaded location for up to a week while a callus (or callous) forms to protect the cut end from harmful microbial life.
Make a leaf cutting in the same manner: cut or break a full vigorous leaf from the upper half of the plant, dip it in rooting hormone, and allow it to form a callus.
Echeveria plants and some other succulents form rosettes of leaves. These can be cut from the plant with up to an inch of stem, and propagated just like a stem or leaf.
Step Two: Start the Cutting
Prepare a very fast-draining medium, e.g., 80% pumice or perlite and 20% potting soil, insert the cutting and place it in a warm location with indirect sunlight. Water with tap water that has had time to release it chlorine, or use distilled water. Pour gently from above or absorb from the bottom. Mist the cutting with distilled water daily and maintain a humid atmosphere with a plastic tent or other method, but let the plant dry out before watering.
Step Three: Plant the Rooted Cutting
After several weeks, when the cutting has developed roots, transfer it to a larger container filled with 75% pumice or perlite and 25% potting soil.
In a future column, I’ll describe other propagation methods, including grafting, and planting seeds, offsets or plantlets.
Here’s a project that calls for a large number of small succulents plants. I lifted this image from Debra Lee Baldwin’s newsletter, which has step-by-step instructions for creating your own similar display. I expect neither she nor Roger’s Garden will object to my use of this photo. (It helps to have a nice container on a pedestal, but Debra says, correctly, that the container should not be featured, but rather treated like the frame for the picture.