Test out cutting-edge skills on succulents
Plants for free – who could resist? Many gardeners, actually. People are often wary of taking cuttings to propagate stock, seeing it as difficult or too technical.
In fact, most are incredibly easy, as long as you follow a few simple rules – that’s why I’m starting with succulents, both hardy and tender, as they’re a doddle.
Easier to root than woody plants, succulents have a built-in water supply that allows the cutting to resist drying out when detached from the mother plant. Succulents also root readily from the bases of leaf nodes (the areas where the leaves join the stem).
Potted guide: cuttings
- RULE 1: Always use disinfected and sharp secateurs/cutting knife and clean modules/pots, so you don’t introduce infections to the new plant.
- RULE 2: Compost – it needs to be gritty/sandy for most cuttings, as they readily rot, but especially succulents. I’ve had good success with specialist cacti compost, with a bit of Perlite added.
- RULE 3: With softwood and hardwood cuttings, you are recommended to cover the pot with a plastic bag/dome to lessen evaporation – this isn’t the case for most succulent types, as they have their own water storage systems – watch out for rot/mould.
- RULE 4: Gentle bottom heat, whether a thermostatically-controlled mat or propagator, will certainly speed up the process, especially in the cooler months.
- RULE 5: To root, you must avoid rot, so STERILE is the key word – tools, environment, and compost. Cleanliness will discourage the growth of bacteria and fungi that promote rot.
Succulents – instructions by plant type
SEMPERVIVUM: Each offset around the main rosette will develop roots of its own and become independent as the connecting stolon (wiry stem) withers.
Remove offsets and cut the stolon off just below the base. Take off all dead leaves. Place each offset in a module filled with gritty compost, making sure the base is in contact with the soil (a pair of pencils is good for this). Water in – some gentle bottom heat will help the process.
ECHEVERIA: Most Echeveria can be easily propagated from leaf cuttings, although some can be grown from stem cuttings. Place individual leaves in a cacti compost mix and cover the tray until new plants sprout.
SEDUM: Take a 15cm stem cutting, removing the lower leaves and place it in gritty compost – it should root in about three weeks. You can also divide plants in spring and take leaf cuttings. The stem cutting also works for Aeonium.
LEAFY SUCCULENTS (GENERAL): Take stem cuttings when plants are in active growth – spring is best. Cut off 8-12cm from the end of a stem. Remove lower leaves to leave a bare area about 3-5cm long. Place the cutting in the shade for two days to a week, until it forms a hard layer over the wounds. Fill a pot with gritty compost and insert the ends into the mix. Water in and place it in a shaded area until new roots form.
SUCCULENT EUPHORBIAS (E. myrsinites, E. lactea, E. millii): Wear waterproof gloves, protective clothing and safety glasses to avoid getting the irritating latex anywhere on you.
Take stem cuttings in spring or summer, using a pulling rather than a pressing motion to remove them.
Remove leaves near the end of the cut stem. Put the cutting in water and wash off the sap.
Put the cutting in a shady place for several days for the wounds to heal, then put it in a pot containing gritty compost. Bury just enough to keep it upright. Keep in bright indirect until rooted. Bottom heat at about 24C will speed up the process.