Most succulents can be easily propagated through their leaves, a well-known fact in the world of succulent enthusiasts. When I first ventured into the realm of succulents, my initial attempt at propagation was cautious, guided by the advice of experienced gardeners. However, it failed.
As my understanding of succulents deepened, each attempt at leaf propagation improved, bringing joy and a sense of accomplishment. Reflecting on conversations with many beginners and recalling my early attempts, I recognized common mistakes that often lead to failure in succulent propagation.
In this article, I'll share the common mistakes most beginners made and the correct practices. If you've made these mistakes, don't worry; give it another try. You're bound to find success and satisfaction in your succulent propagation endeavors.
1. Incorrect Succulent Varieties
Successfully propagating succulents through leaf cuttings is a fascinating venture, but not all succulents are equally suited for this method. Some succulents, such as Cotyledon succulents, Aeonium succulents, Senecio succulents, Sempervivum succulents, and certain thin-leaved succulents in Echeveria, are generally considered challenging for leaf propagation.
Consider easier-to-propagate varieties such as Graptopetalum 'Purple Delight', Graptopetalum Amethystinum, various sedum varieties, and Mother of Millions. These varieties typically have plump leaves, high success rates in propagation, and rapid propagation rates.
Additionally, here's a tip: try to select healthy succulent leaves that near base, and opt for green leaves as chlorophyll can aid in developing robust root systems.
2. Propagate Using Damaged Leaves
This is a common issue I often encountered in the early stages of succulent leaf propagation due to a lack of experience. Improper removal of leaves can result in damage and the loss of the growth point, making it challenging for leaves to propagate successfully. For succulents with larger spaces between leaves, you can gently wiggle the leaves left and right to detach them.
In the case of succulent plants with closely arranged leaves and a firm connection between the leaves and stems, you may only be able to obtain a section of the leaf. Harvest them when slightly dehydrated to make the process easier and avoid damaging the growth point.
3. Insufficient Time for Leaf Wounds to Air Dry
It typically takes 2-3 days for succulent leaves wounds to air dry. Did you not allow enough time for this crucial step? Allowing the wounds to dry is essential when propagating through soil or water, because open wounds are susceptible to infection, potentially leading to decay over time.
4. A More Challenging Propagation Method
My initial approach was the commonly recommended water propagation method, which, unfortunately, proved unsuccessful. Looking back, I realize that the method itself wasn't inherently flawed, but for beginners like myself, it involved too many critical conditions that quickly led to failure. In a subsequent attempt, I placed the succulent leaves on a windowsill, and to my surprise, neglected leaves sprouted offspring and roots in the open air. From that point on, I embarked on the path to successful propagation.
Therefore, I highly recommend the dry propagation method. Place the leaves in a clean, shallow container on a windowsill or any well-ventilated area with indirect sunlight. Minimal attention is needed – you'll likely achieve success after 2-3 weeks. The beauty of this method is that you don't even need to let the wounds air dry, as they naturally dry in the open air.
If you're inclined to try soil propagation, this method works fine. The only caveat is to avoid burying the growth point in the soil right from the start.
5. Excessive Watering or Misting
Perhaps you need to be made aware, but this is the primary reason for the failure of many novice succulent leaf propagations. Whether using the dry or soil propagation method, you don't need to water until the leaves have sprouted offspring and roots. They absorb moisture through the stomata on the leaves from the air, rendering the water you pour almost unabsorbable by the leaves. Excessive watering may even lead to leaf rot, undermining your efforts. If you are in an arid region, avoid water contact with the leaves during watering.
6. Inadequate or Excessive Light Exposure
Both excessive sunlight and dimly lit environments are unfavorable for succulent leaf propagation. Insufficient light can result in leaves developing roots but not sprouting offspring, while direct sunlight may lead to dehydration and rapid consumption of the leaves. Placing the leaves in a location with bright, diffused sunlight allows for optimal photosynthesis, promoting robust growth of both offspring and roots.
7. Premature Removal of Parent Leaves
During the early growth stages of succulent pups, they rely on the parent leaf for nutrients. Therefore, it is advisable to wait until the parent leaf begins to wither or the pups reach a size of 1 inch before removing the parent leaf. Premature removal of the parent leaf can result in fragile root systems that struggle to anchor in the soil, making them susceptible to withering, and the offspring may likely cease growing.
8. Lack of Patience
Even if you have avoided the mistakes above and still face failure, it might be due to a lack of patience. Succulent leaf propagation is a process that requires time. During the suitable seasons, such as spring and fall, you might see results as quickly as a week. However, during summer and winter, the timeline may extend, and it could take up to a month or more before you witness the emergence of offspring from the leaves. It's crucial not to give up prematurely. A valuable tip for gauging vitality is observing leaf growth and the surrounding area turning red – a promising sign that warrants a little extra patience.
You may wonder: Extra tips on succulent propagation.
Caring for succulents and navigating the propagation process is often a journey marked by trial and error. Through this continuous process of learning and adapting, we build our own reservoir of experience, and indeed, this makes our horticultural journey truly remarkable. Remember, persistence is key – keep going, keep growing!