Episode 47: Propagating succulents
One of the many satisfying things about succulents is just how easy they are to propagate: this week I take a look at how to propagate succulents from existing plant material, aka cuttings (take a listen back to On The Ledge episode 36 for information on sowing from seed).
Most succulents can be propagated from cuttings, but it's useful to know which species need to be propagated from stem cuttings, and which can be propagated from leaf cuttings. Adromischus, Crassula, Echeveria, Haworthia, Sedums, epiphytic cacti such as Epiphyllum can be propagated from a single leaf: Senecios such as string of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) and spear head (Senecio kleiniiformis) need to be propagated with a piece of stem attached.
Whether you are propagating from leaf or stem, the key advice is to give the plant material a few days on a tile or somewhere dry so that the cut end can callus over: only then will it be ready to put out roots. When removing leaves, make sure you remove all the leaf, as the meristematic cells at the base of the leaf (where it joins the stem) are essential in kickstarting root production. It doesn't matter if you leave them a bit longer than that, and if you do you may even find baby plants start forming before you have a chance to do anything else! Once this stage is done, your leaves can be laid on damp gritty growing medium or kitchen paper and left to start growing. Once they are in growth, you can then nestle the leaves into the surface of the growing medium so the roots can start to attach. The starter leaf will gradually die off as the baby plant grows.
If you have an Echeveria that hasn't had enough light over winter, you can carry out drastic surgery but cutting off the top and treating it as a stem cutting - as I did for the Echeveria on the left here. Stem cuttings can be placed straight into gritty compost; they shouldn't need covering with a clear plastic bag like other cuttings as this may cause them to rot.
You can also propagate many succulents by division: removing offsets or pups growing around the base of the parent plant on Haworthias, Aloes, Gasterias and so on. Take the whole plant out of the pot and tease away the babies, taking any new roots with them. Pot these straight up into gritty growing medium if they have roots: if not, performing the callusing procedure above first before potting on.
Grafting is the next level of succulent propagation: the process of joining together a "stock" plant (the bottom bit with the roots) to a scion (the top bit). I am hoping to cover this in detail in a future show, but if you are curious, check out these resources:
What are grafted cacti? - World of Succulents
How to graft cacti - Sunday Gardener
Additional techniques for grafting cacti - Baetanical
Root stock suggestions - Kada's Garden
Question of the week
Nicole wanted to know what to do about her jade plant (Crassula ovata) that had developed a split in the thick bark, and a branch coming out of it. I suggested she remove and propagate the branch, but not worry too much about the split, which seems to be healing over anyway - these are tough plants!
Meanwhile Sophie wanted suggestions for the shelf above the bed. After a cautionary tale about my own shelf-above-the-bed disaster, I recommended members of the Peperomia family, including Peperomia polybotrya 'Raindrop', P. prostrata and P. caperata.
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On The Ledge talks, live show and houseplant chats
I'll be making an appearance at Gardeners' World Live in Birmingham on June 14 on the Blooming Interiors stage - check out the schedule here, and stay tuned as I'll have a ticket giveaway coming up in the next few weeks.
I am also going to be at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show on the afternoon of July 4 giving talks on houseplants in the roses theatre - do join me if you can. And on the evening of Friday October 26 I'll be bringing a live show of On The Ledge to the RHS London Urban Garden show, with special guests including Alys Fowler and all kinds of leafy fun! Put those dates in your diary NOW!