Success with Succulents
Updated: Jun 19, 2018
Succulents have been enjoying resurgence lately and I do feel it’s about time. They are perfect for anyone without green fingers as they are so easy to care for. They do not need daily watering and will withstand quite a lot of neglect. They have evolved to survive in extreme habitats and long periods of drought. They store their water in specialized tissue within roots, stems or leaves dependent on the variety. They can be propagated by sowing seed, division and taking cuttings . I do however find that Division and taking cuttings are by far the easiest way to increase stocks.
It is important for succulents to be potted into free draining compost. They need just enough moisture to enable rooting to take place but not so much to rot the tissue. Three quarters fill a pot or seed tray with gritty succulent & cactus compost and then add a layer of grit on top. This will prevent the stems from rotting and still allow them to stay upright.
Is my favourite method as it’s so easy and the results are very quick. Dividing Clump forming succulents such as sedums can be done in spring, right at the start of the growing season. Simply lift the whole plant with a fork, taking care of the fleshy roots and leaves. Shake off as much soil as possible and then it will be possible to pull the plant into several pieces. Ensure each piece has a growing point and its own root system, discarding any woody old growth from the centre of the clump. Simply re plant each piece in the desired location. If any of the stems or leaved do fall off in the process then these can also be propagated – see how to propagate from cuttings below.
Some succulents produce offsets around the mother plant and it is possible to remove these without even lifting. The offsets will often have developed their own root systems while still attached to the mother plant, simply push back the soil a little to expose the root and using a sharp knife detach. These can then be planted into their own individual pots. If the offsets have not produces their own roots then these can be treated as for cuttings below.
A really reliable way of propagation. Because of their fleshy tissue, succulents can retain water and nutrients while they are becoming establish. This prevents them from drying out like other cuttings. Cuttings can be taken as stem, leaf or rosette and offsets as described above can also be rooted by this method.
By taking cuttings from semi ripe or ripe tissue – established tissue rather than new growth you will be able to increase the chances of success. Cuttings taken from young or small tissue are prone to rotting – other the other hand if your tissue is too old and woody it may take a long time to root.
Stem cuttings - Using a clean sharp knife cut the stem you would like to root 5-8cm in length and leave to one side for a few days to callus over. When ready prepare your pot with compost as per above and simply push the stem through the gritty mixture in your pot and down to the compost, taking care not to push the stem in too far as otherwise it will rot.
Leaf Cuttings - Select frim flesh leaves and by gently sideways teasing away a leaf from its stem the axillary buds will come with it. Leave to one side for a few days to callus over before potting up. Leaves can be potted up into shallow seed trays as they do not need the depth of a pot. Make up your tray as described above with compost & grit and simply push the leaf down through the gritty mixture, just enough for it to stand up. Take care not to push the leaf in too far as otherwise it will rot and leave cuttings around 1cm apart.
Pop cuttings into a bright location but shield from direct sunlight, keep the compost slightly damp. If the weather is warm cuttings may start to root within 3 weeks, but some can take up to 6 months. Do not cover the pots as stems are prone to damping off. If cuttings are struggling to root then some bottom heat can be applied to give them some encouragement.