The beauty of plants is that if you look hard enough, creating an abundant indoor jungle can be super cheap (though, you know, I do love me some exotic plants) if done through propagation. If you're interested in finding out how to propagate plants, and the method I use specifically to propagate succulent plants from cuttings then keep reading. I'm going to show you my favorite tricks and my success rates.
I’ve found pieces of plants dropped on the ground outside of farmers markets, stores, and on the streets (note that I’ve never clipped from plants that weren’t mine. Please don’t steal!) and had great success getting them to turn into little wee baby plants all their own.
How to Propagate Plants
The trick is knowing which way to propagate plants! There are a few different methods. But I’m going to cover the three most popular ways: air, water, and soil. (Getting some “The Craft” calling-the-corners vibes here.)
For a quick run-over, to “propagate” means to create a root system from a piece of plant that previously had none of its own. This can include leaves, stems, cuttings, or flowers. The level of success when trying to propagate plants from each of these sources depends on the method of propagation, time, and the ability to leave it alone.
So let’s cover the different ways and some tips to make sure you pick the right method for your plant:
This is the way I learned first and has been the most successful with clippings only. Water propagation is just sticking a clipping in a clear vessel (I use shot glasses for smaller guys and mason jars for bigger cuttings) with distilled water or rainwater and putting it in a sunny spot. After a few weeks, little baby roots will start to form. And the plant can be moved to soil BUT this doesn’t mean that the plant is good to go. Those roots developed in water, so they’ll be accustomed to moisture.
You’ll have to slowly train the roots to become adept at handling drier soil mediums. So transition the plant from water to soggy soil. Then from soggy soil to a more “normal” soil and watering routine. Don’t stick them in soil right from the water propagation and expect it to flourish! It will take a few extra steps before the plant becomes strong enough to handle regular soil and watering routines.
This is best for flowers, leaves, and stems. It’s usually best done with a rooting medium to help give it a little oomph. Make sure the cutting has been cut cleanly with sterile tools as you’re introducing soil into a fresh wound on the cutting. So the fewer germs and bacteria involved, the better. I use Isopropyl Alcohol and make sure to wipe it off (don’t let your shears soak!) before doing a clean cut. Use little seedling pots and make sure your soil mix has additives that allow oxygen to get into the soil and the cutting.
I’ve only tried to propagate succulent plants from cuttings using air propagation so can’t say how successful it works with other types of plants. Air propagation simply means lying the succulent leaf on top of the soil. But not digging it directly into the soil and leaving it be. I will mist the leaf, but rarely do I actually water the soil (succulents are desert plants so don’t need a ton of water to flourish) and after a few weeks, a little baby succulent plant will grow. You can pop this off and discard the leaf. But I usually just leave it alone and let it do what it’s gotta do with the discarded materials.
A Note about how to propagate succulent plants from cuttings
To me, trying to propagate succulent plants from cuttings is the easiest way for any beginner to get started. Succulents typically like to be left alone to do their own thing. If you're going to focus solely on succulents (which I recommend if you're starting out), look for plump cuttings that haven't started to get flimsy or feel moist. Those are typically too far gone. Try to look for cuttings that are bright in their color (I know some succulents are pale shades so use your best judgment) and that have a little bounce if you lightly squeeze it.