It takes more patience than dirt or water to grow succulents from leaves, rosettes and offshoots. If you’re willing to wait, your plants will recreate themselves in slow-motion with almost no help from you at all.

The plants pictured above got their start in my backyard when I pulled a leaf off of their mother plant. You can also propagate by cutting a rosette or separating a pup from the mother plant. I’ll review the pros and cons of each approach below.

This new plant is six weeks old and has grown roots but still needs the starter leaf for nutrients.

Propagating by Leaf

Each leaf of your succulents holds the potential to make a whole new plant. And all it asks of you is patience, lots of patience. It can take two to three weeks for the first new leaf bud to appear, and a few months before the new plant is fully rooted. The starter leaf will fall off on its own when the new plant has used all of leaf’s nutrients and grown a sufficient root system.

To harvest leaves for propagation, pull a bottom or lower leaf from healthy, well-watered plant. Most will come off easily if you pull at an angle like tearing paper.

You’ll need to place your leaves somewhere that is dry, warm and bright for 2 to 6 days to allow a callus to form over its cut. If you try to plant the leaf before this step, it’s very likely to mold and rot.

I use terracotta plant saucers and cardboard egg crates because I live in a humid climate and the porous surface reduces mold. Once the portion of the leaf that was attached to the plant has formed a callus, or thin skin covering, it will no longer look wet and is ready for the next step.

Three-week old Graptopetalum leaves growing new plants without soil or water.

Many growers place their leaves on top of shallow layer of soil to wait for new leaves to grow and roots to form. Others bury the callused end of the leaf in the soil, leaving 3/4th of the starter leaf above the soil line. You can also propagate succulents using no soil at all. The leaves pictured above have been sitting the egg crates since I picked them three weeks ago. It’s humid where I lived so they have not needed water at all. Another method of hydroponic propagation is using a plastic water bottle with small holes punch out. I tried this method but my bottle kept blowing over. I prefer to let my growing plants lay out in the open air, in bright but not direct sunlight. So far it seems like the Jade plant leaves grow faster with soil once the first few leaves appear while the Graptopetalum leaves prefer a hydroponic start.

After six-eight weeks, roots are well established and connected to the soil.
The starter leaf will fall off soon.

Propagating by Rosette

A rosette is the flower-shaped grouping of leaves at the top of a succulent or at the end of each branch. These cutting will form a callus or thin, dry layer of cells over the cut in 3-7 days, then they will be ready to plant.

By taking a cutting that is larger than one leaf, you can grow new succulents faster.

To stimulate root growth and prevent bacteria you can use a rooting hormone such as TakeRoot or FastRoot. Both are made of 0.1% Indole-3-Butyric Acid. I don’t know what that is so I use cinnamon instead. Spray cuttings or dip them in water to dampen then dip the stem in cinnamon. It helps prevent fungus and stimulates root development. Use honey to prevent mold and bacteria.

The Jade plant on the left is eight weeks older and more established than the one on the right. The smaller plant was propagated by leaf and has grown healthy roots. The plant on the left is a cutting that was planted one week ago and has not grown roots yet.

Propagating by pups or offshoots

This succulent has grown several smaller pups or baby plants at the base on the left side and sent up a branch with an offshoot on the right.

Hens and chicks is a popular type of succulent that produces baby plants at the base. There are many other varieties that reproduce in this way. Before you separate these new plants, it is best to wait until the new pup or offshoot is at least one inch in size. Ideally, you are able to remove the mother plant and take a portion of roots with each pup or offshoot. If you are unable or unwilling to compromise the mother plant, or if the pup breaks off with no roots, allow a callous to form on the stem before planting.

This succulent has made a new offshoot at each place where a leaf was taken. It’s a true win-win. I pulled three or four leaves to make new plants–those leaves have started to sprout. Meanwhile, the mother plant replaced the missing leaves with a whole new plant.