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Hort in the Home Landscape

Propagating Succulents and Cacti

Cacti and Succulents are by far my favorite group of plants. The colors, flowers, and interesting growth habits are like nothing else in my opinion. But one of my favorite things about this group of plants is the ease in which you can make more plants. Through the use of cuttings or division, you can very quickly expand your collection of cacti and succulent plants. 

Stem Cuttings
Taking a stem cutting is the fastest way to get a good sized new plant. The procedure is simple, find an active growing point on your mother plant and take a 3-4 inch cutting. Remove the lower foliage leaving just a few leaves at the top of the cutting. When working with cacti, I would recommend wearing gloves or using needle nosed pliers to handle your cuttings. 
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The only thing different about propagating a succulent plant as opposed to any other herbaceous plant is that it's best to allow your cutting to callus over before inserting into our moist potting mix. After taking your cutting, let it set on the counter for 4-7 days and then insert the cutting into your growing medium. This callusing will help prevent your cutting from rotting in your moist media.
In order to have good rooting success, at least 1 or 2 sets of nodes (where you removed the leaves from) need to be in the growing media. You can see 3 sets of nodes in the photo above. These nodes are where your new adventitious roots will arise from. Rooting hormone may be used on the cuttings but is not necessary in order for most cacti or succulents to root well. I recommend starting cuttings in small plastic inserts or in small individual containers so that the cuttings don't stay too wet.
Leaf Cuttings
Leaf cuttings are an excellent method of propagation because you can get many, many cuttings from a mother plant. The downside is that a leaf cutting will take longer to yield a good sized new plant. Just like with stem cuttings, you will cut a leaf from the mother plant and let it callus for 4-7 days. Then the cutting will be placed into your moist growing media. As you can see below, I left these leaf cuttings sitting on a shelf for about a month's time and they were very eager to grow.
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Over the course of a month or two a small plant will begin to form at the base of the leaf cutting. This plant will grow in size to become your new plant and eventually the original leaf cutting will die off.
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For some cacti and succulent plants, the natural way that the plant reproduces is by creating off sets. Aloe is a good example of this. The plant starts with one mother plant, but quickly forms many off sets that are easy to cut or divide off the mother plant and replant.
The soil used for propagating and planting this group of plants should be slightly different from your standard potting mix. These plants do not appreciate a constantly moist media, so a mix with good drainage is ideal. Cacti and succulent potting mix can be purchased pre-mixed but making your own mix is simple. I prefer a mix using 1 part potting mix and 1 part perlite. This creates a light, well-drained media. 1 part coarse sand and 1 part potting mix also works well.
Within a few weeks to a month, your cuttings and divisions should have a nice amount of rooting on them. The easiest way to check is to simply tug on your cutting. If you feel resistance, that means rooting is occuring. Once you pull on your cutting and the root system holds together fully, it's time to repot. Plant your propagules into a container just 1-2 inches larger and continue to grow to a larger size.