Succulent Leaf Propagation Observations

You’ve probably had the question, ‘Why do my leaf propagations have new plants but no roots, or a ton of roots but no new growth?’
Read on to learn why this can happen!

You may have seen my posts about this Echeveria ‘Hercules’ on social media but I want to write a recap for the website.

My husband bought me this big gal back in January for my birthday. He brought it home in a pot that was in a gift bag, and he mentioned it was ‘unplugged.’ I had no clue what he meant until I took it out of the bag and immediately dropped the plant upside down on the cold, hard concrete.

Unplugged = unpotted 😭
(Luckily I didn’t drop the pot)

Not only was it ‘unplugged’ – it didn’t have a visible stem! So there was no way for me to ‘plug it in’ AKA pot it up. Instead, I kept it on a terracotta saucer filled with water so the roots hovered above the water. Over time, some of the lower leaves slowly dried out and I finally started seeing a visible stem to work with.

This type of Echeveria has really firm and crispy leaves that are hard to remove correctly to propagate without them snapping at the tips. If you’ve ever tried to propagate Echeveria agavoides leaves, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

I had neglected refilling the saucer for several days and when I checked on the plant, I noticed the leaves were a bit softer at the base. I decided to try removing some again, and sure enough, they seemed to come off intact without any damage to the tips.

Of course I wouldn’t know for several weeks whether they would propagate or not. In the meantime, I filled up a jar of water w/ expanded shale and set the main plant on top, again with the roots just above the water. At the time of writing this, it’s been 5 months without soil – and that’s not counting the time it spent as a cutting before my husband bought it!

You’ll see its lower leaves are pointing down because I kept it to the side of my grow lights in hopes of keeping it hydrated long enough to buy more time to reveal more of the stem.

I put some of the leaves in a pot with a bunch of other random plants included some rooted Aloe pups, so I watered it occasionally while avoiding the leaves. The pot has a thick top dressing of drainage materials so I wasn’t worried about the leaves laying on moist soil.

I also put a bunch of other leaves on a paper tray (the kind sold as disposable crawfish platters) and didn’t water them at all. Here’s where it gets interesting…

The leaves in the pot that got watered formed new plants, but very few to no roots. The leaves on the paper tray put out a ton of roots but only a couple of new leaves.

You’ve probably had the question, ‘Why do my leaf propagations have new plants but no roots, or a ton of roots but no new growth?’

This reinforces my theory that propagations given even indirect hydration will not be as incentivized to put out roots as those where moisture is withheld. But as long as the leaf is still ‘juicy’ this isn’t a cause for concern.

And sometimes the lack of roots or new growth could be due to the leaf tip being damaged or some type of cellular problem that is preventing the new growth from forming properly.

These leaves took about 3 weeks to callus over and start putting out new growth. I have since filled the paper tray with drainage materials along with a very small amount of top soil. I gave them a small drink with a garden hose set on the ‘mist’ setting and let them dry in front of a fan before putting them back on the shelf next to my grow light table.

After a week, the leaves with new plant growth but no roots are beginning to send out some nice roots, and those that only had roots are finally forming new leaves.

As you can see, there is now a great stem to work with and eventually I will get around to potting it up in soil. When I transfer water-rooted succulents to soil, I do water more frequently at first to help them adjust. This just means keeping the soil fairly moist the first few days before beginning to let it dry between waterings.

I hope this helps you troubleshoot your leaf propagations and have more success at removing those more difficult leaves.

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