Watering Succulent Propagations: Leaves, cuttings, and offsets

Hey everyone it’s Andrea with Sucs for You in Houston, Texas and this video is about watering your succulent propagations.

I posted on the Sucs for You Youtube channel’s community page asking for your questions, maybe you saw it, regarding watering succulent propagations and there were a lot of great inquiries, and I thank everyone who left their feedback. If you’re not subscribed yet, please do, so you can see when I put out a call for video suggestions and leave your questions there too!

Let’s get started!

Whether you’re propagating succulents from leaves, cuttings, or offsets, this video will help you understand when and how to water them. We’ll also discuss a few other important tips, but the main focus here is about watering your propagations.

But first we need to talk about callusing really quick because no matter what, no water whatsoever should be introduced to a propagation that hasn’t fully callused.

And that is because if water enters an open wound, it can cause rot to set in if the water or surrounding soil contains any nasty pathogens, which it probably does.

And just like there’s no way to tell you how long it would take a flesh wound would fully scab over, there’s not one answer for how long it will take your propagations to callus.

Larger cuts will take more time to heal of course, and it will usually take longer in more humid climates than drier regions.

You’ll know it’s healed when there’s no sign of moisture or fresh growth where the propagation was removed, whether that’s a leaf, stem cutting, or offset.

Watering Leaf Propagations

Moving on, you can start your leaf propagations in a soilless medium like a paper tray or windowsill but eventually you need to introduce them to soil.

And I wanted to mention that gardeners in arid climates may need to start their callused leaves on lightly moistened soil to help keep the propagations from drying out before they put out roots. I’ve heard about that happening quite often.

Even so, don’t saturate the soil, and focus the hydration away from the plant. You just want enough moisture to create some humidity around the plant and to help tease out new roots.

Humid climates won’t need to worry about this as much as long as the propagations are not in direct light.

When it comes to leaf propagations, ideally, leaves should not be watered until they start to put out roots, and the leaves themselves should be kept as dry as possible, which means no misting.

Remember, even though they don’t have roots, they’re still alive, growing, and even breathing via their stomata, the pores covering leaves that allow gasses and water to pass in and out, and standing water on leaves might inhibit photosynthesis and can encourage rot.

Once roots begin to grow, you can either wait for them to find the soil and target a small amount of water directly at the roots, or if you have trouble keeping the roots from drying out, you can position the leaf so the roots are easier to bury.

Several light waterings throughout the week should be more than enough. Allow the soil to dry between waterings at least for a day so you don’t ‘spoil’ the propagations with too much water, or else they could slow their root production.

There’s no set time for how long it will take for them to grow roots or new leaves. I get asked that all the time: How long is it going to take for this little leaf to do anything!

It really all depends on the type of plant, your climate, and the plant’s natural growing seasons. Some have taken as little as a week to put out roots for me, which is amazing, and others have taken their sweet time — well over a month, maybe even 2 months. But as long as the leaf is still healthy and hydrated, there’s still a chance it will propagate.

Now if you’re seeing a lot of root growth but no leaves (I hear about that a lot), increase the amount of hydration in the surrounding soil and gradually offer them a bit more light.

And if you’re seeing new leaves forming but few to no roots, try cutting back on any hydration if you’ve been moistening the soil.

I had a bunch of Echeveria Hercules leaves that had been removed for about 2 weeks. I moved some to a big pot, with soil, along with other rooted plants that I watered while avoiding the leaves. The other batch stayed in a tray with only drainage materials, no soil, and I didn’t water them at all.

Those in the soil put out a lot of new leaves but very few roots, and those in the tray put out a lot of roots but much fewer leaves.

This led me to believe the leaves in the soil could sense or ‘smell’ the water nearby and didn’t feel as much pressure to put out roots, so instead they focused their energy on growing new leaves, while those in the tray did the opposite.

If the propagation is successful, one of two things will happen next. Either the mother leaf will dry out and the baby will detach naturally OR the mother leaf may even stay hydrated long enough to become part of the new plant.

You’ll want to treat the new plant as a baby. It may need more frequent watering to keep the roots happy, but you need to be careful not to overpot it. Overpotting is when a plant is in a pot that has too much soil for it to dry out quickly enough, so use a smaller pot and make sure you have plenty of drainage materials in the soil mix.

As with leaf propagations, cuttings need to be fully callused before introducing any water, and again, in most cases, it’s best to wait for roots before introducing moisture unless you’re in an arid climate.

I prefer ‘air’ potting my cuttings so I can tell when they’re fully callused without digging them up and possibly disturbing any fragile new roots. This just means I will either put the cuttings in an empty pot or in a container partially filled with drainage materials.

We need to keep them upright because they’re still growing, and if they’re laying down, they’ll start to bend and sit up like little plant zombies in search of the light.

Once your cuttings are callused and hopefully putting out some roots, you can pot them in dry soil. I wait a few days to make sure the roots have some time to get used to being in soil, then I water about 3 times a month.

Depending on the pot, the soil will be pretty much dry after 5 days, and I want it to stay dry before watering it again to help encourage the roots to go looking for moisture.

You can watch your cuttings for new top growth and that will be a good indicator new roots are forming as well. After a month or so you can gently tug on the plant to see if there’s any resistance from the new root growth. Be sure to wait until the soil is dry to check for roots or else they can break and pathogens in moist soil can enter more easily. And we all know that’s not good.

Now let’s talk about offsets.

If the offset, or pup, doesn’t have its own root system yet it needs to be treated as a cutting. And even if it does have its own roots, like with Aloes and Haworthias, you’ll still need to give it time for any broken roots to heal before introducing any water.

I like to leave offsets unpotted for a few days so I can easily keep an eye out for any infection or other problems. And I still wait a couple of days before watering them after potting them up. Again, any broken roots should be given time to heal, and I think they also appreciate a bit of time to get used to being buried in soil before watering.

As with the other methods of propagation, start out with less frequent waterings until the root system is more robust and be sure not to overpot your offsets.

Well, that’s all for this video and I hope it helped answer most of your questions about watering your succulent propagations and that you have much better luck with them if you haven’t had much luck before.

Remember to subscribe to my channel so you’ll get notifications when I upload a new video or post on the community page asking for your feedback and ideas about future videos, because that’s really helpful for me!

Be sure to check out the video descriptions for helpful links like how to get your copy of my book The Succulent Manual, supplies I use and recommend, and where to order some really great plant mail if you’re ever in the mood for that.

Thanks so much for watching!


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✿ About Sucs For You! Featuring demonstrations of how to propagate and care for succulents and cacti, and other tips on working with these beautiful plants in challenging climates. With Andrea Afra, based out of Houston, Texas, Garden Zone 9A.

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