Musings

Making More Plants to Love: Propagation by Leaves

By Barbara-

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I love succulents and the best thing about them is that most of them are very easy to propagate. I have successfully propagated succulents by leaf cuttings and offsets. My donkey’s tail succulent is very fragile and sheds leaves with the littlest touch. I guess that is their way of ensuring they live on. Whenever the leaves fall, I hold on to them till they root and form new leaves. I have been able to make a whole planter out of these fallen leaves and still making more.

Donkey tail

Donkey’s tail grown from fallen leaves

I usually place them flat on soil, or on paper towels if I have no toom. They do not really need the soil until they start to form roots. Even then they can form new plants without soil. Once they put out roots, I mist them about once or twice a week.

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Once they form roots though I place them in a make-shift pot . I make them from grocery store salad containers. When the new plants are grown enough, I detach them from the old, sometimes shrivelled leaf and transplant them to their new permanent home. Since donkey tail is very resistant to being moved (sheds like crazy), I make sure wherever they go after being transplanted is where they will be for life!

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Currently I have a few leaves rooting and a lot more forming baby plants. The growth is much slower in winter than in spring and summer because succulents are typically ‘resting’ in winter with no active growth.

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New baby plants of Sedum morganianum detached from leaves
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Leaves of Sedum morganianum and Kalanchoe tomentosa

In order to have your leaves put out roots, they have to be removed from the parent plant with care. I gently rotate the leaf until it pulls off on its own. Removing them with a breaking action may result in a bad leaf cutting where part of the leaf remains on the parent plant. If they fell on their own, chances are it was a clean breakaway and you can make a new plant from the leaf.

A bad cutting will not grow roots. All my good cuttings are successful in putting out roots. I have tried rooting hormone on some of the leaf cuttings to compare the success of roots forming versus no rooting hormone and there is no difference that I have personally witnessed. I have heard others say though that they have more luck with using rooting hormone. The choice is yours. I love propagation because you end up with more plants to love or give away. I’ll share my experience in propagating by offsets in the next post. Do you have any experience with propagating succulents by leaves?

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Barbara

Hi, I’m Barbara and I’m a little obsessed with house plants. I share my house plant adventures in the hopes of inspiring you to continue to enjoy the greens in your home. And if you have no plants (yet!) I hope this blog inspires you to add some green to your home. So go on! Try it! I think you might quite like it. And who knows? You may end up being … obsessed too.

6 Comments

  1. Lomimanhattan

    Hi there ,
    I have some leaves dropping from the main plant after I put her in a new pot.
    I put these leaves in water and the root come out :). Do I need to wait for the pink root to come out before I can put the leave in the soil ? Do you place the leave in the soil or just on the surface of the soil?
    Thank you so much !

    22 . Jan . 2018
    • Barbara

      Hi, if you have roots then by all means place them in the soil. Just bury the roots in the soil while the leaves stay on top of the soil. All the best!

      24 . Jan . 2018
  2. CJ

    PLEASE HELP!!!

    I have had no luck at all when it comes to propagating Donkey’s Tail from the leaf “buds”. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong but I had probably close to 100 leaves and none have survived! From anywhere I’ve read, this is not the norm. What am I doing wrong?
    I’ll tell you what I did:
    Batch 1:
    I put 1/4″ cactus soil into a pie plate. Spritzed it with water to dampen the soil. Arranged the leaves on top of the soil. Placed the pie plate in a south facing window. I spritzed the soil and leaves about once every day or two. Not a lot, just a light spray all over. The soil always dried out between “spritzings”. After about 2 or 3 weeks, some of the leaves had changed from their original light green to a pale almost white colour. Some had changed to a darker greenish brown and kind of soft, and some almost looked translucent. Yet others had gone leathery looking and others totally dried up. Only a few looked like nothing had “happened” to them.

    Batch 2:
    I took the few that seemed to be okay looking – (still their original green colour and not mushy or dried up) from batch 1 and I moved them over to a small Tupperware dish that was much deeper and would fit nicely on my window sill. I filled it with about 2 to 3 inches of cactus soil and placed the leaves on top of the soil. (I read that if the soil isn’t deep enough and is kept moist on top all the time, that the roots wouldn’t grow strong or healthy because they would never have to dig down into the soil to look for moisture). Instead of spritzing with a spray bottle, I decided to try letting the tap drip over the soil around each leaf, taking care not to wet the leaves or saturate the soil. I put the container in the south facing window and watered it lightly every other day or more or less as needed. It has been two weeks and thus far, the same thing seems to be happening as in Batch 1.

    Batch 3:
    I just received a long Donkey’s Tail clipping to propagate. After clipping it into four sections and removing about an inch and a half of leaves from the stems, I have several more opportunities with which to try propagating via leaf once again… sooo… This time I put about an inch of cactus soil into a recycled yogurt tub/container. I spritzed the soil lightly just to dampen the surface. I placed the leaves all over it and put it on a table near a south facing window that gets very filtered light through it. Not much sun, no direct sun at all. I am hoping that they won’t Dry up on me this way, but wonder if I’m doing more harm than good by limiting photosynthesis. I’m not good and very New at this…. any advice would be GREATLY appreciated!!!!

    Should I even put them on soil – or just lay them out on paper towel, leave them and not water at all until I see roots forming – THEN place them into a pot with soil? Do they need to have direct sunlight for a portion of the day or can they sit on a table near a window without direct sunlight? How long does it take for roots to start showing?

    All these questions… I’m hoping someone can help me! Please!

    P.S. I am waiting for the stems to callus over on the long Donkey’s Tail cutting that I divided into four sections. I read that this can take anywhere between 2 weeks to four months before you plant them in soil. Is this true and will it make any difference if I put them into soil right at the two week point? Is there anything special that needs to be done when planting them? How moist should the soil be? Do I keep the soil moist or let it stay mainly dry?

    Thanks in advance for any and all help!

    CJ

    12 . Aug . 2017
    • Barbara

      Hi CJ,
      That has been a lot of trials. Hopefully these tips I give will help.
      First, you did the right thing with the donkey tail plant – taking a few leaves lower leaves off as that is where the new roots will grow. I usually let the cut surface callous for just a day or two then place it directly in soil which I water sparingly. You can also put the cutting in water, roots will form that way. Or you could also just leave the cutting as is and roots will grow regardless.
      When it comes to propagating by leaves:
      1. First, make sure your leaf cuttings are done the right way. In order to have your leaves put out roots, they have to be removed from the parent plant with care. I gently rotate the leaf until it pulls off on its own. Removing them with a breaking action may result in a bad leaf cutting where part of the leaf remains on the parent plant.
      2. Soil is not necessary when there are no roots. However you can place them on top of the soil or on a paper towel. Sometimes I just place them in plastic plates and leave them for weeks until I see roots.
      3. Keep away from direct sunlight. In this post, I had only northfacing windows that don’t get much sunlight(especially in winter). I think keeping them in the sun withers them before they can grow any roots. Just keep it in bright indirect light although I think even low light will be ok.
      4. I usually don’t mist the leaves until pink roots start forming. Then I place them on the soil surface and mist the roots about once or twice a week.
      5. Detach the small plantlets that form when they are big enough to be on their own or when it is safe to detach from parent leaf without destroying the roots. I usually do this much much later when the parent leaf is dried and withered. They come of much easier.
      As I type this I have one rooted donkey tail lying on my carpet floor where they fell from the parent plant. If you live in Canada I can mail you some rooted ones that I prepare.

      I hope this helps and hope to hear of success in the future.
      Basically keep out of sun, water less and I’m sure you’ll see results this time around. All the best!

      13 . Aug . 2017
  3. dellob

    Hi, I’m trying to learn how to propagate succulents. I have tried this way before with know luck. Maybe I’m not patient enough? I’ve been thinking about getting Root Tone to try. I would like to do the same with AV’s leafs and I haven’t had any luck there either. I will let you know how it works for me. I’m always open to suggestion.. Thanks, R.Odell

    20 . Jan . 2015
    • Barbara

      Hi dellob,
      I haven’t had luck with some succulents too. Especially Echeverias, although I think they should be among the easiest to do. It must be my lack of bright light. So far the only succulents I have been successful in propagating by leaves are donkey tail, kalanchoe tomentosa and Pachyphytum oviferum. I have not yet attempted propagating AV by leaf, but I have been successful at using offsets. I think doing them by leaves is quite difficult. There is a lot of information on the web about how you can propagate AV by leaf, but I haven’t actually seen a post whereby someone actually shared their personal experience with doing it and whether they were successful. I would like to see you try and please let me know if you are successful as I and I’m sure others would like to know how you did it. All the best!

      Edited: Sorry dellob, when you said AV, did you mean Aloe vera or African violets? I was thinking ‘succulents’. If you meant African violets, I have actually had success with them. I kept them in my make shift greenhouse salad containers and they produced new leaves in about 3 weeks. If you meant African violets let me know and I may be able to give you some tips. If its Aloe vera then disregard this 🙂

      20 . Jan . 2015

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