Do you have a small army of succulents? Just a few? Maybe even just a singular one, sitting on a windowsill all lonesome?
Wouldn’t you like to have more?
Here’s a couple of ways to do that.
Method 1- Growing From Seed
Let’s start with the more fiddly method first, shall we?
First, A word of caution:
In order to grow succulents from seed, you must first obtain seeds, and that can be on the tricky side. Why? Because there’s a fair chunk of scammers out there, pretending to sell succulent seeds that, after they get planted, are revealed to actually be grass seed, or wildflowers, or other distinctly not-succulent plants.
Sometimes these scammers are easy to spot- the people selling blatantly edited bright blue Monilaria moniliformis (“bunny ear” succulents) or neon pink Haworthia cooperi, for example. But then others aren’t so in-your-face about it- and often product reviews won’t help you, as most people submit their reviews before even trying to germinate their seeds, basing it on shipping time.
Buying seeds online is, ultimately, a gamble. However, as most of us don’t have any other way to obtain rarer seeds- such as succulent seeds- we’re stuck with taking a chance and hoping.
If the author may humbly offer a suggestion- if you, too, decide to go venture into the realm of online succulent-seed shopping, consider taking exact note of who or what shop you bought it from, and what you should be getting from your purchase.
And consider keeping lists, just to keep track of things- one for sellers that prove themselves to be honest, and one for those that do not.
Some sellers include germination instructions with your seeds when you purchase from them, and of course, one should attempt to follow them as closely as possible if this is the case. Good sellers that offer these instructions generally know what they’re doing when it comes to their own products.
Some don’t include this handy extra help, however (and that certainly doesn’t exile them to the pit of scammer scum- perfectly viable and healthy seeds can still be procured regardless of bonus instructions or the lack of them!).
So, for this section, assuming you do not have in your possession a hand piece of paper already telling you what you require to make your tiny seeds grow-
You will need:
- Succulent seeds
- Succulent soil or sand- some people sprout their seeds on cotton, but I never have much luck getting mine to live long afterwards. I prefer planting directly in the growing medium.
- Shallow container for soil, with drainage holes
- Ziplock bag, plastic wrap, or other item to cover or enclose soil-filled container to boost humidity
(Do keep in mind this is not the only way to germinate succulent seeds. If this doesn’t work for you, try another way!)
Start off by taking your container and filling it with succulent soil/sand. Go ahead and thoroughly wet your chosen growing medium- this assists in keeping the seeds in place while sowing.
So the deal with succulent seeds: they’re tiny. So ridiculously tiny. Don’t handle them in a room with a strong fan blowing around, tiny.
Tiny enough to get washed away with too much water- thus, preemptive watering.
To plant your seeds, you can try scattering them across the growing medium, or you can barely wet a toothpick and lightly touch it to a single seed at a time for more deliberate placing. After all your seeds are placed, lightly lift and tap your container, and cover with plastic wrap, a “greenhouse top” or place inside a plastic bag to boost humidity.
Place succulent seeds somewhere warm and with bright light. Germination time is dependent on variety of succulent- sprouts may begin to appear as soon as only a few days, or it may take months.
The author has unfortunately not been able to dabble in the realm of succulent seeds as much as she would have liked. She fully intends to remedy this in the future. However, for your consideration, here are some shops from which she has, in fact, made purchases from in the past:
MicroLandscapeDesign – Excellent quality Monilaria moniliforme and Lithops seeds; the other seeds were not purchased, but can reasonably be assumed to be of the same quality. At the time of purchase, orders came along with instructions, and seeds had excellent germination rates on both soil and cotton, though soil plants ended up being healthier in the long run.
Strictly Medicinal Seeds – Not only do they carry a wonderful range of aloe seeds, Strictly Medicinal Seeds also carries dragon fruit, a couple kinds of bulbine and cacti, and hen-and-chicks.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds does not, at the time of writing, offer any other succulent seeds beyond a mixed-species cacti pack. However, it earns a mention here for being the cacti you see in the picture above, which had an excellent germination rate resulting in very tough little cacti that have been a delight to watch grow.
Method 2- Leaf Propagation
Only certain succulents can reproduce from leaves. Some can only reproduce from seeds and cuttings; others, only cuttings. The author must regretfully admit that she knows of no sure-fire method to tell the difference between which ones can, and which ones cannot. Really, the best way to find out is just to try different leaves, and see which ones work.
To collect leaves for propagation, select a plant with healthy, plump leaves. Once you’ve decided which leaf you want to take, gently wiggle and twist it until it pops off- hopefully, with a clean, non-damaged end. Repeat until you’ve gathered all the leaves you want to try propagating.
Now set them aside and leave them be for a couple days! Just let them sit, out of direct light, for anywhere between four days to a week. You’re waiting for the end to heal over, or ‘callous’, so it won’t go and rot on you while you’re trying to get it to send out a baby plant and roots.
After leaves have sat for a while, prepare a container by filling it with succulent soil. Simply place your leaves on top of the soil, lightly mist them daily with a spray bottle, and eventually you may begin to see little roots or leaves!
The little succulent at the end of the leaf will grow slowly, and eventually the leaf will dry up and fall off. Be careful with the delicate little babies when transplanting!
Method 3- Offsets
Again, only certain succulents make offsets. Aloe vera, for one. Haworthias and sedeverias can too. When you check your succulents, look at the base of the plant- if you find a little sprout snug against it, you might have a offset!
See the two images in this section for some examples of offsets. The top image of the sedeveria has two large offsets, ready to be separated off and live on their own. On the other hand, the haworthia’s offset is very little- not one I intend to risk splitting off for a while yet.
Offsets may also grow out from the stems of other succulents. I prefer to leave these on the plant, but they, too, can be split away to grow on their own.
Large, mature offsets should have roots growing out of them, and these roots should come with them when you cut or pull them away from the mother plant. If they don’t, don’t worry- set aside the rootless offset, and let it dry for a couple days just like in leaf propagation. After that, just plant and water them, and roots will come eventually!