Propagation Stations | Growing your own succulents from leaf

If the act of growing plants had certified stages, stage two after buying some plants, potting them up and keeping them alive, would be growing your own from scratch. Growing plants is inspiring: nurturing your very own baby plants from first growth to year-old pup is awe-filling.

I've owned succulents and cacti to varying degrees of success for around two years now. Flicking around the internet, the blog posts and Instagram photos that always caught my eye were the propagation experiments. Growing plants! From leaves and stalks! It always seemed strangely mystical and old-world. There was no need for the consumerist horrors of gardening centres! You just needed some soil and couple of old leaves. I was determined to try.

My propagation attempts
I started with three leaves that had been knocked off my parent plants: two from a Sedum Adolphii  and one from some kind of Moonstone plant. General advice suggests you use shallow seed trays and lie the leaves across the soil. But I was at university, low on money and without many shopping options so I used little plastic pots that grown succulents can be bought in from garden centres, filled them to the top with sandy soil and that seems to be going OK (Fingers crossed). A little note, I also started these propagations in a horrible damp room, which had copious amounts of mould and a couple of occasional slugs so don't worry if conditions aren't 'perfect'. Succulents are good at making do.

Advice I would give? Don't over water them. It's so easy to shove them under a tap and soak the soil. They really don't need it. I ended up emptying a cleaning spray, washing it out and filling it with water, giving the pots a spritz when the soil was dry. Honestly, these plants are made to survive dry conditions so they sort themselves out nicely.


The original two leaves at around 3 months
More advice? Don't expect every leaf to sprout a plant. Only two of my three leaves have worked well. One Sedum Adophii propagation grew feeble roots and nothing else. Also, it takes a long time. The two leaves I have currently are still tiny but are over three months old.

Inspired by the small success of my two leaves, I was thrilled to be contacted on the Reddit /r/succulents thread by someone who'd seen a months old comment of mine asking for Burro's Tail propagations. I received a private message saying they'd be happy to send me some tiny leaves free of charge to see if I could get them going. Free of charge! The world still has wonderful people in it. If you're interested in growing succulents, I can't recommend the /r/succulent thread enough - full of friendly people who can give you advice quickly.

The little leaves arrived soon after - about 20 to 30 tiny little things packed carefully into a cardboard box. For the Burro's tail, I chucked all the leaves in another similar pot and treated them the same. Lo and behold, I've now got about 15 miniature Burro's Tails growing. It's my longed for plant that I've never owned or seen for sale so I am desperately hoping they survive and do well.

Burro's Tail Propagations
Final advice? There's a lot of contradictory suggestions out here on the internet. Find what works for you. The best way to work out if a propagation needs watering is to look at it. Is the leaf a bit wrinkled and the soil rock hard? It needs a water. You might be putting a little excess stress on the leaves but they are strong and can take it.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to comment below!

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