If you’ve been burnt by a Fiddle Leaf fig or murdered a Monstera, maybe you just haven’t met the right plant yet.
Succulents are a little bit like the spag bol of the gardening world. It doesn’t matter how horticulturally challenged you are, they’re almost impossible to get wrong. What’s more, they cost almost nothing to grow, provided you know someone who already has a healthy plant.
“Succulent cuttings are easily taken from existing plants so are a super easy and cheap way to grow your plant collection,” says Sophia Kaplan, author and co-founder of Leaf-Supply.com. “It’s so satisfying watching the new little bits of growth appear and will hopefully be just the beginning of your plant obsession.”
Of course, the unwritten green thumb code is that if you are going to take a cutting, it’s good manners to ask the owner of the plant first - no one likes discovering someone’s been rooting around in their garden. So once you’ve asked nicely, here are Sophia’s top tips on how to grow your own succulents from a cutting.
Step 1: Breaking off the perfect stem
“Some succulents will propagate easily from just a leaf cut cleanly off at the stem. Others need a stem, which you should cut off a few inches minimum from the top of the plant just above a leaf on the stem,” says Sophia.
To test which one yours is, check the break when you snap it off. If it snaps off clean, you can grow from a leaf. If it leaves stringy flesh, you’ll need a stem. “Either way, be sure to use sharp, clean scissors,” says Sophia.
Step 2: Leave them out to dry
The next step is to leave your cuttings out to dry. Simply leave them on a clean, dry surface away from direct sunlight and wait for a new root, called a callous, to form.
“Drying the stem helps prevent the base from rotting from excessive moisture intake once inserted into the soil,” says Sophia. “Ideally leave to callous for one to three days.”
Step 3: Choose your pot (and spot) wisely
While succulents are definitely hearty, you don’t want to be sticking them in just any old bucket of dirt. “There’s always an exception to the rule, but generally succulents prefer sandy, porous, well-draining soil,” says Sophia. If you’re not sure about soil, try a cactus and succulent potting mix available from good nurseries. “Your pot MUST have a drainage hole, as they do not like having soggy roots,” Sophia adds. And light wise, they like plenty of sun. “Be sure to place them by a sunny windowsill otherwise they will get sad and leggy,” says Sophia.
Step 4: Planting like a pro
Here comes the really easy bit; if you’re growing from a leaf, you don’t even need to dig a hole! “Leaves need just be placed gently on the top of the soil, while stem cuttings need to be pushed into the soil, with their leaves staying above the soil line,” says Sophia.
Step 5: Go easy on the water
When it comes to watering, less is more. “Water sparingly and ensure they don’t sit in a puddle of water in their saucer. Once a week is probably a safe rule, but ensure the soil has dried out between waterings,” says Sophia. Sounds simple, but don’t take it as an invitation to set and forget. “They’re a bit forgiving for those who forget to water every now and then, although they are alive so be sure not to neglect them!” says Sophia.
THREE OF THE BEST SUCCULENTS FOR BEGINNERS
Sophia reveals her favourite varieties for black thumbs.
1. Donkey’s Tail: “Most varieties of Sedum are easy to propagate and varieties such as the aptly named Donkey’s Tail grow into a stunning trail of leaves.”
2. Echeveria: “These are another great option and have an elegant rosette shape.”
3. Haworthia: “These are both very forgiving and aesthetically pleasing with their incredibly striking spiky, stripy leaf.”