Jessie Clark, Master Gardener Trainee
Succulents can change dramatically in appearance with even the slightest environmental transition, such as bringing them indoors for the winter. If your sedum or echeveria succulents have taken on an unattractive appearance due to etiolation (stretching to reach superior lighting), you can salvage them with propagation. First, if the top of the succulent has a more characteristically condensed appearance, behead and plant it (waiting a week to water). It can grow roots and survive. Second, remove leaves on the lengthened area of the stem. These leaves can grow new succulents. Third, the original rooted stem can remain in soil to grow future leaves.
Leaf propagation is perhaps the most complex of these steps, so here is a bit more on that. Place the leaves on a windowsill with good lighting. In a few weeks, most of the leaves will grow roots, and they can be relocated to a tray with succulent soil or coco peat. Over the next few months, these rooted leaves will grow new succulents. Keep in bright light and only water when the soil is completely dry (typically, twice a month).
Here are some tips to help you propagate leaves like a pro! Larger leaves will thrive better than smaller leaves, and sometimes will even grow baby succulents before being put on soil. The leaf needs to make a clean break from the stem and also must be healthy in order to propagate. Scarring is fine but dry or rotting leaves will not do. It would be rare for all of the leaves to thrive, so do not be discouraged by those that perish. Rooting powder can help. Journal your watering activity to remember if you have gone too long without watering the leaves, which are not yet as drought tolerant as mature succulents. And finally, some plants are patented or trademarked, which would be noted on the tag when you buy it (with PPAF or PVR). It’s worth mentioning that these plants should not be intentionally propagated, particularly with intention to sell.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and Permian Basin Master Gardeners website (westtexasgardening.org).