How Do Succulents Reproduce?

If you are a first-time succulent owner, you may be wondering how to propagate your plants and add more to your collection. Succulents reproduce in specific ways. Most of them multiply through division, while for some cacti, small ‘baby’ plants tend to appear on the edges of the leaves. Keep reading for more interesting details on succulent reproduction methods.

How do succulents reproduce?

These are the various ways or methods that succulents reproduce:

With cuttings

This method is applicable for succulents with well-developed and tall stems.  For a higher survival rate using this method, see to it that you have a well-sharpened blade when cutting the stems. Also, make sure that the stems are actively growing and the roots are visible outside. Cut the young and rooty stems carefully.

After you have cut the stems, allow them to develop some callus before planting. The callus is where the end of the plant dries and hardens a bit. This takes about three to 15 days and this is a critical process to prevent baby plants from having fungal infections.

Once the callus develops you can place your cuttings in a shallow pot. Bury only the callused part of the cuttings and place it in an area with some sunlight.  You can water it regularly by spraying the rooty areas. However, do not overwater as it could harm the succulents during the propagating process.

By leafing

This method involves the removal and replanting of succulent leaves. It is popular among succulent lovers who own pulpy succulents. Just like the previous one, this method requires careful cutting techniques. To propagate, see to it that you cut the part where the leaves and the stem meet using a sharpened blade.  

Once you have cut the part, place it in a shallow and soiled container. Put it in an area with a minimum amount of sunlight and spray with water regularly to keep it moist. 

After about three weeks a callus will develop and the mother leaf’s core will wilt and fall. The buddings will be visible and it is an indicator that the plant is ready to be planted in its permanent planter.

Through stem cuttings

This particular method works best with rosette-shaped succulents and other plants with long branches. Choose shorter stems to cut; the small size indicates they are actively growing and it means they have a higher chance of surviving. Callusing takes up to four days and you must ensure that the branch where it was cut from should remain planted and allowed to heal itself. 

By using seeds 

The seeds, which usually have an orange color, can also be used to propagate succulents. They should be rinsed with warm water to get rid of the coating and planted in a prepared pot and soil should only partly cover it. Gently water the seeds with a spray bottle from time to time since they need careful treatment. 

While said methods work for most succulents it is not applicable for offsets like hens and chicks succulents.  Leafing and direct cutting are not applicable since offsets have parts that are strongly connected and the common way is by propagating through water. After letting it produce callus, they should be placed in water in a jar instead of in soil. 

The cuttings should not be fully soaked since the part where the cutting took place should only be dipped. The roots will sprout overnight and can be planted once they are fully developed. 

How to cross-breed succulents?

These are the steps on how to successfully cross-breed succulents:

  • First, pull a flower off of the main plant. 
  • Remove the flower petals to expose the pollen-covered anther. Leave it since it is filled with pollen and pull off the stamen. 
  • Next, rub the freshly-removed pollen into the flower of the plant you intend to cross-pollinate it with.
  • Close the receptor flower’s petals with tape if the succulent is growing outside to prevent cross-pollination by insects. However, if the succulent is placed indoors the insects cannot access it then there is no need to tape the flower closed.  Mark the flower you pollinated by writing on the tag. If pollination is successful,  the flower’s base will swell in a few weeks to months, but this will depend on the succulent. 
  • Finally, collect the seeds once the cross-pollination is done then proceed with the planting process.

Succulents reproduce asexually and this means individual reproduction or reproducing without sex.  It is a sole reproduction without gene contributions by another ‘parent’ plant. Asexual reproduction in succulents is in the form of offsets or young ones produced by succulents.  A good example of a succulent that reproduces through offsets is the hens and chick plant. 

Problems concerning the propagation and breeding of succulents 

These are the probable problems concerning the propagation and breeding of succulents:

  • During the cross-pollination process, newly-produced succulents may become weaker than the original variety instead of creating a hybrid variety. 
  • Sterile succulents are not capable of cross-breeding and the only way to breed them is through stem and leaf-cutting methods. 
  • The pollen of two plants may not bloom at the same time and the only way to breed succulents is to control the environment.
  • Not all succulents are a perfect match so you have to be mindful of proper cross-breeding procedures. 

Conclusion 

Succulents are popular home and office plants and they are easy to propagate. They reproduce through methods like leafing, stem cutting and by using the seeds. These low-maintenance beauties can also reproduce through cross-breeding and require two kinds of succulents through separation and division of plant parts.

Image: istockphoto.com / HaiMinhDuong

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