Succulent plants, especially members of the echeveria family, have become hugely popular the last few years, as well they should. They grow with next to no water, and can be manipulated in all sorts of ways, and even grown vertically, in growing medium and mesh, so that they be can hung like a wreath.
The only downside of these versatile plants is that they can be fairly costly and they aren’t hardy in cold temperatures. Some people choose to grow them as annuals, enjoying them for just a season and then turning them into compost. Being a thrifty plant lover, I prefer to bring mine in. However, growing them inside over the winter, even on a sunny windowsill, usually leaves them stretched out unattractively by the following year.
The solution is to start new plants from pieces (“cuttings”) of your larger succulents. If you begin this process in fall, under grow lights, you’ll have good sized plants by the following spring. And even better, you can make LOTS of new plants for very little cost.
How to multiply succulent plants
Step one, rip some of the leaves off an existing plant, pulling from the base and making sure that you snap it off right where it attaches to the plant (this is important–snap it off part way up the leaf and it won’t sprout)
Step two, lay the leaves out on the kitchen counter or somewhere out of the way for a day or two. They need to dry out a little bit and form a callous on the point where you detached them from the plant.
Step three, get a tray of sharp sand (i.e. builder’s sand, not sandbox sand) and dampen it. Sand works better than soil or potting mix for starting cuttings, primarily (in my opinion) because it’s easier to keep it consistently damp. Lay the leaves out on the top of the sand and place under grow lights (I usually keep mine on for about 12 hours a day) or, in a bright and sunny window (grow lights are best). Keep the sand damp but not wet.
In a week or two you’ll start to see roots sprouting:
They’ll get longer and start to anchor into the sand, and you’ll see the very beginnings of new leaves start to form:
Eventually, those leaves will get bigger and look like little rosettes:
By the time they start to look like little plants they should have enough root on them to dig them out of the sand and transplant them into pots:
I use a mix of potting soil and sand in the pots I transplant these seedlings into. I don’t water them very much, as they will rot and die if they get too much moisture.
And that’s all there is to it! I tend to them until summer, when they find new homes in various pots outside. If you’re fortunate, some varieties of echeveria will even reward you with quite extraordinary blooms: