Succulent cuttings can take between two weeks to over a month to root. How fast a succulent cutting sends roots will depend on the species, time of the year and sun exposure.
The vast majority of succulents are incredibly easy to propagate from offsets and cuttings. However, the term succulent describes a vast amount of plants that can be quite different to each other. Because of this some succulents can root quicker than others. But there is more that comes into play.
Below I will try and explain how external factors can influence succulent cuttings sending roots and what kind of time frames can be expected, generally speaking. The advice is based on my almost 10 year experience of growing over 300 succulent species at my nursery Fern Farm Plants.
Succulents that root the fastest
The succulents that root the quickest when planted as cuttings are most Sedum species, Graptosedum, Graptopetalum and Sedeveria. The majority of plants from these genera grow most of the year and will root in about 2 weeks.
Although there are always some exceptions, for instance Graptoveria Amethorum which can be frustratingly slow to root, the great majority will be fast.
When do succulents root the fastest?
Succulents, like other plants, have growing seasons. This means they grow and root faster during certain times of the year. A growing season can vary from species to species, but the majority grow and root the most in Spring.
For most succulents the best time to grow them from cuttings is spring. This is also when they will root incredibly fast. If you’re trying to root succulent cuttings outside of the particular plants growing season, chances are the cutting will take ages to send roots but can also die.
In winter, for example, many succulents (bar a few exceptions like the Aeonium) are unlikely to send roots if they are propagated from cuttings. Their internal clock will know its winter. The lack of light and cold will send the whole plant to dormancy which means any reproduction will be hard. Plants can be tricked by artificial light and warmth, but I personally believe it is best to let plants go through their dormancy cycle.
In Spring, we propagate absolutely everything. All of our 300+ species of succulent will grow from cuttings really well and we have virtually no losses or cuttings that do not root, unlike during the other seasons.
Summer can be tricky as the sun can become too strong which can easily kill young cuttings that have not yet had time to send roots, or only have small roots. Early-mid autumn can also be quite good for propagating in moderate climates.
In some parts of the world where even autumn can be quite cold, cuttings may not root at all. During winter, we propagate very few plants. Aeonium and some Sedum species grow and root well during this time, but our winters are very mild and not very frosty.
How much light do succulent cuttings need?
To root succulent cuttings successfully and fast, they will need to be placed in plenty of light. A few hours of early morning sun followed by bright shade or filtered light through a shade-cloth is an ideal environment for cuttings.
Although different succulents can have different light requirements, they will all need at least some sun exposure to preform photosynthesis. No sun means very little to no growth or even death. This is also true of succulent cuttings. Succulents in too much shade will start stretching towards the brightest light, will grow leggy and those that are true sun-lovers (which is most succulents) are at a risk of rotting and dying. To learn more about succulents and sun, you can read another one of my articles here.
All our nursery cuttings are grown underneath a 30% shade-cloth. The shade-cloth provides protection from strong UV but lets enough sun through to keep the plants happy, compact and beautiful. They also root fast.
In the cooler months (beginning of spring) succulent cuttings of most succulents will happily root in a spot that gets full sun. But once temperatures start rising above 25C/77F, cuttings can easily suffer burn marks and cuttings of smaller plants such as some Sedum can even die.
It is also important to remember there are succulents that prefer more shade that others. Haworthia, Gasteria, Rhipslis, Grafted Cacti, some variegated succulents etc. all prefer to only get either filtered light or morning sun when the UV is not yet damaging. Much like our skin- we are unlikely to burn when the sun is weak but as soon as the heat ramps up we are at risk of suffering sunburn. Cuttings of succulents from these genera should be placed under shade-cloth or in bright shade with a bit of morning sun to root successfully.
Can you plant cuttings straight away?
Succulent cuttings should be planted after the wound created by the cut has dried so fungal infections or bacteria are not able to enter the plant. It is recommended to wait a minimum of 24 hours.
We take and propagate succulent cuttings almost every day. To let the wound dry, I leave the trays in one of our dry greenhouses for about a day. Some people say to wait much longer, but in nearly 10 years of running my nursery I cannot say any of our cuttings got spoiled or died because I did not leave them out to dry for longer than 24 hours.
To be quite honest (and this may ruffle some feathers), planting succulent cuttings straight after they are cut while the wound is still wet and fresh is unlikely to have any adverse effects. Yes, it is better to wait for the cut to dry (and I always wait with succulent cuttings that are going to be sold in the nursery) and there is a chance that the cuttings can acquire some sort of fungal or other disease, but many plants in our succulent gardens have been planted as cuttings with fresh wounds.
Running a nursery can make life busy and so when doing my own garden I would just snap bits of succulents and pop them straight in the ground. I’ve planted thousands of succulent cuttings like this over the years and they have all grown up nicely. Having said all that, I would still recommend to let the wound dry.
How do you root succulent cuttings?
Only root cuttings in the growing season
Cut off a piece of succulent (branch or an offset with a stalk)
Leave in a dry, sheltered spot for at least 24h
Plant in pots or trays of succulent potting mix
Place trace/pots in a bright spot that gets morning sun/under shade-cloth
Water the cuttings when the potting mix dries out
Rooting succulent cuttings is very easy. The most important thing that will also ensure high success rate is to root cuttings in the growing season. As explained above, for most plants, this would be spring.
Outside of the growing season (late autumn/ winter) most succulent cuttings will have trouble sending root. We have a detailed article on growing succulents from cuttings here. You may also be interested in reading our posts about offset and leaf propagation.
Can cuttings go straight into soil?
Yes, cuttings of most succulents can go straight in garden soil but care should be taken so they do not burn when the sun is too strong in summer. The soil should also be loose enough.
Even though, as mentioned above, I have planted all our nursery and home succulent gardens straight from cuttings I would strongly recommend to first root them in pots/ trays filled with succulent potting mix, especially if you are quite new to succulents.
Not all succulents are created equal and while some are incredibly hardy and will root without a problem even in poor soil and strong summer sun, others will not survive this treatment as cuttings.
If you're planting cuttings straight into soil, you should also make sure the soil is not too hard. Potting mix can always be mixed through poor garden soil, so the tiny cuttings roots find it easy to spread which in turn allows the plant to establish and grow. To learn more about growing succulents in soil, go here.
Do succulent cuttings need to be watered after planting?
Succulent cuttings need to be watered regularly after planting. Because cuttings do not have any roots they have no ability to take up water and so will need to start losing water stored in their leaves and stems. Watering will encourage root growth and will stop cuttings from drying out.
It is important that the cuttings are not kept in a soggy mix and personally, I would not recommend misting as this can rot some succulent cuttings. A good drench every few days when the water has evaporated from the potting mix will keep cuttings happy. If the cuttings are planted in good succulent potting mix that is able to drain fast, keeping cuttings out in the rain is also a good idea. Our nursery cuttings always root best during rainy periods.
How long can succulents cuttings survive before planting?
Different species of succulent will have different ‘shelf life’ as cuttings. Most should survive up to three weeks but some can go even longer than that. Generally, chunkier the cutting, longer it will survive before planting.
One of our most popular products is a succulent cuttings pack. We send these in the post to most of Australia. I did some tests to see how long they will last in a box and most were fine for up to 3 weeks. Of course, much will depend on how hot it is outside but generally, cuttings do pretty well if they are kept in a shaded spot, cool spot.
It is, however, best to not wait too long before planting cuttings as when they are kept in shade they will start stretching and lose their sun resistance. Also, if cuttings are not planted and left in direct sun, they can burn, dry out or die.
Cuttings of plants with big and chunky leaves tend to last longer as they have more water storage. Cuttings of succulents with small leaves and thin stems will dry out and die a lot sooner.
If you have a bunch of cuttings and for some reason cannot plant them straight away, place them in a very bright spot and turn them upwards. If they are left lying on their side, it is likely the cuttings will twist as they naturally want to stay up, facing the sun.
In conclusion, as far plants go, succulents are very easy plants to root from cuttings and it does not take very long before roots start appearing. The most important thing to remember is to root cuttings in the growing season, use succulent potting mix to start them off, keep them out of strong, direct sun and water regularly.