The best time to propagate most succulents is spring and summer, although, there are species that will propagate in autumn, winter and early spring. Succulents should only be propagated in their growing season.
Many thousand species of succulents can be found all over the globe and can differ greatly in shape, size, growing habit, growing needs and time they propagate best. The popularity of succulents sees them shipped across different time zones and into different climates. This can play havoc with the natural clock of succulents but can be overcome as plants are guided by temperature and light.
Succulents know it’s time to reproduce when the temperature starts rising and daylight hours increase. In spring a spur of growth can be noticed on pretty much all succulents, even the species that usually grow throughout winter.
There is a short window of time when all succulents (winter and summer dormant) will send roots if propagated. The first couple of months in spring. During these days the success rate of propagation for all succulents is very high.
Whether or not spring propagating is actually possible will much depend on your climate. Some parts of the world are still blanketed in snow in spring and most succulents are not frost tolerant. In cold climates. But if you have a greenhouse or a sunroom, you can start chopping.
How do I know when to propagate succulents?
To visually spot when succulents are ready to propagate, look for growth. When succulents grow rapidly, they are generally good to propagate. Though a more reliable way is to know the name or propagate in spring.
When a succulent is in its growing stage it tends to propagate much easier. However, there are always exceptions to watch out for. For instance, some Echeveria species will start growing pups in autumn/winter, but this does not mean they are ready to propagate. The pups would be hard to separate as they are still very small in winter, but even if one was successfully taken off, it is unlikely roots would start growing until spring. When the right time comes around to separate the pups (mid spring), they will be easy to pull or cut off.
Some succulents will also grow quite well at the end of autumn, if it is still nice and warm, but propagating so close to winter, when they will go dormant, is a risk as the offsets/ cuttings/ leaves may die before having a chance to root.
At the nursery we propagate in spring. I cannot think of one succulent that would not propagate at this time of the year. Another advantage of spring propagation is the weather. The sun is not too strong to burn the young cuttings and if it’s warm enough, they are safe to stay in the sun. That said, if there is still a chance frosts will hit, do not leave young plants out as they will almost certainly die.
The name (genus and species) will also provide a lot of clues as to the best time to propagate. Entire genera can propagate well at a certain time of the year, although as always, there are exceptions and some species within a genus may be at odds with the rest. For instance small leaf Sedum such as Acre propagate really well during cooler months, but the chunkier varieties like the Clavatum like to be propagated when warm.
Succulents to propagate in warm months (mid-late spring/summer/early autumn)
Sedum (not all)
These are not all the succulent genera for warm month propagation, but they are the most common, available and recognizable.
Now, I seem to be at odds with many of the winter/summer dormant succulent charts I have seen on the ol’ internet but, in my experience, the species in these genera grow and propagate well during the warmer months. In fact, I would go as far as to say that some are completely wrong.
For instance, Portulacaria and Crassula feature on many of these charts as winter growers, but if you try and chop a piece off one and grow it in winter, it is just not going to happen. Also, no new growth/minimal growth happens on any Protulacaria or Crassula in our nursery over winter.
I have been growing succulents commercially for nearly 10 years and have propagated well over a million plants in my time. This may seem like bragging a bit, but I feel it is important to mention just so you know I’m not making all of these claims up.
Succulent to propagate in cold months (late autumn/winter/early spring)
Sedum (small leaved species)
There is very little propagating going on in our nursery in winter because most succulents will not propagate well despite the fact we are very lucky with the climate and there are no frosts.
The temperature can get to 20C/68F and even still, most succulents will not propagate during winter here. Some of the winter dormant succulents do have a little bit of growth, especially if in a covered greenhouse where the temperature is higher, but it is nothing like what happens once spring comes along.
In winter we usually spend time cleaning, fixing, building new greenhouses and propagating Aeonium and small leaved Sedum such as Acre, Green Mound or Blue Feather.
Believe me, i have tried propagating other succulents in winter as the stock can dwindle, but my attempts were futile. This also ties with other nursery owners i know and generally, succulents are not as abundantly available in winter.
What happens if I propagate succulents in the wrong season?
If a succulent is propagated in the wrong season the cuttings can either stay dormant and not send roots until the right time comes along, or they can rot and die.
Propagation efforts can be wasted more in winter than in summer. For example, summer dormant succulents like Aeonium tend to eventually send root if an offset is snapped off and propagated while the plant is dormant. It will just not grow in size until autumn. But if a winter dormant succulent is propagated in winter, it is much more likely to not send roots at all or die.
If you’ve read any of my other articles on propagating, I may sound like a broken record, but I think it just cannot be said enough. Do not try and propagate succulents in winter, especially if you’re new to succulents. It is not a good time to propagate and it is much better to wait until spring.
Succulents can be tricked into growing by presence of light and warmth. In winter, if the plants are in a heated greenhouse, with artificial lights that will stay on past nightfall, they will still grow and possibly propagate, albeit slower than if this was natural. I would not recommend going down this road either as it may play havoc with the plants ‘natural clock’.
To conclude the absolute best time to propagate any succulent is Spring. There are succulents that will propagate best in the warmer months and then there are a few that will propagate better during cold months. Successful propagation will likely be achieved during a plants’ growing stage.
Trying to propagate succulents outside of their growing season is likely to result in failure.