Success with Succulents and Cacti

There are many succulents that can be grown very successfully in the Delhi NCR region of India. Understanding their requirements and patterns of growth, results in plants that easily thrive and multiply, to the delight of the eager gardener. Although, over time, many succulents will produce offshoots quite easily, some may require a little help.

Succulents can be propagated using their leaves or by taking cuttings.

Propagation by leaves

Succulents that have plump leaves can be propagated very simply and easily through the use of these leaves. The best leaves to use are those that are more mature and are found at the base of the plant. Hold the base of the leaf firmly with your fingers and gently twist it off the stem, ensuring that the whole leaf is intact. Place the leaves in a dry sheltered area for 2-3 days so that the bases become calloused. Prepare a shallow pot with either cocopeat or a mixture of sand and cocopeat. Moisten the soil and place the leaves on top ensuring that the base of each leaf is in contact with the soil. Place the pot in a warm place with indirect light and gently water regularly. New plants usually start sprouting in about 3 weeks.

Propagation by stem cuttings

The picture shows a succulent with 5 points on its stem at which cuts can be made for propagation.

Point A

A cutting made at this point is also known as ‘ pinching out’, and results in the mother plant branching out, making several heads. The removed portion is not suitable for propagation.

Point B

This is the optimal place for propagation by cutting. Remove some of the leaves from the base of the stem leaving a few at the top. These will continue to photosynthesise resulting in faster growth. Allow the cut stem to callous over ( leave it to dry for a few days) and then place in a moist succulent medium. Water sparingly until new roots are formed. Eventually new pups will appear from the stem. Cuttings from this point produce the most abundant branching.

Point C

Cutting the stem at this point is also known as ‘ dead heading ‘. This cutting roots easily, but is less likely to develop many new shoots. The stem eventually withers away.

Point D

Making a cut from here will produce a cutting with a longer stem that will take much more time to root. This type of cutting produces very few shoots before dying down.

Point E

This type of cut is not recommended as the head will have to work very hard to get established and produce roots. This is the least successful cut for propagation.

Propagation by coring

This technique is used for succulents that either take a very long time to produce offshoots or to increase the degree of variation in a variegated succulent such as agave. It involves the removal of the central leaf growth point known as the apical meristem. Removal of this point (usually using a drill) forces the plant to grow new pups at this place. If the more variegated leaves of a variegated specimen are removed at the same time as this apical meristem then the new growth will be more highly variegated.