How to propagate succulents using water

This is based on my experiments only and still learning. I stay in Kuala Lumpur where the weather is humid (hot + wet). It’s always Summer, sometimes it may rain daily, sometimes rain in a few days or once in a week. It’s usually 30C (86F) – 40C (104F) during the day and above 28C at night.

I didn’t believe this could work. Been reading everywhere that succulents don’t like water much! I thought succulents needed dry and hot (think desert) environment. Turned out some succulents like water, just not as much as normal plants and some like cool weather – which is why succs grow so well in highlands like Cameron Highlands.

Water Propagation 1

I would only behead succulent if:

  • it’s elongated at the bottom – most likely not enough sunlight in nursery
  • too long with lots of leaves, it’s curving down from weight (I’m not patient enough to let it grow over the pot)
  • just want to grow more succs without buying again ;)
  • baby has grown as big as mother
Water Propagation 2


  1. Choose healthy succs to propagate.. or unhealthy ones to save. Healthy = as fat or full as possible. I find that I have better success with chubby succs (except moonstone :( ) than thin leaves/succs.
  2. Do not water for a few days and do not let it have water – eg. rain, spray/mist, let the soil dry thoroughly first. If succulent has too much water, the leaves will be translucent & soft soon -> rot. Left = OK. Right = although it had roots, it’s translucent already (strong wind blew rain water) and soon the leaf shrivelled. I picked the roots from the leaf and poke it into this pot but I don’t know what happened later as there are many leaves here.
  3. When cutting the stem, use a dry, clean and sharp knife / no-flavour dental floss / fishing thread, anything that can cut cleanly and fast. I wash the knife with soap & water, then wipe it dry first. Make sure hands are dry too.
    My Mind Garden has YouTube video on using string:
  4. It’s best to cut diagonal to avoid water retention on flat surfaces but I’ve tried horizontal cut as well.
  5. Dry the beheaded succ (the top) for a few days / till the ends (become) calloused (dry, hard brown). Put it in shaded/filtered area – no strong sun & no water! This is because my area has high humidity. If the succs get dried up instead, mist some water from a few inches away. Some ppl use towel paper, I use thin plastic container that was used to store blueberries (because I eat blueberries almost every week and the plastic has holes at the bottom) and I’ve tried on window sill (they mostly die.. probably from dirt or they were already weak in the first place).
  6. After a few days/weeks (depending on species & environment), either roots &/ baby leaves will grow. I’ve tried putting the head on container before callous, after callous (no root) and after roots appear. So far, all works :)
  7. Get a glass/bottle/container, anything that can store water. Make sure succulent stem & leaves DON’T touch water yet! Use support if necessary, eg. wooden name plate, toothpicks (not to poke into succs like growing avocado), plastic wrap, etc. Wooden plate works for me. Toothpick is too thin for fat & heavy succs. Plastic wrap and very small hole but fat body container – the succs got fungus from even higher humidity and lack of air circulation :( I use clear container to see the bottom leaves, stem (hope no rot!), roots and water condition.
Water Propagation 3
  1. Wait… beheaded (top succ with open wound at the stem botttom) will grow roots.
  2. Clean bottle when there’s algae/dirt. I’ve read algae needs light & water. Eliminate either and it will die. Read somewhere we could paint the container dark/get a dark container instead (I haven’t tried this). If algae is stuck on the succulent roots/stem – clean the succ too and as long as there’s no open wound, it’s ok to put the succ back on top of the container with water again. If there’s open wound (eg. leaves dropped/you pluck leaves for leaves propagation), let it dry before putting into container unless you can make sure no water touch the wound.
  3. Collect rain water. For some succs, they are ok to be outdoor even in water propagation. For those not able to get rain water, I pour some rain water (as long as there’s not much air & water pollution in your area) mix with tap water into container.
  4. Once it’s healthy enough, we can move the head to other location (eg. into own pot, move the container to slightly sun-exposed) for a few hrs a day to acclimate (adjust to new environment). Ops, wrong word in the pic.The colour between the head vs bottom are different because they are in different environment now.
  5. From #5 after beheading the top, the bottom part now has open wound and maybe fragile. Move the bottom succ to a more protected location (avoid water & direct sun). Not all succs will have problem though.
Water Propagation 4
  1. On end of head’s stem, add some cinnamon powder to kill fungus/growth hormone liquid/power (follow the product instructions) to the end of the stem or add fertilizer on the water. This can be done once beheaded or after calloused. This step is not compulsory. I get more success rate with cinnamon powder than hormone powder (have to mix with water -> guess it is either too strong and caused burning -> dried or too wet). I also add cinnamon powder on bottom succ’s cut stem. Babies or new branch will grow from the bottom succ :D

Some pics in Instagram: @justinelmj_garden #j_propagation

Didn’t use any support at first.

I know these two loves water and I even watered them from top.

View this post on Instagram

Tiny roots on left one! Bottom pic to check roots. If it is in high humidity area, be sure to check daily for fungus if the bottle/glass hole is small and not enough air circulation. I'm using rain water here + tap water if not enough. Ends dipped in cinnamon powder to prevent fungus infection and root growth hormone. Wait for ends to dry hard (a few days) and put on top of bottle. Be sure top rim is dry and water doesn't touch stem yet to avoid rot. Change water every few days / weekly / when dirty. #waterpropagation #propagation #propagatingsucculents #succulentcare #leafandclay #succulentcity #bitkiaskina #succulentanl #urbanjungle #succulentaddict #cgsuccs #howto #j_propagation

A post shared by justinelmj_garden (@justinelmj_garden) on

Different succs grow at different rate.

Drying succ on hanging container. It will grow roots too :)

Some wounds from moving around the wooden name plate :S and being on the glass rim.

The bottom (original plants):

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