Five little pots of succulents, some pots with cute faces.

Learn how to become a pro at growing succulents.

Annie from our Sustainability Squad grows and sells succulents for a good cause. She donates her profits to help Australians living in remote and disadvantaged communities get access to fresh fruit and veggies. In this activity, you’ll learn how to become a pro at growing succulents like Annie.

Safety: outdoor hazard iconWhen you are working outdoors, stay sun smart and wash your hands after this activity.

You will need

  • Garden soil or potting mix
  • Plant pots
  • Succulents
  • Optional: permanent marker and garden scissors

What to do

  1. Look for succulents around your garden. If you don’t have any, take a walk around your neighbourhood and look out for them in others’ gardens. Ask an adult to go with you and ask friendly neighbours if you could take a leaf or two from their succulents.
  2. Holding four succulent leaves, the tips have been ringed on the photo.Lightly pinch a succulent leaf and twist it around the main stem to pull it off the plant. Succulents that have just been watered may be hard to break off, so it might take a few tries before you can snap off a leaf without breaking it in half!Note: Your succulent leaves need growth points to sprout. These growth points look like green or light pink dots at end of the leaf, where it connects with the stem.
  3. Place your succulent leaves in a cool, dry spot with dappled sunlight.
  4. Four succulent leaves labeled A,B,C After a few weeks, you will begin to see roots and baby succulents emerge from the succulent leaves. You can label each leaf before planting them if you want to identify their order!Note: Some leaves will take longer than others to sprout, so it’s perfectly normal if you only get roots on some, while others might have both roots and a baby succulent.
  5. Planting a succulent leaf in the soil.Select the succulent leaves that have both a root and a baby succulent. Then, make a small hole in some potting mix and bury the succulent leaf’s roots. You can now watch it grow into a new succulent!
  6. Cutting a succulent with secateurs.If you have succulents that look a bit gangly, you can“behead” them with gardening scissors! Plant the “beheaded” succulent into potting mix to grow it into a bigger plant. Water it only when the soil dries out.Note: Ask an adult to help if you’re unsure about using sharp gardening scissors.
  7. As the baby succulent grows, the original leaf will slowly die off because it will be giving its nutrients to the new baby plant. Once the baby plant has grown bigger, you can replant it into a bigger pot. Repeat this activity to get even more plants!

What’s happening?

It is usually impossible to grow a new plant from a single leaf in most plants. Succulent leaves are a funky exception because they are fat and juicy, giving them enough energy even after they have been separated from their mother plant.

The light green or light pink dots on the tips of the succulent leaves contain active growth points called meristematic tissues. These tissues are sort of like stem cells in animals, which can grow into any part of the animal. But for succulents, their meristematic tissues don’t just grow into any one part of a plant— they can grow into roots, shoots, buds, stems, and more leaves! This process is called vegetative propagation, where plants can reproduce without flowers and seeds. Many plants can undergo vegetative propagation, but usually they need a stem and a leaf to get it going. Succulents only need their meristematic tissues on just a single leaf to overtake your garden!

Annie from the Sustainability Squad harnessed the special succulent powers to grow a business. She donates her profits to FoodLadder, an organisation that teaches and helps Australians living in remote and disadvantaged areas to grow fresh food. Now that you know how to grow succulents, maybe you can join Annie and run a little succulent charity!

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