How To Behead A Succulent: Easy Propagation Method

How To Behead A Succulent: Easy Propagation Method

This propagation method might surprise you, but for some succulents, this is one of the easiest ways to propagate new plants. So, if you’re wondering how to behead a succulent, I’m going to explain this propagation method in easy steps.

Are All Succulents Suitable For Beheading?

Graptopetalum succulent suitable for beheading

While this method works really well for certain species of succulents, you shouldn’t propagate every species this way. However, if you happen to have a different species that’s unwell, not thriving or has developed root rot, you can try the beheading method to see if you can save it. 

Or, you could use some leaf cuttings to produce new plants instead that will replace the main plant.

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So, which succulents lend themselves beautifully to beheading? Here are a few species that respond really well to beheading:

  • Echeveria
  • Graptopetalum
  • Sedum
  • Crassula
  • Graptosedum

In general, these succulents will form rosettes on top of stems that can continue to grow taller rather than spread out like other species. That’s why beheading is necessary so that you don’t end up with a really tall bare stem with just one rosette on top.

In fact, if you use this method for a healthy succulent that has just become elongated, you’ll often end up with at least two plants instead of one.

Now that you understand the different types of succulents that work well with this propagation method, let’s consider why you might want to behead a succulent, apart from just wanting to produce a new plant.

Why Is Beheading Desirable And What Are The Benefits?

crassula succulent suitable for the beheading propagation method

There are many common reasons why you might want to behead a succulent. 

Your Plant Has Become Etiolated

One of the main reasons for beheading your succulent is that the mother plant has etiolated due to lack of sunlight. 

Etiolation happens when your plant is not receiving enough light and the long stems start to stretch up to reach toward the sun. This will result in a tall, thin plant that has few leaves along the stem and just a small rosette at the top.

Etiolated succulents will also look a lot paler than they should because they’re just not getting enough light. Once a succulent has become etiolated, beheading is the only solution. No amount of additional light will encourage the plant to produce more leaves on the bare sections of the stem.

Your Succulent Is Suffering From Root Rot

Another reason to behead a succulent is if it has succumbed to root rot. Once the roots are damaged from sitting in too much water, it spells the demise of the plant unless you act quickly and do a beheading.

When you cut off the crown and allow this to produce roots, it’s a great way to revitalize the plant so that you can continue to enjoy it.

To Rejuvenate A Succulent

The art of beheading can easily rejuvenate a plant that’s not looking as stunning as it used to. By cutting off the crown, new growth will appear from the base where the cut was made.

This is one easy way to actually divide your plant in two, much like you would do with plants that grow from bulbs or underground tubers.

But, an interesting thing happens when you do this. The crown will produce roots when planted in a good succulent mix and you’ll have a plant that is similar to the original one when it was younger.

On the other hand, the remaining stem section, once repotted, will produce a number of baby plants around the edges of the cut. You then have the option of carefully cutting these off, once they’ve grown a little and planting each one into its own pot.

When Should You Behead A Succulent?

Ideally, you want to behead your succulent in spring, just after it comes out of dormancy. This is the best time and will give you the greatest chance of success.

Step-By-Step Guide To Beheading A Succulent

a selection of tools needed for beheading a succulent

Beheading a succulent is actually quite easy but I’m going to guide you through the process step-by-step so you know exactly what to do. 

Step 1 – Gather Your Tools

Before you start, you’ll want to ensure that you have everything you need close at hand. Here are the important things you’re going to need:

  • A sharp knife or pair of secateurs that have been sterilized
  • A bag of cacti and succulent mix
  • Some small pots

It’s most important that your cutting tool is sharp so that the cut you make is nice and clean and you don’t damage either section.

Making sure your cutting tool is sterilized is also vital so you don’t infect the plant with bacteria. You can just use some isopropyl alcohol to quickly and effectively sterilize your cutting tool.

Step 2 – Make The Cut

Basically, you want to remove the top rosette or head of the plant with a short section of the main stem attached to make it easy to plant once it’s ready.

Ensure that you make a clean cut through the stem and avoid squashing it with your cutting tool. That’s why a sharp tool is so essential.

Step 3 – Prepare The Crown

Inspect the top portion of the plant that you’ve cut off and remove any dead leaves or ones that are damaged. You also want to remove some of the lower leaves to expose the stem, but not too many.

Now, you want to place the crown cutting on some paper towel in a warm, dry spot for around a week. This will allow the open wound to dry and a callus to form over it. 

This drying process is used for many different types of succulent propagation methods and normally results in a high success rate. The callus that forms helps to prevent disease from entering the wound. 

Step 4 – Repot The Base Section Of The Parent Plant

If the base of the plant is still healthy, you can either leave it in its current pot or repot it into some new soil. This will help with the rejuvenation.

If the remaining stem section is still quite long, you can just cut it back closer to the base of the original plant. Place the repotted base section of the original plant in a nice bright spot with good airflow and some indirect sunlight.

In just a few short weeks you should start to see some new baby plants emerging from around the cut sections.

However, if the base section is not healthy or the roots have succumbed to rot, you can just toss this in the bin.

potting the crown section of the beheaded succulent

Step 5 – Pot The Crown Section

In around a week or so, it’s time to pot the beheaded top part of the plant. Fill a small pot that is around the same diameter as the rosette with some well-draining soil suitable for succulents.

Make a small hole in the center of the mix and place the stem of the crown section into this. If you want to, you can dip this part of the stem into some rooting hormone. This may speed up the rooting process but is generally not necessary for succulents.

Gently firm the mix around the stem so that the plant stands up straight and is well supported. Water the plant but make sure that any excess water can drain away freely.

Place your new plant in a bright, warm spot and wait for it to produce new roots. This should only take a few short weeks.

Make sure you keep it out of direct sunlight at this stage because the sun may burn the leaves of the cutting.

Monitor your cutting and only water again when the soil has dried out. This is common practice for growing succulents and is vitally important to prevent root rot.

What Do You Do With The Middle Stem Section?

If your original plant had quite a long stem and you now have three sections, the crown, the middle stem section and the base, don’t discard the middle stem section.

Place this alongside the crown so that the cuts are allowed to dry. This doesn’t always work, but you might be surprised when this middle stem section starts to produce aerial roots and new growth.

Succulents have amazing survival instincts and will take every opportunity to produce new growth.

Once this section has dried on the cut ends, just place it on top of some succulent mix in a propagation tray. Mist lightly with water. 

Continue to mist the soil lightly and wait for a few weeks to see if any new growth starts to happen.

You Could Also Try Rooting Your Succulent Cutting In Water

how to behead a succulent and root the crown in water

Many succulents root quite well in water, so this is something you can try. After the crown section has been left to dry and a callus has formed, fill a clean jar or small vase with clean water.

Make sure that you can submerge the stem section of the crown in the water but keep the rosette dry. Choosing just the right size container for this is important.

Place your cutting in a bright spot such as a windowsill. But, ensure that this is not in direct sunlight. 

Change the water in the jar or vase every couple of days to keep it nice and clean. Watch your cutting so that you see when the roots start to form.

Once the roots are around an inch long, you can remove the plant from the water and pot it into some succulent mix. Remember to only water sparingly and ensure that the pot has good drainage holes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will a succulent regrow if you cut the top off?

Yes, if the succulent is otherwise healthy, it will produce new growth from where the cut is made. You can also use the top section that you’ve cut off to propagate a new plant.

Can you put succulent cuttings straight into soil?

No, it’s important to let the cuttings dry out for at least a week until a callus forms over the cut. This prevents disease from entering the wound and causing the entire cutting to rot.

How long does it take for succulent cuttings to root?

Generally, it should only take around 2 to 3 weeks for your succulent cuttings to start producing roots. Of course, this will depend on the species and the time of year.

Final Thoughts

Succulent plant propagation is really easy when you know how. Beheading is just one way to create new plants from a single succulent that you already have. This is a fairly easy method once you know what to do.

So, if you have a succulent that needs to be rejuvenated or you just want to increase your plant collection, give this method a try. I’m sure you’ll be pleased with the results.

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