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Can You Trim a Succulent’s Leaves, Stems, or Roots?

Caring for succulents involves more than just sunlight and water. Some people suggest trimming a succulent’s leaves, stems and roots to promote healthier growth. But is trimming really necessary or can you get away with not trimming your succulents? Firstly, can you trim a succulent’s leaves, stems or roots?

You can trim a succulent’s leaves, stems, and roots. This is mostly done for maintenance. Plant maintenance helps to improve growth, prevent rot and extend the life of your plants. Additionally, succulents need trimming to maintain their shape and develop strong stems.

This article will reveal when to cut the roots, leaves, or stem and what to do with the trimmings. Also, you will learn the correct ways to plant your clippings to start growing new succulents.

Trimming Portulacaria afra leaves to promote new growth
Trimming Portulacaria afra leaves to promote new growth

Can You Trim Succulent Leaves?

There is no real schedule when to trim succulent leaves. You may trim your succulent leaves every other season to give it a chance to grow, but this is not a must. Depending on your plant species, the exact timing will vary, but it’s usually best to cut succulent leaves in fall and spring, or during its active growing season.

It is also a good idea to trim and remove dead leaves from time to time. Generally, a few dead leaves are not a sign of poor plant health. That’s because succulent leaves die naturally, but if you don’t like how they look, you can pull them out or trim them whenever you feel the need to.

How Do Dying Succulent Leaves Look?

If you don’t know what a dying succulent leaf looks like, how will you know which ones to remove? Well, the most common sign is discoloration caused by over or under-watering. But any of the following cues can signal a dead or dying leaf:

  • Yellow
  • Transparent
  • Soggy
  • Partially brown leaves from sunburn

If leaves appear opaque, brown or black, this can be a sign of overwatering or a plant disease.

In addition to discoloration, the leaves might feel soft and mushy. At this point, you can remove the leaves and introduce a new watering regimen to your plants. Try watering less frequently and see if things improve.

On the other hand, when succulent leaves are wilted and wrinkled, this is a sign of underwatering. The plant usually perks up within a few days after a good, thorough watering. If the leaves are too wilted or dried out, they may not revive even after a good watering. In this case you can trim the leaves or pull them out, or they will eventually fall out on their own.

Opaque, light brown succulent leaf from too much water
Opaque leaf from too much water

How To Trim Your Succulent Leaves Correctly

You can just basically pull the leaves out or trim them off. If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide, here is a safe way to trim and prune your succulents without damaging your plant in the process. You need the following:

  • Tweezers
  • Clean, sharp knife or scissors

Use the following steps to remove the leaves properly:

Step 1. Take the tweezers and grasp the leaf you want to trim.

Step 2. Use the knife or scissors to cut the leaf from the base of the plant. You can remove any branches covered in dead leaves.

Step 3. Clean the knife or scissors after use. You can use an alcohol wipe to disinfect if needed, or just plain water to wipe off the knife or scissors.

Update: In 2022 and 2023, my husband tested removing the top to leaves of our Jade plant as way to make it bushy. And it worked really well. The way to do this is to hold the newest pair of leaves, pinch them together, twist a little and pull it should remove the leaves easily and they grow back bushy.

Jade plant: pinch the newest pair of leaves and then pull gently.
Jade plant: pinch the newest pair of leaves and then pull gently.

This process creates a very busy Jade Plant as shown below.

10-20 pinched leaves to promote leaf growth.

Will the Succulent Leaves Grow Back?

After trimming, new succulent leaves will start growing to replace the old ones. You should start seeing new growth within a few weeks after trimming. New leaf growth patterns will depend on the type of plant you have.

Some leaves grow on a criss-cross pattern, others grow in pairs or threes. It all depends on the type of plant you have and its growing pattern. You can observe your plant and look at the old leaves’ direction of growth to predict how new growth will form.

Additionally, trimmed succulent leaves can even develop into new plants.

Succulent leaf growing roots
Leaf with roots growing

Can You Replant Trimmed Succulent Leaf / Will They Grow Roots?

If you are trimming the whole leaf, you can replant the cutting, and, eventually, it will grow roots.

Use these steps to propagate your leaves:

Step 1. Obtain a whole leaf cutting. Take the whole leaf out, including the base of the leaf.

Step 2. Leave the succulent leaf to dry. Let the leaves dry for a day or two in a bright location but away from direct sunlight.

Step 3. Place the dried leaves on a fast-draining potting mix. You can use cactus/succulent potting mix combined with perlite or pumice.

Step 4. Water the leaves. Spray or water whenever the soil feels dry.

Step 5. After a few weeks, you should notice roots forming. Give it another week or so and you should notice a baby plant emerging.

Can You Trim Succulent Stems?

Like the leaves, the stems of the succulent plant can also be trimmed for different reasons. You can trim succulent stems for maintenance, for propagation, to encourage new growth, and also to get rid of dead parts.

Trimming Crassula tetragona Miniature pine tree stem
Trimming succulent stem

Will the Succulent Stem Grow Back?

After trimming the stem, new growth will appear on the stem where the cut took place within a few weeks. New growth patterns will depend on the type of plant you have. New growth will appear as small shoots at first, then will eventually harden and turn into branches overtime.

New growth patterns will depend on the type of plant you have. Observe how the branches in your plant grow, and you can predict how new growth will appear.

Additionally, trimmed succulent stems can even develop into new plants.

Can You Replant Trimmed Succulent Stem/ Will They Grow Roots?

The succulent stem can grow back if you follow the right steps. If you plan on replanting the stem, you will need the following:

  • Succulent potting soil
  • A pot
  • Sharp scissors or knife

Use these steps for planting your stems:

Step 1. Add fast-draining succulent soil to your pot. You can combine it with perlite or pumice for more drainage.

Step 2. Let the stems dry. Leave the stems in a dry location and away from direct sunlight for a few days to dry.

Step 3. Plant the dried succulent stem into the dirt.

Step 4. Water the stems. Water when the soil feels dry.

Step 5. After a few weeks (usually around 3-6 weeks), you will notice roots developing. Keep away from direct sunlight and water whenever the soil feels dry.

Trimming succulent stems for propagation
Succulent stem cuttings propagation

How To Safely Cut the Succulent’s Stem

Succulents are usually tough and resilient plants, but you do want to be careful when obtaining cuttings to ensure you don’t damage the stems. Use a sharp knife or scissors to avoid damaging the stems. Cut the stem straight across or at an upward angle to protect it from damage and improve its chances of reproducing a healthy succulent plant. If needed, sanitize or disinfect the cutting tool before using.

Can You Trim Succulents’ Roots?

You can trim succulent roots if you plan to repot your plant; however, this is rarely necessary. A succulent plant’s roots do not need much space and can survive in tight areas. But if you see that your roots are rotting, it’s okay to cut them!

You may also want to consider trimming the roots of your succulent when they do not seem to be growing well. Sometimes, succulents that grow extremely slow may have some dead roots that are blocking growth and need removal.

First, ensure that the succulents have been growing for at least one year before attempting to cut the roots.

Clean off succulent roots prior to trimming
Clean the roots prior to trimming to see better

How To Trim Succulent Roots Successfully

Before pruning the roots, carefully remove the succulent from its pot. The safest way to do this is to turn the pot upside down with your hand acting as a safety net for the plant. From my experience, it is easier to remove a plant for its pot when it’s dry so avoid removing a newly watered plant.

After removing the plant from its pot, clean off the old soil as much as possible. Use a sharp blade or scissors to cut any infected or overgrown roots. If you’re dealing with infected roots, trim a small piece of those surrounding them as well to prevent the spread of root rot.

How To Know When Your Succulent Roots Are Rotting

You can figure out when your succulent has root rot by inspecting the roots directly or observing your plant’s behavior. Roots that look black or dark brown and feel wet are suffering from rot.

Otherwise, succulents displaying these symptoms may also need a cut:

  • Leaf discoloration. The leaves will turn yellow or light green.
  • New growth wilts quickly.
  • Weak. Test the plant with your fingers. If the plant wobbles easily, then the roots are damaged.

How To Prevent Root Rot by Trimming

If your plant has root rot, there are ways to stop it from further harming your succulent. To treat and prevent root rot:

Step 1. Remove the plant from the pot. Shake off any excess dirt surrounding the roots to get a clear view.

Step 2. Cut the infected areas.

Step 3. Leave the plant to dry. Allow the succulent to dry, away from direct sunlight.

Step 4. Empty and disinfect the pot. Use an antibacterial soap or alcohol to clean the container and kill any possible bacteria or fungal growth.

Step 5. Replant the trimmed succulent in a fast-draining cactus/succulent potting soil.

If you’re growing several succulents in one pot, cutting the sick roots off one will also prevent the others from catching the disease.

Portulacaria afra stem cuttings with new fibrous roots
Portulacaria afra stem cuttings with new fibrous roots

Will the Succulent Roots Grow Back?

Succulent roots will regrow after being cut. Root trimming can encourage new, healthier roots to develop. If the plant is recovering from a disease or root rot, it may take a few weeks before you see an improvement in your plant. Just be patient and give it time to recover. Once you notice the plant producing new growth and flourishing, you will know that it has developed new roots.

How Do Healthy Succulent Roots Look?

Once you’ve given your plant time to recover, you can inspect the roots for health. New root growth should be slim and fibrous. These are signs of healthy root growth. Slim and fibrous roots can better absorb water and nutrients.

When Should You Trim Your Succulent Plants?

We trim succulent plants for a variety of reasons. Trimming succulents is usually for plant maintenance, aesthetic reasons, for propagation, and to get rid of dead parts. If you’re performing maintenance on your plant, trim your succulents using these tips:

  • Trim succulents during its active growing season. This is usually in the spring, summer and early fall seasons for most succulents.
  • Trimming succulents are usually better done during the warmer months or warmer temperatures, when the plant is more active. Avoid trimming during colder months or in the winter, especially if you leave your plants outdoors to avoid stressing your plant further.
  • Avoid trimming succulents when they are dormant. During dormancy, succulents are not actively growing or pushing new leaves out. When you trim them during dormancy, the plant will not respond until its growing season.

How Long Does It Take for Succulent Trimmings To Root?

Succulent trimmings will usually root within four to eight weeks, depending on which part of the plant you’re using.

Generally, leaf cuttings will start growing roots in as little as three weeks. For some species, this can take longer. However, roots should develop for most leaf cuttings in eight weeks or less. When the leaf cuttings begin to turn brown after 8 weeks or so with no new roots growing, you know that the leaf will not root successfully.

For speedier root growth, you can use rooting hormone. Dip the leaf or stem in rooting hormone prior to planting. Use a fast-draining soil for the best results.

Can You Plant Succulent Trimmings in Anything Other Than Soil?

Succulent trimmings can be planted in one or a mixture of the following: coarse sand, pine bark, rock mixtures or pumice, calcined clay (Turface MVP). They can even be propagated in water. While these plants can survive in these environments, it won’t be for a long time. The cuttings will need to be transplanted in a more suitable potting mix once rooted.

Regarding using water as the medium, some cuttings respond very well to this method, even better than dry propagation. If you have trouble propagating, especially leaf propagation, try using water and see if it works better for you.

Mixing succulent potting mix with perlite and calcined clay
Preparing succulent potting mix with perlite and calcined clay (Turface MVP)

How To Grow Succulent Cuttings in Water

Use the following steps to propagate succulents in water successfully:

Step 1. Allow the cuttings to dry. It takes a few days for them to dry thoroughly. The ends should begin to callus when they’re ready.

Step 2. Fill a container with water.

Step 3. Cover the container with saran wrap or plastic wrap.

Step 4. Suspend the cuttings in the water by poking them through the plastic wrap. Allow them to touch the water barely.

Step 5. Place the container in a bright area. The roots will start to form in 10-21 days.

Succulent stems and leaves water propagation
Propagating stems and leaves in water

How To Take Care of Young Succulents

Once the cuttings have rooted and new plants start to develop, follow these tips to encourage healthier growth:

  • Transplant baby plants into a fast-draining soil. You can use one or a combination of the following: cactus/succulent potting mix, perlite, pumice, coarse sand, pine bark, calcined clay (Turface MVP).
  • Do not plant too deeply in the soil. Place the baby plant on the soil and bury the roots in the soil as much as possible.
  • Avoid using a very deep pot. Make sure the size of the pot is just right for the plant. Do not use an oversize pot for your baby plants. Succulents have shallow roots, especially baby plants and do not need a deep pot.

  • Unglazed terracotta pots are the best option for potted succulents because they are porous and allow for proper air circulation.
  • Grow the baby plants in a sunny area but away from direct sunlight to avoid burning the tender plants.
  • Water the soil when dry.

Succulents can be grown indoors or outdoors. However, remember that these plants love the sun, so you’ll want to make sure they are getting enough sunlight when growing succulents inside.

How to Grow Succulent Cuttings Indoors

Whether you’re propagating indoors or outdoors, you can follow these simple steps:

  • Use a well-draining potting mix. One or a combination of these would do: succulent/cactus mix, perlite, pumice, coarse sand, pine bark, calcined clay (Turface MVP)
  • Position the plant near a bright location but away from direct sunlight.
  • Water every few days or when the soil feels dry.
  • Cuttings will root in a few weeks (usually 4-6 weeks).

Which Succulent Cuttings Can Be Grown Indoors?

As mentioned, succulents prefer a bright, sunny location. Many succulent species will not be successful when grown indoors due to insufficient lighting. However, the following plant cuttings can be healthily grown indoors because they are more tolerant to poor lighting conditions:

  • Aloe vera
  • Christmas kalanchoe
  • Zebra cactus
  • Panda plant
  • Mother-in-law tongue or snake plant
  • String of pearls
  • Burro’s tail
  • Pebble plant
  • String of bananas
  • Pencil cactus
  • Crown of thorns

Final Thoughts

You can trim your succulent for a number of reasons, the most common reason is for propagation. But you can also trim your succulents for maintenance and aesthetic reasons. In some cases, you can even save a dying plant by trimming. Whatever the reason, your plant can benefit from it when done the right way.

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