Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dividing Potted Succulents

Repot Me PLEASE!!!
Several years ago I started this succulent (I believe a Gasteria) from a cutting received at the Huntington Garden.  It is a very slow growing plant - so just this spring I decided to divide and repot it. This is a clump-forming succulent plant, so as soon as the container is "full" the plants are clearly outgrowing their assigned space and need to be divided. It's similar for aloe, some sedums, agave, hens & chicks, and the like. For most succulents Spring and early summer are the best times to divide since it's before their growing season. However, there are succulents who's main growing season is winter - so double check before you proceed. 
Here's my approach for dividing and repotting succulents

Inspect Your Succulent Plant
2-5 possible divisions
Remove the plant from the container and get a better look at the crown and roots.  Remove some soil and cut away any roots that had wrapped themselves around the sides or bottom of the container. 
Make sure that the roots are not rotting and identify where you might want to divide the plant.   Consider:
  • Offsets: The small new plants coming up around the parent are called offsets or pups. You can gently pull these are or cut them from the larger plants.  These can be propagated by themselves. 
  • Number of Divisions: With really large pot-bound succulents with pups look for large plant crowns with roots sustaining out from each one. You're looking for the easiest and potentially a natural point to divide the plant.

Make the Divide

Cut through roots and
soil to divide you succulent
In my case there seemed to be a natural division as the more mature plants had grown around the initial cutting.  I decided not to remove any of the offsets but rather to keep two larger plants. 
The soil is dry and so it will be easy for it all to fall apart. Keep in mind: 
  • Roots are life: Each division you make needs to have it's own roots - if not, then you are propagating, not dividing & repotting :)
  • Reduce Harm: Damaged plants become susceptible to rot, insects and diseases. This is particularly true of slow growing plants that take time to heal.  
  • Use a Sharp Knife: Get a clean sterile blade and make decisive cuts - as few as possible

In the photo you can see the original cutting used for propagation of this plant - that's the brown dried up one :)  It has no roots and created a bit of a void in the pot. The mature plants also clustered out from here. 

Succulent Division
Root Care is Critical

Prepare each Division for Repotting

Now that you have divided, take a few moments to slowly tease apart the division and minimize ripping the roots. In some cases that won't be avoidable I make a best case effort. 

Transplanting / Dividing Succulents
Look to make sure that each portion has it's own roots - and look to see if the roots are damaged. If the roots are really cut - just set that piece aside for a day or two for it to callus over before placing into a new pot. Otherwise, move onto the next step :)

Place plants in new pots

Consider all the elements of a container garden - such as soil type, pot type and size.  Gently place your divisions into the pot making sure to maintain the soil to the same level on the plant - don't cover the crown or leave it too high. Firmly pat down the soil around the plant and then water in. 

I spent the day working with my succulents so I have many taking a bath in the kitchen sink :)
Watering in newly potted succulents

I'm feeling like a tequila!

Have fun

Teresa Marie

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