Propagate your beloved butterworts with nothing but a leaf

Tropical Pinguicula are my personal favorite to grow. I live in Southern California, where many of them do well in bright windowsill conditions or even outside. They also have a neat trick that helps them blend in with the surrounding flora – They have succulent leaves. Water-retaining succulent leaves are an adaptation to drier winter conditions. They simply hunker down for a drought by dropping their larger carnivorous leaves, and form tight rosettes of succulent leaves until temperatures and moisture levels tell them it’s insect-hunting season, again.

These leaves are perfect for Pinguicula propagation. Similar to other succulents, there’s enough water and nutrients stored in an individual leaf to give the leaf pulling enough of what it needs to pop roots and get a brand new plant established.

How to take leaf pullings

It’s deceptively simple to take succulent leaf pullings, in general. I find the best time to take Pinguicula pullings is just as the plants switch over from producing succulent leaves and start producing carnivorous leaves. At this point, you’ll have the maximum available leaves to use. I’ll break down my process into steps:

1. Grab a pair of tweezers – you’re going to use these to pluck Pinguicula leaves from the succulent rosette. Soft tip tweezers are preferable as to minimize bruising on the leaves you’ll grasp.

2. Have a moistened (but not too moist) soil mixture ready for your leaf pullings – use the type of soil your butterwort normally prefers. The plants will be left in this soil as they get established with roots and leaves. A humidity dome or clear, sealable bag will help you maintain higher humidity around your pullings, and result in less water loss and quicker sprouting. Do keep in mind that you’ll want to remove the dome after a few days to avoid rot or mold.

3. With the tweezers, reach down into the rosette to where an individual leaf attaches to the center of the plant. Grasp the leaf close to this center point, and with a gentle tug, you should be able to remove the leaf. You can remove up to half of these succulent leaves for propagation without harming or significantly setting back the mother plant.

4. Lay the pulling flat onto moistened soil, face-up (top of the leaf facing the sky). Do not cover the leaf with soil. You’ll most likely get new plants sprouting from where the leaf was connected to the rest of the plant but sometimes they’ll poke out from other locations.

5. Cover your soil with a humidity dome or plastic bag to hold in moisture. You’ll want to keep fresh air circulating over your butterwort pullings in order to stave off fungus and leaf rot, so open the bag, or lift the dome for a couple of hours each day. Leave uncovered and exposed to fresh air after 2-3 days of elevated humidity.

6. Place in bright, indirect light and let sit. Within a couple of weeks, you will notice little nubs forming on your leaf pullings. With time, these will develop into their own leaves and eventually wee, cute little plantlets. With additional time, these platelets will pop roots that will establish them in the soil.

7. I recommend watering your butterwort leaf pullings with a mist bottle or using the tray method to avoid disturbing them. If you overhead water, the leaves tend to float and migrate around your tray until the water level drops.

Voilà! You now have a miniature army of Pinguicula that you can use to conquer the world of gnats and live as a ruthless queen or king amongst the insect population. Also, clusters of Pinguicula are real pretty. Happy growing!

If you’d like some raw material to take pullings from, or simply want to pick up a pretty Pinguicula, check out our Marketplace for the awesome plants that community members are offering!