Propagating Echeverias, Update
Updated with corrections
A previous blog post mentioned Echeveria renewal and propagation through decapitation, and other methods of creating more of these wonderful little plants. This post has some additional pictures and information.
Echeverias are "opportunistic" growers. If the weather is to their liking--mild--they will grow. They like conditions neither too hot, greater than the low 80s F (~27 C), nor too cold, less than about 62F (14 C). In other words, they like the temperatures that we like. If you are comfortable, they are comfortable, and ready to do some growing.
Decapitating Echeverias does three good things. First, you eliminate that long bare stem that doesn't look so good:
The cut-off rosette will grow new roots and quickly look as good as it used to, no longer sitting high above the ground on a turkey-like bare neck:
Echeveria 'Arlie Wright', re-rooted:
Update on 'Arlie Wright' January 2015: below is the same plant, now far happier in the ground. She didn't much like being in a pot:
The second benefit of Echeveria decapitation is that old bare stem can produce many new rosettes, which you can also slice off and root. 'Arlie Wright's former stem has seven new rosettes growing so far--this picture shows five of them:
The third benefit is that it is the best way to get lots of new plants from solitary growers. Some Echeverias produce new rosettes like crazy--E. 'Imbricata' is great for this--but some remain solitary, and also don't propagate well from leaves, so decapitation is the best option.
Do your decapitating at the start of a long stretch of mild weather, say early to mid Spring. They will have time to do some growing before extreme summer heat arrives to shut down their activity. Here in Southern California, late Summer may also be an option if you are near the coast.
For decapitation, take about a half an inch to an inch of stem along with the rosette, and let the cut dry in the shade for a few days. Use a clean knife, razor blade, or clippers to avoid infecting the cut. Be careful when using clippers to avoid crushing the stem.
Rooting powder is okay, not because the rooting powder helps the rooting, but because rooting powder contains fungicide, which helps keep the cut from getting an infection that can encourage rot. It might be helpful in damp climates. Here I've never needed it. Ground cinnamon from the kitchen pantry has anti-microbial properties and many people use a dusting of that rather than rooting powder.
You can either suspend your rosette an eighth of an inch above dry cactus mix, or let it rest lightly on top--pink thready roots will start to grow. When you see the roots you can plant the rosette and water lightly, to get those roots growing. Provide bright shade, with at most a touch of early morning sun. Many Echeverias can handle a significant amount of shade, as I have discovered. In nature they may grow among long grasses and other plants, shaded by them. They are also found on sheer vertical cliffs, where they may get only a few hours of direct sunlight per day.
I've also read that taking a small, clean slice of stem along with a leaf can increase chances of getting a new plant from a leaf. Use a clean razor blade for the cut.
My Echeveria leaves from the previous post are all growing new rosettes. The largest are almost an inch in diameter now. Growth will come to a standstill in extreme summer heat, then restart in the fall when the weather cools off again.
Small, barely rooted Echeverias need more moisture than a large, well-rooted plant. Of course, since they are succulents, you don't want soggy soil, but more frequent watering is necessary. Remember, no peat in your mix, because peat can lead to rot. A spray bottle filled with water and a light misting can provide sufficient moisture. Adjust the frequency of misting according to temperatures and humidity.
Sorry for some duplication from that other Echeveria post, but I'm so jazzed about those seven new rosettes on 'Arlie Wright'!
Update 11/12/2010: two things I heard from a succulent expert: "drying out precipitates rooting" (meditate on that one), and the other, rather stunning thing: some Echeveria flower stems will root and produce tiny new plantlets, too. I'm trying this myself, and will update with results. November isn't the best time, but I'm eager to try...
Update 5/2011: Th Echeveria flower stalk did root--but now what? I've got a rooted flower stalk with leaves on it, but it's not exactly a good looking plant. However, one leaf is already developing a new rosette:
So, this is yet another possible method to propagate more Echeverias. A rooted flower stalk is an intermediate stage to a new plant. The rosettes still have to be cut off and rooted. Here, the rosettes on the stem are already growing fresh pink roots for themselves:
I hope this information gives you more Echeverias.