How to propagate an African Milk Tree | Step by Step Method

Last Updated: February 12, 2023

Although African Milk Trees look like cacti, they are actually technically classed as succulents which is important to remember during the process. Propagating them is pretty simple and can be done with small or large plants. You just need to be a little careful when handling the plants as they can be a little sharp and their sap is toxic to touch. 

In this post we will guide you through the complete process; the various methods you can use, the dos and don’ts, what tools you’ll need and things to look out for to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Why propagate an African Milk Tree?

There are several reasons why plant parents choose to propagate their luscious plants. Sometimes they can simply get too big for the space and not grow in the way we want them to. Regularly pruning cutting off stems or the tops of stems helps to control growth. But instead of just throwing away those beautiful stem cuttings, use them to create new plants!!

Another reason is if part of your plant is starting to look quite unhealthy. This might be yellow leaves, brown leaves or if your African Milk tree is suddenly losing some of its leaves. We always recommend trying to diagnose the problem and try to fix it, but if there is no sign of change you might choose to remove a healthy part of the plant before it’s too late. It’s crucial that you only propagate the healthy stems as you won’t have much luck using parts of the plant that are already dying. 

You might also want to remove parts of your African Milk Tree simply because you want to create new plants without having to pay for any more. And if you’re home is already filled with plenty of greenery, then plant cuttings can make great gifts for friends and family too.

What tools will I need?

Let’s start off with the easy part. It’s important to make sure you have all the right things to hand before you make that initial cut!

  • Healthy and mature African Milk Tree

  • Protective gloves

  • Sharp scissors/shears

  • Spare pot

  • Fresh succulent soil and water

  • Newspaper or plastic sheet if propagating indoors

What methods can I use to propagate my African Milk Tree?

There’s only really one main method which works for all shapes, sizes and maturity of plant; the stem cutting method. This is where you cut off a part of, or all of one stem and grow it like a new plant. It’s great for any propagation beginners as there aren’t many steps involved. 

How to propagate an African Milk Tree through the stem cutting method

  1. Locate your stem cutting

    When taking an a stem cutting you want to make sure that the part of the plant you are cutting is healthy to give you any chance of success. You can either take a tip cutting or a full stem cutting. A tip cutting is when you slice part of one of the stems off, whereas a full stem cutting would be cutting where the chosen stem meets the main stem on your African Milk Tree. Either can be just as successful and follow exactly the same process. Try to choose a cutting that is at least 10-15cm long to have the best chance of success.

  2. Make the cut 

    This is the scary part! Now that you have located the section of the stem that you want to propagate, you need to cut it off! Use clean scissors/ shears or a knife to make the cut to avoid passing on dirt or any infection to the plant. Use your tools to make a clean cut across your plant in a diagonal way. This increases the surface area of the cutting and will encourage more growth.

    It is very important that you wear thick gardening gloves at this stage because sap will very quickly leak out from your stem cutting. The sap from African Milk Trees is toxic and causes skin irritation if you come into contact with it.

  3. Stop the sap flowing 

    To stop the flow of sap out of your fresh cutting, you want to run it under cool water for a minute or two. Make sure only the bottom section of the cutting is getting wet as African Milk Trees are sensitive to leaf rot.

  4. Let the cutting callous over 

    One thing we can do to stop infections or leaf rot is to let the cutting callous over. Leave the cutting in a warm, dry place for a full week before continuing to the next step. 

  5. Plant your cutting into potting mix

    With most houseplants, you tend to grow your stem cuttings in water for several weeks to encourage root growth but with African Milk Trees you pot them straight into soil. This is because they are succulents and will simply rot if placed directly in water for long periods of time. 

    Fill your new pot with fresh succulent potting mix and place your cutting 5 centimetres into the soil. Make sure you use fresh mix as you don’t want to accidentally transfer pests or bacteria between your plants. You also want to make sure you are using a high-quality potting mix with the right nutrient balance as regular potting mix won’t have enough drainage. 

  6. Give it a little bit of water 

    You want to water your new cutting a little to give the potting mix some moisture but be careful not to overwater as this will very quickly kill your cutting.

  7. Be patient! 

    Care for your African Milk Tree as you would the mother plant and hopefully, after several weeks or months, it’ll grow its own root system and start to grow taller too! Don’t lift your cutting out of its pot too often to check on the roots as this will hinder the process. As long as your cutting is getting the right amount of water and light, everything should be going well!

African Milk Tree Propagation FAQs

Taking cuttings can sometimes be quite daunting and you might not be 100% sure on the right things to do. But don’t worry, we have all of the answers to your questions to make sure that everything goes well.

Common problems when propagating African Milk Trees

This process won’t always be straightforward and it can happen that you run into some problems along the way. But don’t worry, we have you covered. Below you’ll find all of the most common problems as well as how to fix them!

We have found a lot of success through the stem cutting method so with a little bit of patience you should have plenty of new plants for your home! 

Check out our full African Milk Tree care guide for more information on how to care for your cutting once it has matured.

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