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  • Writer's pictureKassi Kuppinger

Propagating Houseplants: A Simplified Guide for Beginners

Diving into the world of houseplant propagation unveils a captivating journey of growth, creativity, and green-thumb satisfaction. Whether you're a seasoned plant parent or just beginning to cultivate your indoor oasis, propagating houseplants offers a rewarding and sustainable way to expand your botanical collection. This blog will guide you through the process of plant propagation, exploring various techniques, tips, and tricks to help your leafy friends thrive and multiply. From understanding the fundamentals of propagating houseplants to mastering specific methods tailored to different plant species, join us as we delve into the transformative process of nurturing new life from existing houseplants.


water propagating pothos

What Is Houseplant Propagation?

Houseplant propagation is the process of creating new plants from existing ones, allowing enthusiasts to expand their indoor gardens or share their love of plants with friends and family. This fascinating practice involves taking a portion of a mature plant, such as a leaf, stem, or root, and encouraging it to develop into a new, independent plant. Whether through water propagation, soil propagation, or other specialized techniques, propagation offers a rewarding journey into the world of plant growth and reproduction.


Propagating Houseplants from Stem Cuttings

Propagating houseplants from stem cuttings is a popular and effective method that allows you to create new plants from existing ones. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you successfully propagate houseplants using stem cuttings:


1. Select a Healthy Parent Plant:

Choose a mature, healthy houseplant with strong stems. Avoid plants that show signs of disease or stress. A cutting from an unhealthy plant will not have the energy required to root and grow.


2. Prepare the Cutting Tools:

Ensure your scissors or pruning shears are clean and sharp to make a clean cut, which aids in rooting. Dirty scissors can introduce bacteria and disease to the open wound that is created when taking a cutting. Sharp disinfected scissors will aid in the speedy recovery of the parent plant as well as the cutting.


nodes on a houseplant and where to take a cutting

3. Take the Stem Cuttings:

Select a healthy stem and make a clean cut, ideally just below a leaf node (pictured above). Cuttings are typically 4-6 inches long, depending on the plant species. Nodes are usually located on or just below where a leaf is along the stem of a plant. Sometimes you will see a line or little white or brown dots where the new roots will grow from. When propagating epiphytes, aerial roots may already be growing from the nodes. Be sure to cut around a half inch or more below the node to allow enough stem space for the new roots to grow.


4. Remove Lower Leaves:

Depending on the type of houseplant and the size of the cutting, it may be recommended to remove the lower leaves from the stem, leaving a few leaves at the top intact. This reduces moisture loss and focuses the plant's energy on root development. Leaving too many leaves can cause the cutting to focus on maintaining the leaves instead of putting energy towards root growth, though not leaving enough leaves can limit the plant's ability to photosynthesize, also inhibiting its ability to form roots. This is generally something that is good to pay attention to with houseplants that have an upright, treelike growth habit (such as rubber trees or dracaena), and is less important for houseplants with vining or trailing tendencies (such as pothos or ivy).


5. Let the Cuttings Callous:

Lay your cuttings out on a paper towel and leave them out overnight. This is an extremely important step! Leaving them out to dry allows the cut end and any places where leaves were removed to callous over and heal, which will decrease the chances of rot in your cutting.


6. Plant Your Cutting and Be Patient:

Once any wounded areas of your cutting have sufficiently calloused over, you will either 1) plant your cutting in soil or 2) place it in a vase with water.


- Option 1: Soil Propagation

If you choose to propagate your houseplant in soil, dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone, which will encourage quicker root growth. Shake off any excess hormone to avoid over-application. Place the cutting into a small pot or container with a well-draining potting mix. Insert the cuttings into the soil, ensuring the nodes where the leaves were removed are beneath the soil line. Keep the soil moist (but not soggy) and place the cutting in a warm area with bright indirect sun exposure. A Ziploc bag can be placed over the cutting to help create a mini greenhouse effect and encourage quicker rooting. This method is arguably quicker but can have a lower success rate.


- Option 2: Water Propagation

If you choose to propagate your houseplant in water, simply place your cuttings in a glass vase, preferably clear so you can observe the root growth, and sit them in a warm area that receives bright indirect light. The roots will begin to grow after a couple of weeks and once they are several inches long, the cutting can be planted in soil. This can take several months of rooting in water depending on the plant and the season. If the roots are not developed enough, the plant will have a hard time transitioning to growing in soil, so be sure there is adequate root growth before transplanting. This method is arguably slower but tends to have a higher success rate.


Examples of Houseplants that can be Propagated Via Stem Cuttings:


Propagating Houseplants from Rooting a Leaf

Zz plant leaf propagation

Propagating houseplants by rooting a leaf is the same as rooting stem cuttings, the only difference is in one case the roots form on the stem of the plant, and in the other case the roots form at the base of a leaf. Not all plants can be propagated by rooting a leaf, so it is important to pay attention to the type of plant you are trying to propagate and the method that will work best for that particular plant. One thing to be aware of when propagating houseplants in this fashion is to not damage the leaf when removing it from the parent plant. In many cases, if the seam where the leaf attaches to the parent plant is damaged or broken off of the leaf, it will not be able to produce roots. Make a clean break with your hands. It is often best to avoid using scissors when attempting to root leaves as cutting the leaf off will often also mean cutting off the area of the leaf that will be necessary for the new roots to grow. Following the same steps as above, once a leaf has been removed, let the broken end callous over. Then place in water or dip in rooting hormone and plant in soil. It is always recommended to take several cuttings as there is no guarantee that every leaf will be successful. Below is a list of plants that can be propagated via leaf cuttings.


Examples of Houseplants that can be Propagated Via Leaf Cuttings:


Propagating Houseplants from Dividing

Propagating houseplants through division is a straightforward and effective method that allows you to create new plants from established ones. This propagation technique is best for plants that naturally grow in clumps or have multiple stems emerging from the soil. By dividing the root ball into smaller sections, each with its own stems and roots, you can create new plants that can be potted individually. Here's a step-by-step guide to propagating houseplants through division.


propagating houseplants by division

1. Select the Right Time:

Choose a time when the plant is actively growing, typically during the spring or early summer, as this allows for quicker recovery and establishment of the divided sections. Attempting to propagate plants in the winter when the plant is in a slowed state of growth could overwhelm the plant to the point of it not being able to recover.


2. Prepare the Plant:

Lightly water the parent plant a day or two before dividing to ensure the soil is adequately moist but not waterlogged. After a day or two, carefully remove the plant from its pot and work as much of the soil away from the roots as possible. Assess the plant to identify natural divisions or separate sections with multiple stems and healthy roots.


4. Divide the Plant:

Using clean, sharp shears or a knife, carefully divide the root ball into sections, ensuring each section has a portion of the root system and multiple stems or shoots. Using clean, sharp tools is very important. Dirty tools can introduce disease to the wounded parts of your plant, and dull tools can cause damage that requires a greater amount of time to heal.


5. Plant the Divisions:

Fill small pots or containers with well-draining potting mix. Plant each division in its own pot, ensuring the roots are spread out and covered with soil. Gently press the soil around the base of the plant to provide support. Water your newly potted divisions thoroughly to settle the soil and initiate root establishment. Allow any excess water to drain away, ensuring the pots do not sit in water, which can lead to root rot.


6. Provide Proper Care:

Place the newly potted divisions in a location with appropriate light conditions for the specific plant species. Monitor the soil moisture and water as needed to keep the soil lightly moist but not soggy. Avoid fertilizing immediately after division; wait until the new plants show signs of active growth.


Examples of Houseplants That can be Propagated Via Division:


Different Methods for Houseplant Propagation

While there are many different ways to propagate houseplants, propagating by cuttings and by division are the most common methods for indoor plants. If you have any questions about how to propagate houseplants, which method would be best for the plant you would like to propagate, or any other houseplant-related questions, we are here to help! Simply fill out a contact form, give us a call, or come into the Garden Center.

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