If you’re new to the houseplant world, you might have heard more seasoned plant owners talking about creating new plants from existing ones and wondered about the method behind this magic.
Vegetative propagation of houseplants, or turning one plant into multiple plants without using seeds or spores, can be accomplished using multiple methods. You can create cuttings, or simply divide a larger plant into multiple smaller plants.
Choosing the best method comes down to knowing a bit about how plants grow. To help you decide what’s best for your houseplants, the Kemper Center for Home Gardening has broken down the ins and outs of each option.
Taking a cutting from a plant can be an easy way to get started propagating. You can try stem cuttings or leaf cuttings, depending on the type of plant.
Stem cuttings are best for plants with long stems and distinct nodes, or the points where leaves attach to the stem. Some plants that are easy to take stem cuttings from include pothos, vine-forming philodendrons, arrowhead plants, wax plant, shrub and cane-type begonias, and most indoor Ficus species.
To create a stem cutting:
- Use sharp, clean pruners to cut a piece of the stem.
- Remove a few of the leaves from the cut end of the stem segment, and place it in a glass of water. Leaves are removed because they would rot away in the water.
- Add fresh water as needed to keep the water level consistent.
- Wait for roots to grow from the nodes, where the leaves used to be. This may take some time. Once the roots are a few inches long, cuttings can be potted using moistened soil mix.
Leaf cuttings, as the name implies, involve a similar method using plant leaves. This type of cutting works well for African violets, ZZ plants, rex begonias, and most kinds of indoor Ficus.
To create a leaf cutting:
- Cut a mature leaf off the plant you want to propagate and include some of the petiole, or stem that attaches the leaf blade to the plant.
- Place the cut end of the petiole in the water. Wrap aluminum foil or rubber bands around the top of the jar to support the leaf blades above the water while submerging the petioles.
- Once roots start to grow, pot the cutting in moistened soil mix.
- Eventually, a young plant will emerge from the base of the leaf.
Note that most succulents can be propagated using either of the above mentioned methods, but succulent cuttings do not have to be placed in water. These cuttings will root very easily in slightly moistened soil. Simply take the cutting and then allow the cut end to callus over in the open air for one day. This helps prevent rotting when it’s placed in soil.
Division is ideal for propagating plants that have short stems and clump-forming habits. Some plants that take well to division include peace lily, elephant’s ear, aloe vera, most ferns, clump-forming philodendrons, and most bromeliads.
The steps for division are fairly simple:
- Remove a plant from its container and separate the root ball into several sections, creating multiple, smaller plants from one larger plant.
- Pot each division into its own container.
For additional gardening help, including step by step guides on propagating plants, visit the Kemper Center for Home Garden’s page.
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