Almost Too Easy

By Laura Miller | November 25, 2022
by Laura Miller
November 25, 2022

Let’s be honest. Purchasing live plants is one of the most expensive aspects of gardening. Whenever we desire multitudes of the same plant, most gardeners find it budget-friendly to propagate their own. My favorite way to expand my plant collection is by rooting plants in water.

Often called stem-cutting propagation, I find rooting plants in water to be one of the fastest and easiest methods of plant propagation. Let’s say I want the same color of begonia in several coordinated planters. I could purchase a pack of begonia seeds and spend months coddling seedlings.

Another option would be to purchase one begonia plant. Then wait a year or more for it to expand to the point where its tubers can be divided into several new plants. Luckily, begonias are one of the plants that root in water. I can purchase one plant, snip off several stems and end up with a multitude of begonia plants in just a few weeks.

Plants That Root in Water

Many types of houseplants, frost-tender perennial flowers, and herbs can be propagated by rooting plants in water. Some of my favorites include:

How to Propagate from Cuttings

I start by cutting 4-6 inch (10-15 cm.) stems from the mother plant. For plants like basil, I find the perfect time to do this is when the plant starts to get a bit leggy. I also use stem-cutting propagation in the fall as a means to easily overwinter frost-tender flowers like geraniums.

When rooting plants in water, I usually take more stem cuttings than I need. Not all the cuttings will send out roots and occasionally some will rot in the water. I’m also not fussy where I make the initial cut. I find it easier to trim the stem once it’s removed from the mother plant.

The next step is to trim each cutting right below the lowest set of leaves. The roots will emerge from the leaf nodes and any excess stem below that point encourages rotting. Before propagating plants in water, I also remove all the leaves that would be submerged.

Then I simply place the cut stems in a glass of water and set it on my kitchen window sill. I prefer using a clear plastic, disposable cup when propagating plants in water. This way, I can monitor the water level and see the progress of root development.

In addition to being easy, this is one of the few methods of plant propagation that isn’t time-sensitive. Stem cuttings can be taken almost anytime during the year and many plants that root in water will happily exist that way until I have the time to transfer them to soil.

I do wait until the plants have developed a decent root system before potting in soil. I like to see multiple roots about 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm.) long. I use a quality potting soil blend and carefully separate the stems if the roots have become tangled in the cup. After the cuttings are planted in their individual pots, I water thoroughly and keep the soil slightly moist until the new plants are established.

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