Propagating Houseplants 101: Tips For Propagating Plants

By Mary H. Dyer | January 7, 2021
Image by tylim
by Mary H. Dyer
January 7, 2021

Propagating plants is a lot of fun and it’s an inexpensive way to expand your collection. If you’ve never propagated plants, you’ll be surprised how easy it is. 

Houseplant Propagation Tips

Propagating houseplants: My favorite way to start a new houseplant is to stick a few healthy stems in a bottle of water. Just cut a 4- to 6-inch (10-15 cm.) length of stem just beneath a set of leaves. Pinch off the lower leaves, as leaves remaining under the water will cause the stem to rot. This technique works for many plants, including pothos and philodendron.

Stick the stems in a clear or amber glass container with a narrow neck, then put it in moderately bright light. Replenish the water as needed and change the water if it looks brackish. As soon as you see roots-usually in a month or so- you can plant the new houseplant in a container filled with good-quality potting mix. 

Dividing houseplants: Some clump-forming houseplants including African violets, snake plant, asparagus fern, aloe vera, and peace lily can be propagated by division. Some plants develop full size clumps, and some have smaller “pups” growing at the base.

To divide a houseplant, remove the plant from the pot and use your fingers to tease the clumps apart. Be sure the divisions or pups have a few healthy roots then replant them as soon as possible in fresh potting mix. 

Propagating cacti and succulents: Most cacti and succulents are easy to propagate with cuttings. Remove a leaf or short length of stem with a sharp, clean knife then set the leaf aside for a few days or until the cut area forms a callus.

At this point you can just stick the cut end in a container filled with potting mix for cactus and succulents. Some plants, such as jade, propagate so easily that you can simply lay a leaf on the surface of the soil. 

Notes about Propagating Plants

Although you can propagate plants any time of year, you’ll have better luck in spring or summer, when the plant is actively growing and not dormant. Many plants can be propagated several different ways and there are no hard and fast rules. Just have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment. 

Some plants can be propagated in water or you can just plant the cutting directly in a pot. Rooting hormone may help with rooting, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. Techniques for propagating outdoor plants is basically the same as propagating indoor plants. 

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  • Deborah Villalobos
    Comment added May 22, 2021Reply

    As fast as succulents go, I never have any luck with the cutting a stem off and allowing it to "callus" before planting. I usually just put the cut off end into good soil and no problem. However cactus is quite different.

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