Propagation of Plants Tests Patience

By Susan Albert | January 28, 2023
Image by Mila Naumova
by Susan Albert
January 28, 2023

Propagating plants can be easy or difficult. Even after following all the rules, some plants may not take root. The propagation methods I use most are taking cuttings, removing offsets, or by division.

Plants that are Easy to Propagate

I have found some of the easiest plants to root by cuttings are Schefflera, inch plant, pothos, and Christmas cactus. I just cut off some stems and insert them in potting soil. Inch plant and pothos will also root in water. It’s important to move the rooted cuttings to soil quickly, or they will have a hard time acclimating to the new medium. You can dip the cutting in rooting hormone before planting, if desired. It is supposed to give your cutting a better chance at rooting.

Plants that produce offsets such as hen and chicks, ponytail palm, Haworthia, and airplane plant are simple to propagate by separating the offsets. Donkey ears produces a new plant at the end of each leaf. Remove the “pups” and plant them in the appropriate soil – cacti and succulent mix for the succulents like Haworthia or potting soil for general houseplants.

Perennials propagate easily by division, and I always have success dividing irises, daylilies, hosta, coneflower, liatris, and mums. Dig up the clump and divide into sections. For irises, remove and keep the new growth coming off last season’s rhizome and discard the spent rhizome. It won’t bloom again. Hosta doesn’t have to be divided; you can let them continue to merrily spread. If they are getting out of bounds, however, you can dig up an edge rather than the whole clump.

Pipevine Proves Problematic

The most difficult plant I have tried to propagate was a pipevine, which is a butterfly host plant. It looks like it would be easy to propagate; it forms runners that sucker underground and emerge at the top of the soil with new leaves. When it is dug up, some of the runner comes with it. I’ve tried rooting it in soil and in water, but it takes several attempts, and I’m rarely successful. I have decided with this plant it is best to buy one from a native plant nursery.

I haven’t tried much propagation of trees and shrubs. I did get some oak trees to grow from seed to about 8 inches (20 cm.) once but lost them to neglect.

It’s fun to propagate plants and share them with family or, if you are in a garden club, the spring plant sale. With persistence most attempts will be successful.

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