Propagating plants is one of my favorite gardening-related activities, and it always seems a bit like magic to me. Sometimes the magic is easier to accomplish than others, but whenever it works, it seems amazing. Many, many plants are easy to propagate, but none easier than one houseplant that produces its own babies.
I know that plants in the wild often propagate from seeds, but rooting cuttings is so much faster and more fun. Where I live, sowing seeds outdoors is doomed in many cases, since hungry birds swoop in and chow down.
The most popular ornamental plants in my part of San Francisco are succulents. They are one of the few types of plants that love the sandy soil that used to be Pacific dunes, and nothing is easier than propagating plants from these cuttings.
I built my entire succulent garden from picking up the clippings that neighbors left on the sidewalk while pruning their succulents. Rooting cuttings can be done in water but it’s easier in soil. Just pop their base ends into soil, and you’ve got a plant.
Easiest Propagation Ever
One plant stands out, however, as the easiest of all when it comes to propagation. That is a houseplant, the beloved spider plant. With its rosette of long, grass like leaves in fresh green and white, the spider plant tolerates low light rooms, neglectful owners, and almost any other conditions, while pulling toxins from the air.
The spider plant also propagates in the most amazing way: it sends out white stalks from which baby spider plants grow. The stalks droop down on all sides of the pot and each one is tipped by one or more babies that look just like miniature versions of the parent plant. In time each baby spider develops roots right there in the air. At that point, all you have to do is snip off the babies and install their roots in soil.
Toughest Plant to Propagate
Okay, I have to admit it. My toughest plant to propagate is not an exotic that has a seed that must be treated or placed in the refrigerator. It is the popular houseplant, the philodendron. If you look up how to propagate philodendron on the internet, every article will tell you how incredibly easy the plant is to root from cuttings. Yet I had the opposite result.
I have three very healthy philodendron in my San Francisco apartment, all three thriving with long, lovely, drooping stems full of heart-shaped leaves. They are so long that I have to trim them to keep them looking neat.
I have tried no less than six times to get those cuttings to sprout in water, without success. For me, the stems rot, time after time. This is obviously a problem unique to me, but there it is. I have no idea why I have not been able to turn these cuttings into new plants, but I have finally accepted the fact of it. I now give the cuttings to neighbors.