Just about everyone loves houseplants because, in return for a little light and water, they add so much greenery and life to our indoor spaces. Another wonderful thing about them is how easy it is to make more of them through propagation to either expand your own collection or to share with friends.
By propagating your plants, you can instantly multiply the number of plants you have in your home without buying new ones.
The main reasons are that although plants can be cheap to purchase, they're almost always cheaper to propagate. It's very easy too.
There are several basic rules to remember when it comes to this topic.
- Cuttings and new plants will typically need more attention than fully grown ones.
- Neglect - for example failure to keep the compost moist (or on the other hand, too wet) could easily end your attempt in failure.
- Always use fresh compost (if rooting using soil) or fresh water (if rooting using water).
- A rooting hormone is a good way to increase your chances of success but not essential.
- Make sure your equipment is clean, this includes everything from the cutting knife down to the container your new plant will grow in.
Finally, never expect a 100% success rate but equally, never let failure put you off from trying again.
Cuttings need roots before they'll develop their own ones, so if there are no roots at the initial stages you need to encourage the cutting to grow some. This is done either by planting up the cutting directly in potting compost (Soil method). Or in something like a small container, vase or glass with just water that you change and refresh every few weeks (Water method).
In general, using the soil method tends to reduce the number of steps when it comes to propagation, because once rooting has occurred you just need to grow the plant on. However do remember that the cutting will need more attention to stop it from being over or underwatered. Also some propagation material just isn't suitable for the water method either so you will have to use the soil method in those instances.
If you're using the water method you'll eventually have to pot up the new cutting into soil which carries a small risk of failure as you may damage the fragile roots when transplanting. That said the water method is quick and doesn't cost anything. It's a great method if you don't always have access to a garden or compost to hand.
Neither method is fail proof however and in general we would simply advise picking the method you like the look of the most or is the most practical for you at the time. Alternatively you could take multiple cuttings and try both.
In the majority of cases you can honestly get by with some very basic tools. A pair of kitchen scissors (and if rooting in soil) a simple plant pot and some compost, are sometimes all the things you need.
That said, you'll often have more success if you use Rooting Hormone Powder and a Heated Propagating Mat. Both of these things encourage roots to form and at a much quicker pace than if you just let nature take it's course. Obviously if you're only planning to propagate one plant, it's really not going to be worth buying these things. But if you think you'll do it often, (or are a keen outdoor gardener) they're something to seriously consider.
Quite often each houseplant can be propagated through a number of different methods so you usually have a fair amount of choice.
Offsets (Air Plants, Aloe, Dwarf Banana, Echeveria, Haworthia, Pilea Peperomioides, Pink Quill Plant, Urn Plant)
Some species will form side shoots or offsets, usually around the base of itself. This method is tricky to get right because when you remove the offset you have to do so carefully to ensure as many of the new roots that have formed come along with the bulk of the miniature plant you have removed. Too little root and the "baby" won't survive.
If you want to give it a try, make sure you only attempt it on a reasonably mature / large offset that's been growing for at least a few months, if it's very small just wait a bit longer until it's bigger. When it's ready, use a sharp knife to increase accuracy and once served, pot into ordinary potting compost and treat like you have the adult plant previously.
Plantlets (Moth Orchid, Pilea Peperomioides, Spiderplant)
With some houseplants, Plantlets appear on the end of long flowering stems. These are basically miniature adult plants and when the leaves and roots have formed and have grown to a decent size they're ready to live life on their own.
You just need to remove the plantlet and pot up into a standard soil mix, watering well, then within a few weeks you'll notice brand new growth. One houseplant is propagated this way more than any other and that's the Spiderplant.
Stem and Cane Cuttings
Stem and Cane Cuttings (Begonia (Cane), Corn Plant (Cane), Dragon Tree (Cane), Dumb Cane (Cane), Goosefoot / Syngonium (Stem), Jewel Orchid (Stem), Senecio / String of Pearls (Stem), Star Jasmine (Stem), Swiss Cheese Plant / Monstera (Stem), Pothos (Stem), Wandering Jew (Stem), Yucca (Cane))
Many houseplants can be propagated through Stem or Cane cuttings. If you're going to use a stem cutting, pick non-flowering stems and do it during Spring or Summer.
The majority of cuttings should be gently inserted into the compost as soon as they have been cut from the main plant. If you're using cuttings from cacti or succulent type plants give them at least a few hours to a day in order for them to dry out a little, this seals the raw "cut" slightly and reduces the possibility of rot setting in.
Cane cuttings are a good choice when the cane has lost its upper leaves, the crown is dying or the plant has a tall but undesirable "leggy" appearance and you want to encourage new shoots to sprout lower down.
When you remove the cane simply cut it into pieces at least 2 - 3 inches long (how many cuttings you get per cane will therefore depend how long it is to start with ) and push upright into the compost, you must make sure the cane is still pointing upwards to mirror the direction it was growing in when attached to the main plant.
Leaf Cuttings (African Violet, Begonia, Christmas Cactus, Easter Cactus, Echeveria, Jade Plant, Mother-in-Law's Tongue / Snake Plant, Wandering Jew, Zamioculcas Zamifolia)
Depending on the plant you'll need to either gently pull or cut off a leaf from the stem, allow the raw edge to dry slightly (few hours to a day) and then pot it up in a free draining compost mix with the raw edge going in first.
Some plants like the Sansevieria have massive leaves, which although a little more drastic, can be cut into several smaller pieces.
Always plant in the direction of growth, keeping most of the leaf above the ground which prevents rotting and allows for photosynthesis to take place which in turn creates the new growth you need. Only a few centimeters of the leaf needs to actually be in the soil, just enough to hold it in place. Keep warm and water very occasionally.
Seeds are normally the cheapest method and attain the best value when looking to obtain new house plants through propagation. The downside is that only a few indoor plants will produce viable seeds to even allow you to attempt this.
The clear disadvantage here is that it takes time for germination to occur and then a great deal more for the seedlings to reach a decent size. It can still be worth a try and if your house plant has given you some you've nothing to lose in trying to grow some new plants from seed.
Make sure you use fresh compost and keep temperatures at the correct level to encourage seed germination. If you have a greenhouse or heated propagator, this will be a valuable piece of kit. Once germination happens you must take extra care to keep the seedlings in a protected condition as their small size makes them vulnerable to damage.
Layering (Goosefoot / Syngonium, Ivy Pothos, Spider Plant)
The majority of climbing house plants will produce "runners" of stray, exploitative vines or stems that will root into new soil if given the chance. This is called "layering" and is a really reliable way of creating new plants if you don't want to take the greater risk of a standard stem cutting.
The downside is that it takes quite a while before rooting has taken place, you also need to have space to work with as the propagating happens right where the new growth actually is, i.e. next to the parent.
Once the stem(s) have been chosen, use a hairpin or a piece of flexible wire that allows you to pin the stem into a small pot filled with compost. Ensure the stem is pushed slightly under the soil surface as contact must be made in order for roots to form.
The parent will continue to fuel the stem until rooting has taken place, once this happens you will notice new growth and at this point it can be cut loose from the parent and just like that the smaller pot contains your new self-sufficient plant.
Division (Aspidistra, Boston Fern, Calathea, Cambria and Vuylstekeara Orchids, Dumb Cane, Peace Lily, Pitcher Plant, Purple Shamrock, Snake Plant, Umbrella Grass)
Sometimes one of your houseplant's might get too wide or spread so you can reduce its size and also create new plants at the same time by dividing it. You can divide it perhaps in two, or even into smaller "pieces" or "clumps" if you want multiple plants.
Division is normally very easy as all you need to do is remove the plant from its pot and gently pull the roots apart. Just remember that each "piece" or "clump" must have its own root ball, otherwise it will be very vulnerable to drying out. Out in the garden you might use a spade to do this, although this is not advised for indoor plants as they tend not to be so accommodating of really rough treatment, so do it by hand (or a sharp knife if it's too tough).
When the cuttings are well rooted (4 to 8 weeks, for most plants) and are putting on new growth, transplant them into individual containers of potting soil.
As they continue to grow, gradually expose them to more light. When the plants are well established in the pots and continue to put on top growth, harden them off (acclimate them to your weather conditions) and plant them in their permanent garden location.
To harden off new plants, gradually move them to more extreme temperatures and sunlight. Moving them from the porch to outside in partial sun and finally to full sun over a week’s time should do the trick
Stem cuttings can be taken and rooted at almost any time during the parent plant's active growth period. It is a good way to add additional plants. And in cold climates, it can also be used to keep prized tender plants alive through the winter for replanting in the spring. For example, you can take cuttings of tropical coleus plants in the fall before frost arrives, root them indoors, and then transfer them to pots. By springtime, you will have vigorous potted plants that can go back into the garden.
Remember the golden rule - Houseplants want to be Propagated. You aren't trying to force them into doing something they don't want to do so don't be afraid to give it a go.