Simple houseplant propagation techniques
Want to grow your plant collection for free? Propagation really is very satisfying, but be warned, it’s pretty addictive!
Below we explain a few really simple ways to propagate; division, water propagation and succulent leaf cuttings. All are really easy techniques which have been tried and tested time and time again by us. There are lots more ways to propagate including air layering, ground layering and leaf vein cuttings. For explanations and how-to of these slightly more involved methods, we recommend Root Nurture Grow.
This is a really simple method of propagation to separate plants. Plants that can be divided effectively are those that grow from:
Rhizomes (horizontal underground stem roots grow from the bottom and shoots grow upwards. Ferns, snake plants and ZZ plants grow from rhizomes.
Bulbs (an underground shoot containing a bud internally). Caladiums grow from bulbs.
Tubers (like a rhizome but shoots grow from all over the tuber). String of hearts grow from tubers.
Stolons (stems that run along the surface of the soil). Saxifraga stolonifera grow from stolons.
Take the plant out of the pot and carefully separate the clumps growing from the bulbous underground stems.
Gentle pulling could be enough to do this, or using a clean sterile knife slice down between two clumps.
The separated plants can be potted straight into their own pots, they already contain roots, stems and leaves.
The ever popular Chinese money plant or Pilea peperomiodies is a very prolific reproducer, growing babies at its base, often close to the edge of the pot. Using the same division method, remove the mother plant from its pot and you will see the babies and their root system, gentle pull the main stem of the baby plant away from the pot. This can now be planted in its own pot.
Here's a satisfying video of this process:
Water Propagating Stem Cuttings
Propagating stem cuttings in water is a great method for beginners to propagation, as you get to see the roots growing.
Plants perfect for rooting in water are Monstera varieties, Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma, Scindapsus Pictus (Satin Pothos), Epiphyllum Anguliger (Fishbone Cactus), Hoya varieties and Maranta.
Stem cutting Method
Firstly you will need to know where to cut the stem, identify the node as you will be cutting just below this. The node is the section of the stem where leaves grow from. (You may well notice you have woody brown protuberances coming from the stem, these are aerial roots used for stabilising the plant when growing and taking up moisture and nutrients. These can grow very long on Monstera deliciosa.)
Using a sterile knife or scissors cut just below the node. You can remove the leaf closest to the node if you wish to help expose the node as much as possible, as this is where the roots will grow from.
Place the cut stem in a small clear vase of clean water, making sure that not too much of the stem is below the water line, and certainly no leaves in the water otherwise these will rot.
Change the water once a week to avoid algae building up and wait for roots to grow. You should see growth within a month.
Once the roots are a couple of centimeters long, ideally with secondary roots you are ready to pot the baby plant into soil. Use a small pot to begin with and try not to let the soil dry out between waterings.
Here is a video of identifying nodes and showing where to cut on different plants.
It is worth noting that some plants such as Hoya and Ficus will release a white sap when cut, this may cause itching so be careful. For plants like this it is best to leave the cutting a couple fo days for the cut-end to callous over before placing it in water.
Succulent Leaf Cutting
One of the easiest propagation methods is growing new succulents from their own leaves. It will take some time for the baby plant to grow, but it is fun to see such delicate little plants growing over time.
Succulent propagation will often happen by without you noticing if you drop a succulent leaf into a pot by accident it will start to root and grow a baby. Echeveria are perfect succulents for giving this propagation method a go.
Succulent Leaf Cutting Method
It is important to water the succulent a couple of days before removing any leaves for propagation, as the cutting will be relying on its own water stored within the leaf until it has roots.
Holding a leaf close to the stem, gently pull and twist until the leaf comes off. Take off a few leaves as not every one will produce a baby successfully.
Place the leaves on a dry surface inside for a couple of days to let the cut end callous over.
Fill a small dish, pot or tray with compost and dampen it with a spray bottle. Simply lay the succulent leaves on top of the soil. They do not need to be buried into the soil. Roots will soon grow down into the soil.
Keep the soil moist, but not soggy, and leave it in a warm sunny position.
You will notice a baby plant growing from the leaf, keep the initial leaf there, it will wither and die-off on its own, there is no need to remove it. Once the babies are established you can carefully transplant them to their own pot.
Remember that succulents love lots of bright light and very little water.
We hope you enjoy giving these methods a go.
For propagation tools, soil, vessels and books see our houseplant accessories.