What To Know About Houseplant Propagation

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Houseplant propagation is a fun, creative and budget-friendly way for home gardeners to create more plants.

Houseplant propagation simply uses existing plants to make new plants, which can be done through a variety of methods. It’s an easy and budget-friendly DIY way to acquire more plants.

Interested in houseplant propagation? Here’s what you should know about the process.

Why Propagate Houseplants?

Propagating houseplants is a cost-effective way to expand your plant collection without buying more. Depending on the type of houseplants you have, savings can add up quickly.

Some people also like to give smaller, recently-propagated houseplants as gifts to fellow plant lovers. What’s more, propagated houseplants can actually mature faster and flower sooner than plants grown from seeds.

What Houseplants Can You Propagate?

Any houseplant can be propagated. Some, like pothos, spider plant and philodendron, are easier to propagate than others. Depending on your propagation experience and how much time you can devote to the project, you may want to consider working with specific plants over others.

Types of houseplants that can be propagated include, but aren’t limited to:

How To Propagate Houseplants

Here are four common expert-recommend methods for first-time propagators:

Stem cutting

Stem cuttings are an easy way to grow new plants in water. You need only a small vase or jar, clean water, and a warm spot in your home with plenty of natural light.

“Start by finding the plant node located where the leaf is coming out of the stem,” says Em Shipman, executive director of KidsGardening. “Make sure the cutting has three to four leaves. Snip it just below the node and place it in water.” Then put it in a bright, warm location, replace the water once a week and keep an eye out for roots.

“Depending on the plant species, they will usually appear in about two to four weeks,” Shipman says. “When the roots are about an inch long, the rooted cutting can be planted in potting soil.”

Plants that propagate well this way include pothos, monstera, ficus, philodendron, begonia and prayer plant.

Leaf cutting

These use leaves to create new plants grown directly in soil.

“To propagate a leaf cutting, remove a single leaf from the mother plant, keeping a small portion of stem attached [about 1/2-in. to 3/4-in.],” Shipman says. “Dip the cut base of the leaf in a powdered rooting hormone and put it just under the surface of moistened potting soil.”

Mist with water every few days to keep soil from drying out, but be careful not to oversaturate. “As the new plant grows, the parent leaf will decompose on its own,” Shipman says. “Do not worry about removing it.”

Plants that benefit from leaf-cutting propagation include snake plant, most succulents, ZZ plant, African violet, Chinese evergreen and dracaena.

Dividing

Dividing essentially breaks plants into individual parts. “Start by removing the plant from the container and shaking off excess soil,” Shipman says. “Gently pry apart sections of the plant, making sure that each section still has a decent amount of roots.”

Once divided, plant each section in moist potting soil, pat down firmly to secure and water thoroughly. “Like the other methods, you will want to keep the plants well-watered for the first few weeks,” Shipman says. “But after that, the plant should be able to follow its normal watering pattern.”

Plants that can be easily divided include most palms, ferns, peace lily and pilea.

Air layering

Air layering essentially uses various layers to create new plants. There are two ways to air layer, depending on the type of plant.

“For monocots, those with grass-like leaves, take a sharp knife and make an incision angled upward into the stem,” says Stephanie Turner, horticulture agent with Clemson Cooperative Extension. “Wedge the incision open with a toothpick, then wrap the wound and stem with very moist sphagnum moss.”

For dicots, like rubber or shrub plants, wind the stem by partially or completely girdling it. “To girdle the stem, two slight incisions are made all the way around the stem spaced about an inch apart,” Turner says. “Then a third cut is made to join the first two and the bark can then be peeled away.” Then wrap with sphagnum moss as described above.

In both methods, cover the moss tightly with plastic wrap to seal in moisture and tape securely in place. If applied correctly, you shouldn’t need to water the plants. Once roots appear, air layerings are ready to be cut away from the parent plant and planted in soil.

Plants that thrive from air layering include corn plant, croton, dumb cane and rubber plant.

Tips for Successful Houseplant Propagation

To successfully propagate houseplants, Shipman and Turner recommend keeping these things in mind:

  • Double check there are no leaves underwater, particularly for stem cuttings. These can cause plants to rot and bacteria to grow.

  • Be careful not to place the plant upside down, which can also cause it to rot.

  • Make sure your existing plants are healthy to ensure your new plants are healthy as well.

  • Use clean containers, tools and water to prevent fungus or bacteria from growing.

Ashley Zlatopolsky
Ashley Zlatopolsky is a Detroit-based writer, editor and content strategist with more than 10 years of experience. She creates editorial, branded, SEO and affiliate content. With 45+ cover stories published worldwide, her writing can be found in Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, Nat Geo, Billboard, the Guardian, The Daily Beast, Healthline, USA TODAY, Detroit Free Press, U.S. News, The Atlantic, Elite Daily, Bustle, HealthyWomen, Business Insider and more. She has developed branded content for Verizon, Barefoot Wine, Coca-Cola, A&E, Pop-Tarts, Chevrolet, BMW, Saks Fifth Avenue and Walmart.