How to propagate indoor plants

Ever wanted to know how to propagate your houseplants? We all love a big statement plant, but there’s something intrinsically rewarding about starting small and watching something grow.

An introduction to indoor plant propagation

We all love a big statement plant, but there’s something intrinsically rewarding about starting small and watching something grow.

Put simply, plant propagation is the process of creating new plants. In this case, we'll be looking at creating new plants from indoor plants that you might already own.

Many houseplants are very easy to propagate, and once you know how you’ll be gifting baby plants to all of your nearest and dearest.

There are different ways of propagating, so it can seem a bit daunting if you’ve never done it before, but here are some handy tips for success. We’ll take a look at different four different propagation methods:

  • Propagation with stem cuttings
  • Leaf propagation
  • Propagating in soil
  • Propagating in water

How to propagate using stem cuttings

Many houseplants will happily root from cuttings. If you’ve got a Devil’s Ivy that’s getting too long or a cane Begonia that’s getting too leggy, a small section of stem can quickly grow into a whole new plant.

To take a cutting:

  • Snip below a leaf node (the bump on the stem beneath a leaf) as this is where the roots will form
  • Remove any lower leaves so they’re not submerged.
  • Place it in soil in a small pot with compost and perlite mix or in a little jar with some water.

Trailing Philodendrons and Monsteras also propagate easily using this method.

How to use leaf propagation

Has your succulent ever dropped its leaves and started growing a new plant from the base? Succulents will happily form new plants from leaves that are left to sit on top of the soil. Here's how to do it:

  • Just gently twist a healthy leaf off the stem, allow it to dry for a day or two.
  • Pop it on top of some soil making sure the leaf base has contact with the compost.

Plants such as Begonias can be propagated in a similar (if slightly more involved) way:

  • Using a sharp knife, cut a square into a Begonia leaf.
  • Leave it on top of moist compost making sure it stays damp and has full contact with the soil.
  • It’s a good idea to put a jar or clear plastic bag over the top while it roots, so that the air around it stays humid.

Although this method can be a bit trickier, don’t be disheartened! Once you’ve got this one down, it’s one of the most rewarding ways to propagate plants.

Difference between propagating in water vs soil

Propagating in Water

One of the easiest ways to root stem cuttings is in a jar of water as explained above. This method is useful because it allows you to see what’s happening under the surface.

Here are some tips to get it right:

  • Make sure to change the water once a week, and within a few weeks you should start to see new roots growing from the stem.
  • Once the cutting has a healthy clump of roots, carefully transplant it into some moist compost and watch it grow.

Propagating in Soil

Propagating directly into soil removes the step of transplanting, and can often make for a stronger plant as there’s less chance of root damage or of the plant going into shock after being moved.

Here are some tips to get it right:

  • Use small pots with dampened compost, poke a hole into the soil, and place your cutting straight in.
  • Make sure to keep the compost moist in the coming weeks, as the cutting will need time to form roots and can’t be allowed to dry out.
  • Rooting hormone can come in handy here, as it helps the cutting to root. Just dab a small amount on the end of your cutting, before placing it into the soil, but not totally necessary.

What you'll need to propagate indoor plants

You don’t need any fancy equipment to propagate houseplants.

  • If you’re propagating in soil, all you need is some clean pots and a free-draining compost. Perlite can be helpful to mix into the soil, but it isn’t essential.
  • A sharp, clean knife or sharp scissors to take cuttings is important as this helps lower the risk of infection or damage.
  • If using the water method, just some clean water and a glass vessel is enough.
  • Rooting hormone isn’t essential, but can be a helpful addition especially when propagating tropical plants. It usually comes in powder or gel form, and it’s a worthwhile tool for budding propagators.
  • A dibber (or just a pencil!) for making a hole in the compost.

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