Is your spider plant producing way too many little plantlets for you to deal with? Pothos vines getting too long for you? Or, do you simply want to start an indoor jungle on the cheap? Houseplant propagation is an easy and inexpensive way to multiply your plant collection, create new plants to give away or swap with your plant fam, or start fresh with a smaller version of an old friend!
When it comes to growing new baby plants from your existing collection, there are several ways to go about it, and each are suited to different kinds of plants: stem cuttings, leaf cuttings, layering, root division, and offsets/plantlets. Each one’s method is a little different, so let’s take a look at each individually.
@houseplantgal Propagation Station
Things to Know:
Before you start, there are a few things to note:
- While they’re developing, your new baby plants will likely need more attention than their mature counterparts. Try to keep them in a moist and humid environment.
- The best time to experiment is during the growing season, during the warmth of spring and summer. The better the condition of the parent plant, the more likely the propagation is to succeed!
- Make sure your tools are clean - especially your pruning shears or scissors, but also the new container for the baby plant and its contents (fresh water or fresh soil).
- There is always a chance of failure with new plant propagation, but don’t let that keep you from trying again. To increase your chances, try using a rooting hormone on the cuts you make. If using the powdered kind, make a divet in the soil first so the powder doesn’t come off when planting.
- If you know you’ll be propagating often, consider getting a heating mat or electrically heated propagator, since heat can speed up the growth process.
Pilea cuttings being potted
How To Propagate from Stem Cuttings
The most common method of propagation is using a stem cutting to grow your new plant. Choose a healthy shoot of new growth at least 5-10 inches long. Using clean shears or scissors, cut the stem on an angle just below a leaf joint, removing lower bits of foliage and young growth which could distract the cutting from putting down roots. If you’re propagating cacti or succulents, it’s best to leave the cutting to dry for at least a few hours to help the raw edge seal and reduce the likelihood of rotting.
Cuttings can be placed directly into soil, or started in water. Once your cuttings have sprouted enough roots over a couple of months, have a small pot on hand to repot it into its first real home, around 2-4 inches wide. As with any plant, continue to repot periodically as it grows and becomes rootbound. Read our guide to repotting for more info.
Some plants such as Dieffenbachia lose lower leaves when they become top-heavy. In this case, you can simply cut the top off and treat it like you would a stem cutting, removing leaves from the bottom inches of stem and placing it into water or soil to grow.
Sansevieria leaf cuttings in water
How To Propagate from Leaf Cuttings
When using the leaf cutting method, you will gently pull or cut off a leaf from the stem, and leave it out to dry for a few hours to a day to ‘seal’ the raw edge and help prevent rot. Some plants such as Sansevieria with especially large leaves can be cut into several segments.
Then, place in moist potting soil with the raw edge on bottom, keeping most of the leaf above the soil (plant just deep enough to keep it in place). You will always plant in the same direction it was growing in before it was cut, so keep track of which end is the top with directional cuts or a labeled sheet of paper you can set it on while you’re taking cuttings.
After your leaf is planted, keep warm and water according to its care requirements. When repotting leaf cuttings once roots have sprouted, make sure to remove the parent leaf before it goes into its new pot!
Rex Begonia and other plants with large, thinner leaves will need their leaves laid flat, top side up, on top of moist soil to propagate via leaf cuttings. Cut a few of the main veins of the leaf and pin them into the soil. Keep it moist and new plants will grow from the cuts. Other plants may need at least an inch of stem with each leaf and should be inserted stem down into the soil or water.
How To Propagate from Layering
Layering is a good technique to use on leggy plants with long, reaching vines, especially Pothos and English Ivy. It’s a reliable way of creating new plants, but might take a while longer than other methods.
To begin, you need space adjacent to the parent plant you can use to transform a stray vine into a new plant, whether that’s in a separate pot or not. Using a pin, hold the stem in place slightly underneath the surface of the adjacent soil. It works best if a node (where leaves branch out from, and also where roots will push out from) is underneath, and any lower leaves are removed to avoid rot. The mother plant will feed the vine until enough roots have sprouted that you can cut the link between them, and voila - a new baby plant!
- English Ivy
- Spider Plant
Air layering propagation
For larger plants that can’t be propagated normally, you can try air layering, which is essentially bringing the soil to the stem, instead of the stem to the soil! Plants like Monstera, Fiddle Leaf Figs or Rubber Trees may need this kind of propagation. First, make a cut halfway into a stem, leaving at least 2 feet of plant above. Make another cut 1 inch down and remove a shallow section of stem or bark between them. Fill a plastic sheet with a thick layer of soil and tie it around the cut stem, covering the open area. When roots form, you can cut off the stem just below and re-plant it, removing the bag.
How To Propagate from Root Division
The root division method is great for larger plants that have become congested and should be spread out a little. If you have a healthy plant with multiple stems, you can use root division to easily divide the plant into two halves or into several smaller plants, depending on the number of stem clusters.
First, take the plant out of its pot. Holding it with both hands on either side, press your thumbs into the center and gently tug it apart. If that fails, try removing the soil first. If it still won’t come apart, cut the roots with a clean knife down the center. Make sure each division has enough of a root ball of its own, along with at least 2 leaves above the soil.
When you’ve made all the divisions you want, pot them into potting soil and keep it moist and in indirect light for the next few weeks while the wounded roots are healing. Congratulations, you’ve cloned your plant!
Some plants such as Caladium produce underground growths called tubers, which can be used to propagate plants instead. When you divide a tuber, make sure each division has an ‘eye’, and dust the cuts with fungicide before planting.
Spider plant producing plantlets
How To Propagate from Offsets and Plantlets
There are some houseplants that naturally produce miniature versions of themselves once they’ve reached a certain age, most notably Spider Plants, as they are so named for the spider-like look of the many plantlets that rain down from mature plants, each one capable of forming an entirely new plant on its own! These are possibly the easiest to propagate, since the plant does a lot of the work for you in creating its own babies.
Offsets or side shoots will usually form around the base of the plant. This is a little trickier to accomplish than removing plantlets, as you will have to carefully separate it from the mother plant, making sure to get as many roots as possible along with it. Wait until it’s a larger offset that’s been growing for a few months before attempting to sever it.
Plantlets, on the other hand, appear on the end of long flowering stems (or on the edge of leaves, in the case of Mother of Thousands). Once they’re the right size, with enough leaves and roots, simply pop them off the stem and pot with fresh soil, watering well.
Some plants that create offsets:
Some plants that create plantlets:
That's it, plant fam! Now... go out and multiply!