How to Propagate Your Houseplants to Grow Even More of Them
Depending on the type of plant, there are several techniques for multiplying it into many new ones. Here's what you need to know.
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. There are actually several ways to grow new houseplants from a "mother" plant: stem or leaf cuttings, division, air layering, and from seeds. The process for each is a little different, and some work better for particular types of plants, so here's your simple guide to plant propagation.
How to Propagate Houseplants From Stem Cuttings
Step 1: First, cut 4 to 6 inches from the tip of the main stem or side branch, snipping just below a node (where leaf and stem meet). Remove the lower leaves and any flowers so that just a few leaves are left at the top of the stem.
Step 2: Dust cut end with rooting hormone powder ($6, The Home Depot). In a small container filled with potting mix, poke a hole with a pencil or chopstick so you can place the cutting into it without knocking off the powder. Then insert the cut stem into the moist potting mix, and gently press the soil around the stem. Or, you can skip the rooting powder and place your cutting in a vase of water.
Step 3: Provide indirect light and keep the potting mix moist or the water topped up. You can cover your cutting with a clear plastic bag to help hold in moisture while roots form.
Step 4: When cuttings planted in soil resist a gentle tug, they have rooted enough to repot. Dig up gently and pot up into the final container for your new plant. Move cuttings in water to a container of potting mix as soon as roots sprout and reach about half an inch long. If you leave cuttings in water too long, they will have a harder time acclimating to potting soil.
How to Create Divisions from Your Houseplants
Step 1: Remove the whole plant from its pot. For each pup, gently pull it away from the main root ball. You may need to use a trowel or soil knife to slice through stubborn roots. Try to keep as many roots as possible with each pup.
Step 2: Immediately place the separated pups into new containers of potting soil. Keep the soil evenly moist for the next few weeks to help the disturbed roots begin to grow again.
Step 3: Place plants out of direct light. Move them into brighter light over a period of 10 days, and give them a little houseplant fertilizer at about half-strength to encourage new growth.
3 Ways to Propagate Houseplants From Leaf Cuttings
To propagate an African violet, break a leaf off from the main stem of the plant, making sure to keep the petiole (leaf stem) attached. Insert the petiole into either water or a moist potting mix. Pot up leaves that have been in water as soon as roots form.
To propagate a rex begonia, set a healthy leaf, top side up, on moist potting mix. Slice through a few of the veins with a clean knife and pin the leaf down with toothpicks so the cuts come in contact with the potting mix. Keep moist, covering the pot with a clear plastic bag to create a mini greenhouse if you like. Pot the plantlets that grow from each cut, once they have a few leaves on them.
To propagate a snake plant, cut a leaf into sections with clean pruning sheers. Make angled cuts so the bottom ends come to a point in the center. Dip bottom ends in rooting powder; insert in moist potting soil. New plants will form to sides of leaf sections.
How to Propagate Houseplants Through Air Layering
Step 1: Make an upward cut into the stem just below a node at a point where you'd like new roots to grow. Cut halfway through the stem. Place a toothpick or matchstick into the cut to keep it open. Dust area with rooting hormone powder.
Step 2: Place moist sphagnum moss around the cut and secure it with plastic. Wrap wire twists at top and bottom. Mist moss regularly so it stays moist. When roots appear, cut stem several inches below original cut and pot it in a new container. The mother plant will eventually sprout new growth on its now bare stem.
Starting Houseplants from Seed
Seeds are an inexpensive and satisfying way to start many houseplants, including asparagus fern, bromeliads, cacti, coleus, gloxinia, and kalanchoe. But, it will take longer for them to reach a good size than if you were propagating them from stem cuttings or division, so you'll need patience.
Step 1: Fill tray or pot with moist potting mix. Sprinkle seeds across the surface or into shallow rows.
Step 2: Pat small seeds lightly so they make as much contact with the potting mix as possible without being covered. Larger seeds can be shallowly buried in the mix. Mist well to help the seeds settle in and rehydrate. Cover tray or pot with a clear plastic baggie or sheet, then place it on a heating pad set to low or the top of a refrigerator. Place in light conditions suggested on packet. Mist daily to keep the potting soil moist.
Step 3: Remove plastic when seedlings begin sprouting and move them into brighter light. Transplant into individual containers when the second set of leaves develops, making sure not to bury the leaves. Water immediately and move the developing plants gradually into brighter light, especially if you notice the stems stretching and bending.