Propagation is defined as the process of taking a piece of an existing plant and growing a new one completely independent from it. Depending on the plant you want to propagate, there are many methods and processes surrounding each type of houseplant. In this blog, you'll learn the different methods of propagation, how to do it, and which plant varieties can be propagated using each method!
The first and most fool-proof propagation method is the process of division. There are 2 ways to use this method:
- Separating offsets: when certain species of plants such as Spider Plants, Air Plants, Pilea, Snake Plants, and some succulents including cacti reach a certain level of maturity, they produce offsets aka "pups" that looks like a baby plants growing from or next to their original (aka mother) plant. Once a pup reaches a third of their mother plant’s size, they can be separated through a cut at the base where the baby plant is connected. If the baby plant has already established a healthy root system, you can plant it directly into soil. If not, you can place it in either full hydro (water) or semi-hydro substrate (i.e., LECA, sphagnum moss, soil mixed with perlite, etc.) to promote root growth.
2. Separating rhizomes. Certain species of plants such as Birds of Paradise, ZZ Plants, Snake Plants, Prayer Plants, Ferns, and String of Hearts produce rhizomes or tubers which are modified stems that grow under the soil where new growth can sprout from. They can be easily propagated by gently separating tubers or rhizome clumps and planting them into fresh soil.
Fun fact: the edible part of the ginger plant is the rhizome and potatoes are tubers!
Second is one of the most common methods you've likely seen around the internet. This process involves taking a cutting from a plant’s stem. In order for this method to be successful you need to ensure one of two things:
- Have at least one node. If you aren’t yet familiar, a node is the portion of a plant stem where leaves, aerial roots, or new stems grow from. It looks like a little discoloured bump on the plants stem. This only applies to plants species that have these nodes or aerial roots such as Monstera, Philodendron, Pothos and even trailing succulents!
- Includes section of woody stem. Some woody-stemmed plants can be propagated by leaf or branch cuttings if you ensure that the cutting you've taken includes the petiole, and has a bit of the woody stem attached to it. This is meant for plant species such as Ficus (Rubber Plant, Fiddle Leaf Fig), Hoya, Dracaena, and some mature species of succulents such as Echeveria or Aeonium.
Once you've made certain that your cutting meets one of these criteria, place it in either full hydro or semi-hydro substrate to promote root growth.
If you are propagation using full hydro, you should start to notice roots growing from the node within a week or two - depending on the species of plant you are propagating. If you've chosen to plant the cutting, you'll know it has established a root system if you gently wiggle the cutting and feel some resistance.
- For cuttings with nodes, cut just below the node with a pair of sterile scissors or knife
- If there is a leaf right on or below the node, prune it with sterile scissors
- For full hydro propagation, you'll know the plants are ready to be transferred into soil once the primary roots have grown secondary roots
- After transferring into soil, the plant may be in shock so give it some so the adjust to its new potting medium.
- Try to transfer in the spring or summer (prime growing seasons!) as your cuttings will have a better chance at bouncing back from repotting stress.
Lastly, this method involves taking single leaves to grow new plants. Leaf propagation is used for succulents such as Crassula or Echeveria varieties, and plants that have succulent-like leaves such as Peperomia or Snake Plants. Simply remove a leaf from your chosen plant and place it either into a shallow tray of water, or on top of the surface of some soil. While the exposed portion of the leaf will initially callus over, a baby plant will then sprout from that same place. Once the baby plant has grown to one third the size of the original leaf, it can be partially buried in the soil to take root.
- Keep leaf cuttings out of harsh direct sunlight
- If using soil, keep the soil consistently damp, but not soaking wet
No matter what approach you take in propagating your plants, remember that it is a learning experience. Practice and celebrate often, because every plant that grows roots in your care is another success as a plant parent. Happy growing! 🌱