Beginner's Guide to Propagating Houseplants in Bins

Beginner's Guide to Propagating Houseplants in Bins


Propagating houseplants is a fun and rewarding way to expand your plant collection. There are many different propagation methods to try, but one of the best options for beginners is using a propagation bin.

Propagation bins provide the ideal warm and humid environment to root cuttings. They are easy to set up and maintain. All you need is a plastic container, some sphagnum moss, and plant cuttings.

Some key advantages of propagation bins:

  • Create high humidity for root growth
  • Allow you to propagate multiple cuttings
  • Protect delicate new root growth
  • Portable and space-saving
  • Can modify for individual plants' needs

With a little practice, you'll be rooting philodendron, syngonium, and many other popular houseplants in no time.

This guide will walk through the entire propagation process using bins:

  • Setting up the bin
  • Caring for your cuttings
  • Troubleshooting problems
  • Acclimating and repotting

Ready to multiply your plant collection? Propagation bins are the best propagation method for beginners to start rooting nodes and top cuttings with ease!

Setting Up Your Propagation Bin

Now that you're ready to multiply your plant collection, it's time to set up your propagation bin. This comprehensive guide will walk through everything you need to know to get your cuttings rooting in no time.

Supplies Needed

To set up your propagation bin, you will need:

  • A plastic container with a lid
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Perlite (optional)
  • Small containers for individual cuttings
  • Cuttings from your plants
  • Water
  • Clear plastic wrap or plastic dome (optional)


Choosing a Propagation Bin

Any plastic container can work as a propagation bin. Look for ones around 6-12 inches deep. Shallow bins don’t hold humidity as well.

Some good options:

  • Plastic storage boxes/tubs
  • Large plastic food containers
  • Aquariums

Make sure it has a tight-fitting lid to hold in humidity. Clear plastic bins let in more light.

Preparing the Propagation Medium

Sphagnum moss is the ideal propagation medium for beginners. It holds moisture well and creates the humid environment cuttings need.

Some tips for preparing sphagnum moss:

  • Rinse well to remove any dust
  • Avoid overwetting – just damp is ideal
  • Mix in perlite for drainage (20% is good)
  • Fill your bin 2-3 inches deep

Planting Your Cuttings

To maximize your propagation success:

  • Use small containers like  to separate each cutting
  • Poke drainage holes in the bottom of containers
  • Lightly fill each container with sphagnum moss
  • Stick cuttings in the center

Aerial roots may form if humidity is ideal. Don't worry if cuttings drop some leaves - focus energy on root growth.

Caring for Your Propagation Bin

Once your propagation bin is set up, proper care is key:

  • Water by misting bin, not individual cups
  • Avoid overwatering that leads to soggy moss
  • Ensure bin gets high light
  • Maintain warm temps between 70-80°F
  • Monitor for signs of rot or mold
  • Close lid to boost humidity


  • Place plastic dome over bin
  • Cover with plastic wrap

Misting the inside of the bin 1-2 times per day will provide the moisture your cuttings need without oversaturating.

And that's it - your propagation bin is ready for rooting nodes, top cuttings, and more! With the right care, you'll have a thriving box of new plants in no time.

Managing Moisture in Your Propagation Bin

Proper moisture management is crucial for propagation success. While propagation bins help boost humidity, you still need to pay close attention to watering.

Follow these tips to avoid common moisture-related issues like rot, mold, and dehydration.

Watering Your Propagation Bin

When watering your propagation bin, focus on the sphagnum moss, not individual plant cups.

  • Mist the top of the moss 1-2 times per day
  • Pour small amounts of water directly into bin
  • Lift lid or open bin daily for airflow

Aim to keep the moss lightly damp, not soggy wet. Squeeze out excess moisture before adding to bin.

Signs moss is too wet:

  • Droplets form on lid
  • Moss is dark brown
  • Cuttings feel cold and wet

Signs moss is too dry:

  • Moss pulls away from cup sides
  • No condensation on lid
  • Moss changes to light brown

Make adjustments based on the above signs. For example, open lid more to dry out overly moist moss.

Avoiding Root Rot

Wet moss leads to root rot - one of the main causes of propagation failure.

Root rot signs:

  • Soft, mushy stems
  • Browning, drooping leaves
  • Foul odor
  • Roots are dark brown or black

To prevent root rot:

  • Don't overpack moss in cups
  • Ensure cups have drainage holes
  • Open bin daily to increase airflow
  • Remove any diseased cuttings immediately

Discard any cuttings with severe rot. For mild cases, trim off rotten roots and re-propagate.

Preventing Mold

Excess moisture can also cause mold in propagation bins. Mold looks like fuzzy white or gray patches on moss and cuttings.

To control mold:

  • Dry out moss thoroughly
  • Treat with hydrogen peroxide
  • Increase air circulation
  • Remove affected cuttings

Never mist moss with signs of mold - it will spread spores. Gently remove mold with paper towels.

Maintaining Humidity

While too much moisture causes problems, proper humidity is still vital for propagating.

If humidity is too low:

  • Leaves and cuttings shrivel
  • Little or no new root growth
  • Moss dries out rapidly

Target at least 60% humidity. Increase by:

  • Closing vents on lid
  • Covering bin with plastic wrap
  • Grouping multiple bins together

Use a hygrometer placed inside bin to monitor humidity levels.

Troubleshooting Moisture Issues

If struggling with moisture management, try these troubleshooting tips:

  • Use smaller propagation bins
  • Add more plants to increase transpiration
  • Use a propagation tray instead of full bin
  • Use shallower plastic domes
  • Move bin away from direct sun
  • Propagate fewer cuttings

Don't give up! It takes some trial and error to find the ideal moisture balance for your unique setup. With attentive care and monitoring, your propagation bin will thrive.

Providing Proper Light and Temperature

In addition to perfect moisture levels, there are two other crucial environmental factors for propagation success: light and temperature.

Follow these guidelines to ensure your cuttings get what they need to put out roots and new growth.

Light Requirements

Propagation bins must be placed in a high light situation. Cuttings need bright, indirect light to photosynthesize.

Ideal light levels:

  • 2,000-4,000 foot candles
  • South, east or west-facing window

Low light signs:

  • Small, pale leaves
  • Leggy growth
  • Slow root production

Fixes for low light:

  • Move bin closer to window
  • Use supplemental grow lights
  • Rotate bin to distribute light evenly

Too much direct sun can scorch leaves. Use sheer curtains to filter intense afternoon sun.

Warm temperatures between 70-80°F are best for propagation. Cool temps below 60°F slow growth.

To increase propagation bin temperature:

  • Place near heat source like a vent
  • Use heating mat under bin
  • Group bins together for warmth

To reduce temperature:

  • Move bin away from direct sun
  • Place in coolest room of house
  • Add frozen water bottles to bin

Monitor temps daily with a thermometer. Fluctuations greater than 10°F stress plants.

Humidity vs. Ventilation

Balancing humidity and air circulation is tricky. Cuttings need humidity but closed bins limit airflow.

To raise humidity:

  • Close vents on lid
  • Cover bin with plastic wrap
  • Mist inside of bin

To improve airflow:

  • Open vents daily
  • Remove lid for periods
  • Use small fan directed away from plants

Watch for signs of poor air circulation like mold or slow growth. Adjust ventilation as needed.

Day/Night Temperature Fluctuations

Like humidity, big day and night temperature shifts cause plant stress.

To minimize fluctuations:

  • Move bin off cold windowsills at night
  • Provide heat source in cold climates
  • Insulate bin with foam board

Avoid drafty areas. Propagation bins do best in stable environments.

Troubleshooting Temperature Issues

If dealing with temperature problems, try:

  • Moving bin to warmer/cooler room
  • Adding heat mat or ice packs
  • Adjusting proximity to heat/AC vents
  • Using thermal curtains on windows

Monitor moisture closely when adjusting temperature as the two are interconnected. With some adjustments, you can strike the perfect balance for healthy roots!

Identifying When Cuttings Have Rooted

One of the most exciting parts of propagating plants is that first glimpse of new white roots emerging from your cuttings!

But how do you know precisely when your propagation bin plants have rooted?

Follow these tips for identifying when rooting has occurred:

Check for Aerial Roots

The first signs that roots are developing are aerial roots - roots that grow above the soil line seeking humidity.

Look for:

  • White nubs emerging from stems
  • Aerial roots getting longer over time
  • Thicker stems on cuttings

Aerial roots indicate the cutting is triggering hormonal changes needed for propagating.

Try Gently Tugging

The best way to check root progress is to gently tug on the plant.

What you want to feel:

  • Resistance - plant doesn't slide right out
  • Soil clinging to root system as you tug

This indicates tracheal roots are anchoring the cutting below the surface.

Inspect the Growing Medium

Gently dig down into the sphagnum moss or other propagation medum.

Signs that roots have formed:

  • White new root tips visible
  • Webbing of finer root strands
  • Moss clings to roots as you tug

Be careful not to damage new delicate roots when inspecting.

Look for New Growth

The ultimate positive sign is a cutting pushing out new leaves and growth. This only occurs once the plant has an established root system.

Signs of new growth:

  • Unfurling leaves at the tips
  • Longer stems and internodes
  • New offshoot stems appearing

No roots = no new growth. So foliage is the final verification roots have formed!

Troubleshooting Lack of Roots

If your cutting has been propagating for many weeks with no roots, try:

  • Increasing light exposure
  • Raising humidity levels
  • Providing bottom heat
  • Using rooting hormone
  • Taking a fresher cutting

Some plants like syngonium and philodendron root faster than others. Be patient!

Avoid Damaging New Roots

Once roots have begun forming:

  • Handle cuttings gently
  • Don't tug or disturb cuttings
  • Keep moisture levels stable

New roots are fragile and easily broken. Monitor progress, but avoid disturbing cuttings once rooting begins.

Inspecting for root growth is exciting, but resist the urge to dig around too much! With ideal conditions, your cuttings will thrive.

Propagation Time Varies by Plant

When propagating plants in your bin, it's important to remember that rooting times vary considerably depending on the plant variety.

Some plants will root in just days or weeks, while others can take months to form new roots and growth.

Quick Rooting Varieties

These popular houseplants root rapidly in propagation bins:

  • Pothos
  • Philodendron
  • Syngonium
  • Epipremnum aureum
  • Peperomia
  • Most succulents

For quick rooters, look for new aerial roots in as little as 1-2 weeks. Pot up or transplant once several inch-long roots have formed.

Slower Rooting Varieties

Some plants are more stubborn when it comes to propagating. Expect longer times for:

  • Ficus
  • Dracaena
  • Calathea
  • Palms
  • Fuchsia
  • Oxalis

Don't disturb slow rooters for 6-8 weeks. Check moisture levels and increase humidity to encourage rooting.

Factors Affecting Rooting Speed

Many variables influence how quickly cuttings form roots:

Node or cutting selection:

  • Top cuttings root faster than nodes
  • Take sections with several leaves

Time of year:

  • Rooting is faster in warm months
  • Slows in winter

Plant health:

  • Use healthy mother plants
  • Avoid root-bound or stressed plants

Rooting hormones:

  • Use for stubborn varieties
  • Quickens root emergence

Patience is key! Resist digging up cuttings to check roots. Provide good care and rooting will occur.

Troubleshooting Slow Rooting

If a cutting isn't rooting after 2 months, try:

  • New sphagnum moss
  • More bottom heat
  • Dome to increase humidity
  • Rooting hormone powder
  • Larger cutting with more nodes

Slow rooters just need extra care. Extend propagation time for the best results!

Dealing With Pests in Propagation Bins

While propagation bins allow you to carefully control moisture and humidity levels, pests like fungus gnats can still be an issue.

Follow these organic methods to deal with bugs in your propagation bins or pots.

Fungus Gnats

Small black fungus gnats are the most common propagation pest. The larvae feed on plant roots, causing damage.

To control fungus gnats:

  • Let moss dry out completely between waterings
  • Use yellow sticky traps to catch adults
  • Sprinkle mosquito bits onto moss to kill larvae
  • Remove badly infested cuttings

Avoid overwatering and improve drainage to deter future infestations.


Fluffy white mealybugs cling to plant stems and leaves. They secrete sticky honeydew.

Remove mealies with:

  • Cotton swabs dipped in alcohol
  • Household vinegar spray
  • Insecticidal soap or neem oil
  • Blunt object to scrape off bugs

Isolate infested plants away from your propagation bin. Check for mealies daily.

Spider Mites

Tiny red or black spider mites cause stippling and discolored leaves. They thrive in hot, dry conditions.

Control spider mites by:

  • Misting plants daily to boost humidity
  • Wiping leaves with damp cloth
  • Spraying insecticidal soap weekly

Discard badly infested cuttings. Spider mites spread rapidly.


Green, yellow, or black aphids cluster on young shoots and undersides of leaves.

Stop aphids with:

  • Strong blasts of water to dislodge
  • Insecticidal soap sprays
  • Releasing ladybugs which prey on aphids
  • Sticky traps near vents

Aphids reproduce quickly, so control immediately. Check new cuttings closely.


Tiny black or yellow thrips cause silver scarring on leaves. They move rapidly when disturbed.

Defeat thrips by:

  • Using reflective mulch to deter them
  • Applying horticultural oil
  • Releasing predatory mites

Discard cuttings damaged by thrips - they are viral vectors.

With vigilance and prompt organic treatment, propagation pests can be managed. Don't let bugs stop your planting goals!

Acclimating Propagated Plants

Once your propagated cuttings have developed strong root systems and new growth, it's time to transition them out of the propagation bin.

This acclimation process takes some care to avoid transplant shock. Follow these tips for successfully shifting plants to the great outdoors!

Preparing New Plants for Transition

Before moving plants from your propagation bin, prepare them for the lower humidity:

  • Slowly open vents further each day
  • Remove any humidity domes
  • Mist less frequently
  • Allow moss to dry out more between waterings

This hardens off the plants over 7-10 days. Avoid drastic changes.

Selecting the Right Potting Mix

Pick an airy, fast-draining potting soil like:

  • Peat or coconut coir-based mix
  • Blend with perlite, orchid bark
  • Specific mixes for cacti/succulents

Avoid water-retentive potting soils like:

  • Straight compost
  • Heavy potting mixes
  • Soils with moisture crystals

This prevents future root rot issues.

Choosing the Right Planter

Use containers with drainage holes a few inches wider than the root ball.

Good potting container options:

  • Plastic nursery pots
  • Ceramic pots with trays
  • Self-watering containers
  • Hanging baskets

Use clean pots sanitized with a dilute bleach solution.

Transplanting Your Cuttings

Gently remove cuttings from the propagation bin. Keep as much moss attached to roots as possible.

To transplant:

  1. Partially fill new pot with soil
  2. Place cutting in center
  3. Fill sides with more soil
  4. Gently firm down but don't compact
  5. Water thoroughly until it drains out bottom

Staking taller or weaker plants helps secure them.

Post-Transplant Care

The key to preventing transplant shock is attentive aftercare:

  • Place in shady spot for 1-2 weeks
  • Maintain warm temperatures
  • Keep soil consistently moist but not soaked
  • Mist leaves daily but avoid soggy soil
  • Watch for signs of stress like wilting

Gradually transition to increased sun exposure.

With proper acclimation, your propagation bin plants will shift smoothly into their new forever homes! Enjoy your expanded plant collection.

One of the joys of propagation is multiplying your favorite houseplants to share with others!

Here arepropagation tips for two extremely popular indoor varieties:

Propagating Philodendron

Philodendrons are easy to propagate in water or a bin. Try these varieties:

  • Heartleaf philodendron
  • Lemon lime philodendron
  • Brasil philodendron
  • Micans philodendron
  • Pink princess philodendron

Philodendron propagation:

  1. Take 6 inch stem cuttings below a node
  2. Remove lower leaves leaving top 2-3
  3. Dip ends in rooting hormone (optional)
  4. Stick in propagation bin moss
  5. Maintain high humidity and warmth
  6. Check for aerial root growth in 2-4 weeks

Once several roots over 2 inches form, pot up in well-draining soil. Keep moist. Philodendrons root quickly and easily!

Propagating Syngonium

Also called arrowhead vines, syngoniums propagate readily in water or moss. Try these varieties:

  • Syngonium podophyllum
  • Neon robusta syngonium
  • White butterfly syngonium
  • Pink syngonium

Syngonium propagation:

  1. Take 4-6 inch tip cuttings with a few nodes
  2. Remove lower leaves
  3. Optional: Dip in rooting hormone
  4. Place in small jars or propagation bins
  5. Maintain warm temps and high humidity
  6. Check for root growth in 3-8 weeks

Syngoniums are slower rooters than philodendrons. Be patient! Once roots develop, pot up in indoor potting mix.

Troubleshooting Propagation Issues

If cuttings fail to root:

  • Increase heat and humidity
  • Change out moss and sterilize bins
  • Take fresh cuttings
  • Use rooting hormone
  • Provide more light exposure

Don't give up! Adjust your method and try propagating again. With care, you'll have unlimited plants!

What will you try propagating next? Use your propagation skills to expand your interior jungle.


After reading this comprehensive guide, you now have all the tools you need to become a propagation pro!

To recap, follow these best practices for propagation success:

  • Select a plastic container with a tight lid
  • Use sphagnum moss lightly packed into cups
  • Include 5-10 small cuttings per bin
  • Close vents to boost humidity
  • Provide bright, indirect light
  • Maintain temperatures between 70-80°F
  • Monitor moisture levels closely to prevent problems
  • Look for aerial roots and resistance when tugging
  • Adjust methods for quicker vs slower rooters
  • Control potential pests like fungus gnats
  • Gradually harden off plants before transplanting

With the right supplies and a little patience, anyone can become a master at multiplying indoor plants.

Propagation bins are the ideal method for beginners starting out. The enclosed environment gives you more control over moisture and humidity levels.

Follow the troubleshooting tips in this guide to get over any propagation hurdles you encounter. Soon your plant collection will be flourishing!

Teach others these best propagation methods for philodendrons, syngoniums, succulents, and more. Share the plant parenthood joy!

What will you try propagating first? Now that you're equipped with propagation expertise, the possibilities are endless.

Here are 3 relevant links that could be included for reference:

A Guide to Common Houseplant Pests

This is a helpful guide from The Spruce on identifying and controlling common houseplant pests like fungus gnats, mealybugs, spider mites, and more. Useful for the pest management section.

How to Water Houseplants Correctly

This Spruce article covers proper techniques for watering houseplants. Relevant for sections on moisture management and plant care.

Houseplant Propagation Methods: Soil, Water, and More

A overview from Get Busy Gardening of different propagation methods beyond just soil/water, like sphagnum moss, perlite, LECA, etc. Good resource for intro sections.

Back to blog