Do you recall when the pandemic pushed us all into our homes, and suddenly, everyone became a houseplant enthusiast? People started populating their homes with all sorts of plants, turning their living rooms into lush jungles. Now, if you're looking to expand your indoor garden, there's an easier and cheaper way than buying new plants. This method is known as propagation.
What is Propagation?
Propagation is the process of growing a new plant from a piece of a mature one. You can propagate with seeds or roots, but the easiest and most common method is by cutting, or transferring a piece of a mature plant into water or soil and letting it grow a new root system.
The Science of Propagation
According to Emma Erler, a landscape and greenhouse field specialist, every plant has a meristem, a type of tissue that contains cells that can develop into different plant parts. Above ground, meristematic tissue can turn into buds and shoots, but it's also capable of turning into roots. Fascinating, isn't it?
Propagation Techniques: Cuttings
Cutting works on many common, easy-to-care-for houseplants, such as pothos, monsteras, philodendrons, snake plants, and ZZ plants. But different plants require different methods of cutting.
Choosing the Right Plant
Propagation usually works best when you cut from a mature, healthy plant with new growth. Maryah Greene, a plant stylist and consultant, suggests choosing a plant that needs pruning. This way, you're improving the parent plant’s health and growing a new one at the same time.
Stem cuttings grow from aerial roots, or roots that grow above the soil on the stem of a plant. Here's how to reproduce with a stem cutting:
Steps to Propagate Using Stem Cuttings
- Choose a healthy-looking area with a few leaves growing from it.
- Find a node, the nub that connects a leaf to a stem, and cut about a quarter-inch below the node at a 45-degree angle.
- Remove all but one leaf from the cutting to increase its chance of rooting.
- Choose a vessel to propagate your cutting in, such as an old jar or small vase, and fill it with just enough water to avoid getting the leaf wet.
- Once your cutting is in water, place it near a bright — but filtered — window.
- Stem cuttings can root in a few weeks. While you wait, change the water weekly.
Propagating from a leaf uses a different cutting process, and these plants take longer to root. Here's how to propagate using leaf cuttings:
Steps to Propagate Using Leaf Cuttings
- On a snake plant, cut horizontally at the bottom of a leaf.
- Allow the cutting to dry for a full day.
- Immerse the bottom third of the leaf in water.
- For a snake plant, immerse the bottom third of the leaf; for ZZ plants, submerge just the bottom tip of the leaf.
- It may be a few months before you see progress.
Transferring a Cutting to a Pot
Once the roots are two to three inches long, you can transfer your cutting to a small pot with soil, where it should eventually grow deeper roots and more leaves.
Not only does propagation save you money, but it also offers a sentimental factor. You grow a plant under your care, take a cutting, and then pass it on to someone else. What a lovely way to share the joy of gardening!
Common Questions about Propagation
Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions to guide you on your propagation journey.
Choosing Your Plant for Propagation
Can all plants be propagated using cuttings? Not all plants can be propagated this way. It's best to research or ask an expert to determine the best method for each plant type.
Ensuring Healthy Propagation
How do I know if my cutting is rotting? If the cutting is black or slimy at the base of the stem, it could be rotting, which means you'll probably have to start over.
Caring for a New Plant Post-Propagation
How should I care for my new plant post-propagation? The key is to keep the soil moist for the first week to wean the cutting from the water it had been immersed in. After that, wait for the soil to dry completely before you water again.
So, there you have it. With a little time and care, you can propagate new plants and expand your houseplant collection. It's a fun, cost-effective way to engage with your indoor garden and create even more green spaces in your home.