Propagation Primer

Posted by Jessie Jacobson on Nov 13th 2023

How to Propagate Plants!

With their well-known benefits and obvious beauty, indoor plants have taken a central role in our lives as companions and pieces of art. As plant parents, we have mastered the art and science of growing happy, healthy plants and are always looking to increase our collections. While a trip to the greenhouse to buy more plants always makes for a good day, at-home plant propagation is another enjoyable and easy way to increase your indoor plant collection. Propagation, which was once a lost art left for the back room of a dingy old greenhouse, now takes center stage as a showcase of any plant parents’ journey. Cheers to plant proliferation!

What is propagation?

Propagation is simply the act of creating more plants. There are two kinds of propagation. Sexual propagation involves the union of the pollen with the egg to produce a seed. The result is a genetically unique specimen. Asexual propagation involves taking a part of a parent plant (stems, roots, and/or leaves) and causing it to regenerate itself into a new plant. The resulting new plant is genetically identical its parent.

One of the easiest ways to propagate plants (asexually) is to take a “cutting.” Just like it sounds, simply snip off a part of the plant - Usually a stem and a couple of leaves near the growing tip of the plant.

Plants that can be easily propagated using this method include pothos, philodendron, Tradescantia, ivy, and peperomia (to name a few).

Cuttings need to root out, and this can happen in either soil or water. The soil method involves less steps because your propagule won’t need to be repotted, at least for a while. However, there is the risk of rot if overwatered. The water method is super simple since you just place cutting in a container with water. Bonus: it’s fun to watch the roots form. There is the additional step of potting the rooted cuttings into soil and being careful not to tear the roots. Some plants may even be happy to just keep growing in water.

Water propagation

Cut off a leaf and shoot, dip in rooting powder, and place in a vessel of clean water. In three weeks to a month your cuttings will have roots and be ready to plant in soil. Do note that it is important to keep the water fresh to promote healthy root growth.

Soil propagation

Same as the water method, just cut a leaf and shoot section, dip in rooting powder, and tuck into damp potting soil. We like Espoma's Organic Seed Starting Mix It’s great if you can get a couple of nodes below the soil level. Remember from plant anatomy, a node is where a leaf meets the stem and this is where dormant buds lie. Alternatives such as perlite, vermiculite, or sand can often be used in place of soil.

Time to repot

Plants are ready to be repotted when roots are established and new, healthy foliage begins to grow. Look for new leaves and shoots and for an overall healthy appearance, then just repot as you would any plant.

Style away

Currently on trend is a vast display of plants in various stages of propagation. Mix and match hanging test tubes with glass wall pockets to create a gallery wall of propagation panache. Propagated plants make great, personalized gifts. Pro tip! Friend brings over bottle of wine. You and friend enjoy bottle of wine. Fill bottle with water, add a few plant cuttings and send them on their way. The circle is complete.

Snip, snip!