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Propagating houseplants from cuttings

Katie Rushworth image of plant cuttings

If you’re a huge houseplant fan like me, you may have been thrilled to see your beloved plants burst into life and growth over the summer months. You may also be familiar with the cost of buying endless plants for your home! Something you might not have considered, though: did you know you can grow new plants from cuttings you can easily take at home?

It’s really rewarding to see new houseplants grow big and strong from cuttings you’ve taken yourself. This is called propagation. It’s a great, low-cost way to grow your collection of plants, and the plant babies make wonderful, thoughtful gifts. Some plants are easier to propagate than others, and there are a number of methods you might like to try depending on the plant. Here I’ll share some top tips.

Water propagation for houseplants

Water propagation is a really simple method of encouraging your cuttings to take root. All you need is your cutting, a jar or container, and… you guessed it, water. Many houseplants are really easy to propagate in water including African violets, cane-stemmed begonias, pothos, tradescantia, rubber plants and philodendron.

Choose a vigorous stem, preferably of new growth, and snip the stem with clean scissors about 10-20cm down, at the base of a leaf. Some plants like pothos and philodendron have helpful nodes (small bumps) on the stem, which is where the roots grow from. Snip the stem just beneath one of these nodes if they are present.

You’ll then need to remove all but the top few leaves so there’s a clean length of stem to place into a jar or container of fresh water. Leave the cutting in a sunny spot like a windowsill, and make sure to keep topping up with fresh water when needed. Then, watch new roots start to develop in a matter of weeks! Once a good new root network has formed (at least 1 inch long), you can pot the cutting on in good compost. Start it off in a smaller pot, and keep it well-watered.

Alternatively, cuttings like philodendron will thrive in their new watery home, and look lovely as a decoration in a glass vase or carafe of water. Just remember to change the water regularly to keep it clean, and add a little plant feed every now and then.

Soil propagation for houseplants

Soil propagation isn’t suitable for some houseplants, as they will find it more difficult to establish a root network in soil. However, plants like the jade plant, succulents, snake plant and spider plantlets can be popped straight into compost and will do very well if given the right care.

You can gently pull off a leaf from these plants, or snip it if it doesn’t come away easily. Leave the leaf in a dry spot for at least 24 hours to allow it to dry out and reduce the risk of rot. Then, place the leaf in some good compost, making sure the base of the leaf is at least 1cm under the surface of the soil and the tip of the leaf is facing in the direction of growth. Keep in a warm place and water very occasionally, and as long as a good root network forms you’ll be rewarded with new growth in weeks.

Propagation is simple once you get the hang of it, but I know I’ve had a few failed attempts in my time. Don’t get disheartened! There are lots of great tutorials on Youtube and online, so you can find out what specific care your plant will need.

Keen to know more about houseplants? I’ve got you covered with my top fives:

The five easiest houseplants to maintain in your home

Top five easy care tropical houseplants

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