The cycle many plant enthusiasts find themselves in is the desire to grow their collection and expand their indoor jungles. The idea of having rooms teaming with plant life is a lovely one that many hobbyists strive for. The beauty of many houseplants is that they have the ability to make even more plants right from the comfort of your home. Skip the trip to the store and instead expand your plant collection through the magic of propagation.
What is propagation?
While not all plants are able to reproduce through propagation, many of the common varieties of houseplants can. Pothos, philodendrons, rubber plants, succulents, snake plants, spider pants, ZZ plants, and arrowhead plants are a few that can be easily propagated with a little time and patience. In order to know how to propagate a plant we must first look at its variety.
Propagating plants with bulbs
Propagating plants with bulbs is quick and easy. For example many flowering plants grow from bulbs; circular vessels that form at their bases. These bulbs can be split and replanted in soil, instantly giving you a new plant that is genetically the same as the mother plant you separated it from. Splitting bulbs is a fast and easy way to propagate and gives instant results, no need to wait for new roots to develop before transplanting.
Propagating in water
Then there are the varieties that can be cut and rooted in water. Common ones that are in many plant enthusiasts collections are pothos and philodendrons. These are vining plants that have sections to them called nodes. These can be found on the vine normally where leaves branch off or right below them. In order to successfully propagate a plant with nodes, you must cut the plant with clean scissors just before the node. If the section you cut does not have a node, it will not be successful to propagate. Always cut in a straight line, never angled. This is due to a straight cut callusing faster, making the chances of disease far less. Unlike roses and decorative flowers that are cut at an angle so more water can be absorbed for longer lasting blooms, we want our cuttings to focus on growing roots and a callous is an important step for that process. Taking cuttings that are at least six inches long or have at least four leaves is recommended for best results. These cuttings are then placed in fresh water that will need to be changed every two days on average to keep the water oxygenated and clean to promote root growth and overall health. Ensure no leaves are submerged under water, or else they will rot and fall off.
It won't take long before you start to see root development, and on average in three or four weeks you will be ready to transplant them into soil. Once roots are two inches long they are ready to be potted and enjoyed in soil. Seeing roots grow within a vessel such as a jar or vase is a fascinating and beautiful sight, so thankfully some plants don't need to be transplanted into soil and can live out their days in water. Pothos can thrive living in strictly water, and will grow in a vase without the need to plant them in soil. As roots get longer and the plant gets more adapted to living in water, the transition to soil alone can be difficult. It is important to have a plan set out to create the best outcome, so knowing you are going to plant your cutting in soil will help decide when to take the cutting out of its water habitat.
When cuttings are transferred to their new soil substrate, it's important to not fertilize the cuttings for several weeks. This gives the new root systems time to acclimate to their new soil home without shocking the delicate roots. Once a plant becomes established you can add them onto your fertilizing schedule.
Tips for harder to handle plants
Snake plants are their own breed when it comes to propagating, and a quick look at them may have some people wondering if they can even be propagated at all. The good news is that you can propagate your beloved snake plant just as easily as you would any other. Snake plants thrive when they are cut and placed into water; simply cut a leaf off about four inches or more from the top, and place the base in water. This is called leaf sectioning, and works with plants like snake plants that do not have nodes. Roots will grow from the colluded bottom of the cutting, and can be transplanted in soil. Make sure that the base of the cutting is just submerged in the water to prevent the baby plant from getting too wet and rotting.
Succulents are the multifaceted propagators, and can be rooted directly into the ground or develop roots in water. It is common for leaves to get bumped off the plants, and in many cases they will fall into the soil and begin growing roots and creating a whole new plant. This is one of the ways succulents reproduce in the wild. You can either take cuttings from your succulents or gather fallen leaves that aren't mushy and propagate them. Cut or gather leaves and allow their bases to callous over before propagating, this will help prevent rot and increase root development. By placing a leaf or cutting on soil and misting them lightly, roots will form and a new plant will soon be created. Cuttings can also be placed in water, careful to not let leaves become submerged, and root growth will sprout from the base. Propagating succulents can come with its challenges, especially because they are so prone to rot. It is important to ensure that the leaves do not get too damp, while keeping the roots moist enough to grow and not dry out.
Lighting is your best friend
Set up your propagation stations
Propagation stations can be simple empty jars filled with water, or beautiful vases and tubes held by metal stands. Not only can you increase your plant population by propagating, but the cuttings themselves make for a beautiful addition to your space. Start collecting unique jars or glasses, and keep an eye out for vases while thrift shopping. Some websites sell propagation wall kits, which include glass tiles mounted on boards that can be hung directly on your wall.
The hobby of keeping houseplants is one that cultivates a sense of accomplishment in keeping even the most finicky of houseplants alive and thriving. Why not add to those accomplishments by creating whole new plants from your existing ones? Propagation is not only satisfying, but it is a way to save money. No need to go to the nursery to purchase a new plant when you have plants at home just waiting to be propagated and have identical replicas. Cuttings and newly propagated plants also make wonderful gifts to family and friends, especially those who are just getting into plant keeping. Propagation is also a way to preserve and increase the population of rarer plants. Rarities such as variegated monstera can be propagated and enjoyed. Propagation is a fantastic way to better immerse yourself into the world of plant care and gives you the ability to control and increase the population of plants in your home. Enjoy expanding your indoor jungle!