Growing Your Houseplant Family
Propagation is the process of producing more plants; it can be through seed germination, or vegetative methods such as cuttings or division. There are several other methods as well but these are the most accessible methods for gardeners. With houseplants, propagation is usually through one of the vegetative methods, meaning a plant is grown from a fragment of the parent plant.
Thankfully, harvesting cuttings and dividing a plant are both usually beneficial to the parent plant. You grow more plants, the original plant is happier… it’s a win-win situation!
This isn’t a fast process, except for easy plants like philodendrons. Be prepared to go a while not seeing any results as the plant does internal development. African Violets could take over a year to establish a strong plant.
Propagating from an unhealthy plant isn’t ideal but you can propagate from an aging or leggy plant.
Proper Potting Media
Good growing media for these processes include vermiculite, premium soil-less mix, perlite, and depending on the plant, water. The properties you are looking for in a growing media are aeration, moisture retention and drainage. Heavier soil mixes don’t offer many of these properties, while lightweight soil-less mixes do.
These baby plants are going to take more care; remember to check them often for watering, etc. Find more details on caring for your new plants at the end of this post.
The best method depends on what kind of plant and how that plant grows. We will talk about several different methods below; remember to ask one of our Good Earth experts if you have questions about plant propagation.
This method works with many multi-stem houseplants such as Devils’ Backbone. Cut the tip of a shoot off, just above node, about 4-6” in length. Remove lower flowers or leaves. Dip lower part of shoot into Rooting Hormone. Prepare a small pot with premium potting mix or vermiculite. With a pencil, make a long narrow opening in soil, place bottom on cutting in soil (1-2 nodes) and gently push soil up against stem. Place in a warm spot with indirect light while it is rooting in.
This method works well for Dracaena and Corn Plants. Cut section of plant, several inches in length, remove all leaves, keep orientation correct (there is a top and bottom to the cutting) and place in potting media. New foliage will emerge from stem.
Vining types of Philodendron and Pothos can be easily propagated in water or soil; trim the vine into pieces (or use the end of a shoot), each one with two leaf nodes. Leave one leaf on the node, and remove the bottom leaf. This can then be placed into moist soil or a jar of water. Within weeks of this, you will see a new shoot. Pinch the new shoot back; this will encourage branching.
Divide a Multi-Stem Plant
Remove plant from pot, find center or separation in the plant shoots. Cut with a sharp, sterile, serrated knife. Pot up immediately into container with moist potting mix a few inches larger than the clump. Keep soil moist (do not over-water) for a few weeks while it is healing and rooting in. Place out of direct light for a few weeks also.
Since plant divisions will already have some roots, you can plant in regular lightweight soil-less mix, such as our Good Earth mix, as opposed to perlite or vermiculite.
Divisions are also different in that it may be necessary to divide your houseplants at some point, while cuttings are usually necessary, although they can rejuvenate a leggy plant. Signs you may need to divide your houseplant include it being overgrown, roots growing aggressively through drainage holes, water runs straight through pot with little or no absorption when watered, plant being overcrowded by pups (new little baby plants, also called offsets), plant becomes topheavy or floppy, or the plant actually breaks the pot. If one or more of these symptoms is occurring, you could also consider ‘bumping it up’, or potting in a larger pot. Generally speaking, only go up two inches in pot container at a time.
This is a good method for ZZ Plant, Peace Lily, Sansevieria, some Philodendron, Cast Iron Plant and Chinese Evergreen.
African violets- remove leaf from existing plant, keeping at least 1” of stem length, place the stem in water (pot in soil as soon as roots appear) or in peat soil mix.
Succulents- break leaf off, wait 2-3 days until callus form, place on or slightly into peat based potting soil, watch new baby plant emerge from where it was broken off!
Sansevieria- remove leaf from existing plant, cut it into 2” long sections, keep plant orientation the same (key for rooting all cuttings), dip bottom in Rooting Hormone, and place into potting media. New plants will form on sides of leaf sections.
This is a just a few; there are many other plants , such as rex begonia, that can be propagated from leaf cuttings.
Place small pots of potting media near existing plant with runners. Remove plantlet leaves as needed to get good contact with soil. Use hairpin plantlets onto soil surface of small pots, once rooted cut new baby plants away from existing larger plant. Or just remove the plantlet and pot up (may have a lower success rate with this method but it’s easier!)
Spider Plants, also called Airplane Plants can be propagated with this method.
Some plants like Bromeliads form daughter plants after the mother plant has stopped blooming. Separate (make sure they have formed own roots) and plant these up to create a whole new plant that will bloom after a time of establishment.
Water Vs Soil Method
Both work for some plants, more steps with water but you get to see the roots take off!
Caring for Your New Plant
Cuttings and developing plants will need more care; more even moisture and humidity. Place them where they will not be forgotten. Keep everything as sterile as possible; soil, pots, tools, etc. Keep out of direct, bright light and keep them warm (Heated Mat).
Soft growth on tropical plants may wilt before getting rooted in. Misting could help these plants get rooted faster.
Don’t fertilize until the roots are somewhat established.
And there you go; you have grown your plant family!