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I’m a huge lover of propagating plants because it combines my two passions: house plants and free shit.
I never really believed propagating worked unless you had a massive greenhouse or fancy chemicals, but it turns out any idiot with some scissors and an old sweet chilli sauce jar can do it.
Let me show you how:
How to propagate plant cuttings in water:
Take a cutting of your plant. Some have nodes, so make sure your cutting includes that, some just require you to cut off a leaf, and some produce pups all by themselves.
Put your cutting in a receptacle filled with water (I use tap water, but filtered water might be better). The rest is just a waiting (and changing the water) game.
How to know how to take a cutting
I mean, you could Google it, but where’s the fun in that?
If, for whatever, reason, you need to propagate a certain plant, then, by all means, do your research and learn how to best propagate it.
But if like me, you’re just overexcited about making new, free plants then just lop off a bit of plant, stick it in water, and hope for the best.
If the plant has visible leaf nodes (they’re a bumpy…bump on the stem, and may have aerial roots protruding nearby) then make sure your cutting has at least one node and put it in water. You can always remove existing leaves – the leaf nodes will still produce roots.
Trial and error is my favourite way to propagate. It’s easy and requires no research, though admittedly results are varying.
I recently pruned my String of Hearts and decided to propagate the pruned bits. Some I stuck some back in the soil, some I put in water, and I also put some leaves in water too.
I just removed a couple of the bottom-most leaves and stuck the stem in water.
You must make sure to stick the bottom in the water. If you put the cutting in upside down it will almost certainly never produce roots.
There are three main ways to take a cutting that can be grown in water:
Some aroids can be propagated by taking a cutting that includes leaf stems. I’ve successfully propagated pothos in water, and if the picture at the top of this post can be believed you can do it with Monstera Deliciosa too.
I’ve personally always soil-propagated Monstera, for no reason other than to make my plant look fuller. It takes a long time to settle in, but I’ve never lost one.
As I mentioned before, String of Hearts are super easy to propagate from leaf nodes. It’s very quick too – I’m talking half a cm or more of root growth in a week. Great for beginners or a project for kids.
Pilea Peperomiodes is pretty easy and satisfying to propagate too.
Experimentation with Philodendron brasil (I’m basically a scientist at this point) yielded interesting results – the quickest way to root them is to add nutrients to the water (I used GH Flora series).
All the new roots came from the aerial roots, but the second fastest medium, water + Superthrive, had the roots coming directly from the stem.
I’ve only tried to propagate from leaves thrice (and I currently have one on the go), but two out of three worked, which according to Meatloaf ain’t bad.
The first was a Peperomia Piccolo Banda which I kind of did by accident. It dropped a leaf whilst I was repotting it and I stuck it in water, never really thinking it would grow BUT IT DID. It even grew little leaves underwater.
If you cut the leaf of a snake plant, then cut a triangle out of the bottom of the leaf (so it has two little prongs) then they propagate faster. It works pretty well!
I think they’re all the same thing.
Some plants are kind enough to produce babies without any interference from us at all. Then it’s simply a case of gently removing the pup from its mother and putting it in water.
A lot of cacti produce pups, and so do Pilea Peperomioides, Alocasia, and various others.
I just use tapwater.
As is the case with watering plants, room temperature water is best, but I’ve used water straight from the tap before and the cuttings have been fine.
You can end up spending a fortune on things like water filters and distilled water, when a lot of the more common houseplants have developed into fairly hardy plants due to selective breeding, and are more than happy with tap water.
How often should you change the water you’re using as a propagation medium?
As often as you can.
If you only change the water every week, then your plants won’t root as quickly as if you changed it more frequently.
The plant needs oxygen to produce roots and to stave off rot. The more often you change the water, the quicker your propagation will root.
This Philodendron golden dragon is well rooted within a couple of weeks, even though I just rooted it in tap water. A bright window and frequent water changes are all it needs. Look at that new growth too!
Containers you can use as propagation vessels
There’s no need for you to rush out and drop twenty quid on a fancy pants propagation station.
They look so cute and cool, yes, but your cuttings will do just as well in an old washing up liquid bottle. Keep a lookout for cute jars if you like, but bear in mind that it’s usually cheaper to buy a full jar than an empty one. Why? I have no idea.
Sweet chilli sauce tends to come in good propagation vessels. Just sayin’.
How long does it take for cuttings to grow roots?
I have a full article on this, but basically…it depends.
Sometimes a week.
Sometimes three months.
Some of factors that affect how quickly a cutting grows roots in water are:
- How quickly the plant naturally grows
- The amount of oxygen in the water
- Temperature – warmer weather usually makes plants grow faster
- Light – bright indirect light = happy cuttings
- How often you change the water. Possibly.
- Whether or not you added rooting hormone.
- Putting a Pothos in the water. It freaking works
How to make cuttings root faster
- nutrients in the water, though a lot of people disagree with this. It made a mahoosive difference to my brasil.
But also details how you can improve them, and what will make the biggest difference.
I’ve had a tonne of success in rooting my house plant cuttings in my Aerogarden –
They’re pricey (from $100ish, depending on the model you choose, but combine a grow light with an air pump, so you get improved light and oxygen in one small, aesthetically pleasing package.
When should you pot your cutting in soil?
Provided you keep on top of changing the water there are many plants (pothos and peperomia are the ones I know of) that are quite happy to live in water indefinitely.
You have to remember, though, if you grow a cutting in water for months or years and then pot it in soil, that’s quite a shock to the system. You’ll need to keep the soil moist for a while whilst it adapts to its new environment.
If you’re putting a cutting back in with its mother (a great way to bulk out leggy plants), and you’re worried about keeping the cutting damp whilst not overwatering the mother, try misting the top of the soil – it’ll provide enough moisture for the cutting, but it won’t penetrate too deeply into the soil.
Propagating in plants in leca is also an option, and you can keep them that way indefinitely.
I have a whole beginner’s guide to getting started with leca here.
I tend to pot my cuttings up either when the roots are a couple of cms long or when (and this is most likely) when I need the container for something else.
Propagation is one of those things that’s waaaay easier once you’ve got your head round all the factors and variables.
You need to increase the amount of oxygen in the water, and I’ve found that long hours of light (preferably not direct, because that can damage the leaves on the cutting), warmth, and high humidity yield the best results.