The Complete Guide to Wet Stick Propagation

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Wet stick is one of those phrases that one day enters your vernacular without realising, and then you say it to a non-planty friend and they look at you like you’re some sort of pervert.

We don’t mean to be this way. It just happens. So if you’ve been hearing the phrase ‘wet stick’ a lot, and it’s got to the point where it’s been too long for you to ask someone to explain it to you, never fear – I have everything you’ll need to know right here.

What is a wet stick?

A wet stick is an unrooted cutting.

wet stick of epipremnum

It’s the unrooted part that differentiates it from a cutting.

Whilst it’s pretty common for wet sticks to just be a chunk of node, they can also have leaves.

I suppose they’re not really wet sticks when they have leaves, but people describe them as such so people understand they’re unrooted.

My boyfriend sells begonia wet sticks, but they tend to have a few leaves on them because we’ve found that they travel better.

Wet sticks used to only be something that was sold on forums or in auctions and shows, but nowadays they show up on Etsy and Facebook and probably shops soon too.

Why buy a wet stick?

It can be a cheap way to buy (and sell) a plant. The seller can chop up one plant into multiple nodes, and send them to the buyer the next day. They sell for less than a rooted cutting, but if you don’t have the time, inclination, or space to root cuttings, it can be best all round.

From the buyer’s perspective, not only is it cheaper, but you can buy a rarer or more expensive plant for less, and not have to worry about leaf damage. Nodes are also pretty resilient, provided they’ve not been left to dry out for too long.

There’s also the added bonus that you can root it in whatever your preferred medium is, so you don’t have the risk that comes with switching from, e.g, soil to LECA.

How much should you pay for wet sticks?

It’s entirely up to you, but I wouldn’t spend more than £40, and that would have to be on something pretty special.

I’m not saying that there aren’t wet sticks out there that are worth it, just that there’s always a bit of risk involved (identifying wet sticks is a skill I’m yet to master).

It’s quite common for people to buy variegated Monstera as wet sticks because it’s the cheapest way to do it. Definitely make sure that you’re buying from a reputable seller – there are a LOT of hucksters out there, so be careful.

Also, learn how to root wet sticks BEFORE spending any money. Either cut up an existing plant or buy a cheap Monstera to practice on first. It’s not difficult, but it’s a bit like baking bread – the theory only takes you so far – you also need to work out the best place in your house to root your cuttings, which method you like best, etc etc.

How to propagate a wet stick

There are loads of ways to propagate wet sticks, but I’m just going to cover the four main ones. I’ve listed them in the order that I think they root best.

In my experience, most wet sticks root in moss, which is why I recommend that’s what people start with. Some plants (like Syngonium) root fine in soil, so I do it that way for ease, but if I’m rooting a wet stick that I’ve never tried before or one I’m particularly attached to, I use moss.

Oh, and if you’re rooting a wet stick outside of the growing season, I definitely recommend moss.

How to propagate a wet stick in moss

All you need for this is water, some moss, a plastic food bag, and your wet stick.

equipment to propagate wet stick in moss - moss, wet stick, plastic bag
  • Put your moss in water to expand
  • Wait until it’s thoroughly soaked (if it’s the dehydrated stuff leave it for about fifteen minutes)
  • Squeeze out as much excess water as you can
  • Put the moss in the bag, lay the stick on top, and push it into the moss to maximise contact between the moss and the node
my camera can’t see today, so I’ve highlighted where the node is

  • Seal the bag 3/4 closed, trap as much air in the bag as you can, and then seal it fully. This is honestly the only difficult part of propagating wet sticks

  • Wait for roots

Full disclosure, I took those photos of the epipremnum wet stick AFTER I wrote this article, so it obvs hasn’t rooted. So here is another picture of rooting props:

equipment to propagate wet stick in moss

You need to check the moss every few days, because we don’t want it to dry up. I like to remove the wet stick, spray down the moss with a spray bottle and then put the stick bag.

Opening the bag also allows for some fresh air to get in.

I’ve recently been experimenting with Philodendron brasil cuttings, and have found that those rooted with fertiliser in the water are rooting fastest, so adding nutrients to the spray bottle and using it on wet stick moss is going to be my next experiment.

The idea behind that bag is that you’re creating a little humid microclimate for the wet stick, which should help it grow faster.

It’s easiest to do in moss, which is why I like to root wet sticks this way, but you could mimic it in the other methods by placing the cutting and whatever it’s rooting in in a clear plastic bag or box and sealing it to keep the humidity in.

Here’s a VERY makeshift humidity set up for a wet stick rooting in water:

no expense spared, guys

How to propagate a wet stick in water

You just propagate it like you would a regular cutting – i.e. in a glass of water.

This does work but can be tricky with wet sticks purely because it can be tricky to keep the entire node from falling in the water. Ramekins (or Gu jars, Brits will know what I mean) work really well.

epipremnum wet stick rooting in water

I have a whole article here on how to root cuttings faster in water and all those tips hold true for rooting wet sticks.

The important thing is make sure that there’s plenty of oxygen in the water because lack of oxygen causes root rot bacteria (phytophthora) to thrive. You can either change the water frequently (every three or four days), add an air pump, or add oxygenating plants like java moss to the water.

How to propagate a wet stick in soil

Propagating wet sticks in soil isn’t my favourite, because you need to keep the soil quite moist in order for roots to form, and then you’re more likely to encounter rot.

There are some plants, like syngonium and Scindapsus that are happy to root like this, but it’s something I tend to do when I’m chopping and propping a lot of cuttings and can risk losing a few.

One of the main issues with propagating in soil is that it’s more difficult to check the roots without risking disturbing or even damaging them. The soil ends up clinging to the roots so you have to clean them off to see if there’s any growth and that’s how you end up knocking roots off.

As with propagating in soil, misting the top of the soil to keep it moist is preferable to ‘properly’ watering it because it stops the soil from compacting and knocking out any air pockets.

I like to use a small amount of soil – only an inch or so deep at first – moistened and then squeezed out like we did with the moss. Put it in a shallow container and lay the node on top. Mist the soil whenever it dries out.

this soil is actually TOO wet, but you know what they say: you can’t dry wet soil quickly when you need to take a picture

Glass containers are great for this, because as the roots begin to grow you’ll be able to see them as they reach the bottom of the container.

How to propagate a wet stick in perlite/Pon/LECA

This is my favourite way to mass propagate wet sticks, but I don’t tend to do it for individual ones (for no reason other than that I prefer using moss).

A shallow plastic box works for this. I like to pierce a couple of holes in the top for airflow OR you can use one of those with vents that are designed for microwaves.

Lay down a layer of pre-dampened {whatever substrate you’re using}, lay your wet stick on top, close the lid and wait. I like to not look at it for a couple of months and see what’s going on, but if you’re propagating expensive wet sticks then you’ll need to check it more often in case it dries out.

I’ve found that perlite and leca are really good at retaining moisture when kept like this, so I don’t really need to, but again, spraying the substrate down is preferable to pouring water on.

I have no need to make a whole prop box atm, so here’s a quick LECA propagation using a small net pot and an Ikea glass:

I know there’s a leaf but it’ll still work if you chop the leaf off

I actually have a whole leca propagation article here.

How long does a wet sick take to root?

It depends on:

  • The type of plant
  • The amount of humidity
  • Light (more on that later)
  • Temperature
  • And probably a dozen other factors

In general, keeping the wet sticks in a warm humid environment will result in the quickest rootings – some plants will show signs of roots in days, while others take months. Soil can take much longer.

My Philodendron brasil cuttings in water and moss are rooting merrily after four weeks (it is winter), but the ones in soil haven’t shown any signs of growth at all.

It doesn’t really matter how long a wet stick takes to root as long as it isn’t rotting.

If there are signs of rot, then you need to chop off any brown bits (even if they extend to the node – you only need a bit of node for success, though obvs this isn’t ideal)

Do you need to mist wet sticks?

No – mist the soil and try to avoid the wet stick. Misting does NOT equate to high humidity – it just gets the cutting wet, which can increase the chance of rot.

Of course, the wet stick will get a bit wet, but we want to keep it to a minimum.

If your cutting has dried out, wetting it will not help it. It’s missing internal juices (gross), not straight water.

How much light do wet sticks need to propagate?

TECHNICALLY you shouldn’t need light to root wet sticks. In fact, studies show that roots grow better in the dark. I really need to try rooting a wet stick in the airing cupboard.

However, anecdotal evidence (from me, I did it) has found that the fastest way to root wet sticks is under grow lights.

I think it’s more to do with the warmth from the lights and the humidity (because there are a lot of plants together + warmth, so the water in the soil evaporates and causes higher humidity), but I suppose I don’t really know for sure.

Final thoughts

Propagating wet sticks isn’t difficult, but it’s definitely something that you need to practice before you find out which way works best for you. Try different methods, putting the nodes in different spots in your home, and get a feel for what works for you before dropping $$$ on a wet stick.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

2 thoughts on “The Complete Guide to Wet Stick Propagation”

  1. Hi. Great article – newbie to wetsticks (not rooting) here. Do you think it would be recommended to use damp tissue paper in a ziplock bag for rooting wetsticks? I’m already using this method to make seeds sprout and it works great.

  2. It can stick to the stick and get a bit messy, but it works with avocado pits so I don’t see why not. I wouldn’t wrap the whole wet stick – just the node

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