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Spring is here (kind of. Sometimes, anyway #yorkshire) and it’s time to propagate!
Propagating can be a MINEFIELD when it comes to working out what to chop, what medium to use, and where to put it.
And that’s assuming that you know how to take your cutting.
Some plants NEED a node to propagate.
Every time you see someone that claimed to have grown a Monstera or Hoya without a node, trust me, there were enough node cells to produce new growth.
They may root if there’s no node, but they won’t be able to produce new growth (again, if your Monstera rooted and you couldn’t see a node, there were enough node cells present).
The word node gets bandied about a LOT in house plant circles, so I thought I’d put together a short article on what nodes are and what they look like on a few plants.
(If you’re still confused, feel free to send me a photo on Instagram and I’ll show you where to cut.)
What is a node?
A node is the point along a plant’s stem that produces the leaves, axillary buds, buds, and aerial roots. The internodes, which is the bit between the nodes, are just…sticks.
Sometimes nodes grow very close together so it’s hard to distinguish one from the other. In this case, just cust…somewhere. You’ll have enough node cells.
The node contains all the hormones and cellular activity required to grow new plant parts. The internodes don’t, and neither do the petioles, which is why you need a node to propagate. Sometimes the plant’s leaves can be used to propagate new plants, but not always.
Why do we need to know what a node is?
You don’t really unless you want to get into propagation. Here’s a diagram of my Florida green with all the pertinent parts labeled:
Bear in mind, that I picked this plant because you can clearly see all the parts. My Monstera Thai constellation has much closer together nodes so you can’t see it very well.
Don’t worry if you can’t see any axillary buds – they’re especially prominent on Floridas, but don’t always show up clearly on other plants – my Monstera just has a patch near the node that’s a bit greener and paler than the rest.
Do all plants have nodes?
All plants have something that acts like a node, but not all plants have nodes on the stems – or stems at all. Plants such as peace lilies can’t be propagated by stem cuttings because they don’t have stems like Monstera – instead, we propagate by division.
However, below the surface of the soil, peace lilies grow plantlets from the base of the plant. It’s not a node per se, but the same type of cells that reside in nodes are present there.
What do nodes look like?
As I touched on before, the growth pattern of the plant can make it easy/hard to spot the node. If you’re unsure, making sure you have either an aerial root or a leaf attached to the stem of your cutting will ensure you have a node.
If there are no aerial roots, you can take a section that includes two leaves and remove the leave from one node (so you can put that node in water – submerged leaves will rot).
The nodes on my Marble Queen Pothos are easy to see – there’s a line across the stem and a slight colour change in the stem. There’s also a stubby aerial root.
There’s a photo of the Florida green, but here’s a picture of a leafless Philodendron (can’t remember who it is):
This is my green Monstera:
There’s technically two nodes here, but I wouldn’t recommend bisecting nodes as close as this, because it doesn’t leave a lot of leeway in case of rot. You can also see the axillary bud, which will be activated if something happens to the leaf (or if you have amazing conditions and the plant things it can support two growth points).
The brown stuff is corking, she’s not ill.
As the plant gets older the stem gets woodier so it can hard to tell where the nodes are. Look for horizontal banding around the stem OR the points at which leaves emerge.
Rhapidophora tend, as a genus to grow very neat nodes, so they’re pretty easy to prop.
Hoya nodes can be difficult to see if there are no leaves, especially on runners, but you can sometimes see two tiny baby leaves on each side of the stem.
How far away from the node should I cut?
By the way, this plant (the one picture below) is growing up, so any cuttings would be from the top.
It depends. If you’re taking multiple cuttings, cut halfway (point two of the picture below) along the internodal space – technically point three would be better, but if you’re not sure what you’re doing, point 2 is nice and safe, far away from any nodes.
However, as long as you have a node…it doesn’t really matter whether you cut at point 1, 2, or 3. If you cut at 1 and the cutting rots, there isn’t a lot of grace between the internode and the node, so the node will rot more quickly.
If you’ve had Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma root quickly for you in the past, it really doesn’t matter. However, Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma root slowly for me so I’d cut at 3.
This is weirdly hard to explain when you’re used to looking at nodes a lot. If you’re still unclear, leave me a common on what you’re struggling with and I’ll try to clear it up.