The Ultimate Plant Propagation Guide

If you’re looking for an easy and cheap way to get new plants, then consider the propagation of your old plants.

Propagating is an asexual means, which means that the reproduction creates a plant that is a clone, or genetically identical, to its parent plant.

The Ultimate Plant Propagation Guide

There are quite a few different types of plant propagation methods and tools; from dividing, to stem cutting, leaf-cutting, and so much more. What technique you choose is dependent on the type of plant that you want to propagate and how much effort and time that you want to place in the process.

Cutting

An amazing thing about plants is that every single cell can duplicate all functions and parts of the entire plant.

When you take a cutting of a stem or leaf and provide the perfect conditions, you can create a brand new plant.

You should begin with a “mother” or a healthy stock plant. This plant should have abundant stems so that when you remove one for cutting, it won’t damage the plant.

Stems

Propagation by cutting the stem is by a popular method for propagating ornamental plants and woody shrubs. Houseplants also benefit from this technique.

Houseplants are easy to propagate.

When doing this, you need to search for a stem that lacks insects, disease, or flower buds. Then you’ll use a sterile, sharp knife and create a smooth cut at a 45-degree angle to enlarge the rooting area.

The cuttings that you take should be about three to six inches long, but can be shorter for smaller plants, and include the top of the stem, and at least three sets of leaves attached.

plant stem

Clean off the bottom layer of leaves; this is where the new roots will form, and dip that end in the rooting gel.

The gel helps seal the plant tissue that was cut and promotes the growth of new roots.

Once you’ve done this, place your newly cut and anointed plant in a small pot filled with moist perlite, vermiculite, or any other soilless potting mix.

Make sure that you poke a minor hole into the pot you’re using before placing your cutting in it – this makes it so the rooting solution won’t rube off from the damaged stem.

Place your new cuttings in a warm and brightly lit room, keeping them out of direct sunlight. Several cuttings benefit from increased humidity.

To create a miniature greenhouse effect and to increase moisture, place the pot in a clear plastic bag.

Don’t allow the plastic to touch your plants! Mayonnaise jars, plastic soda pop bottles, and milk cartons can all be used to provide cover for your cuttings.

Once you see developed roots on your cuttings – this might take days or months – replant them in a different container that is full of moist, not wet, soil.

To figure out if your plant has roots or not, gently tug on the plants, if they come out easily, they’re not ready. However, if you encounter some resistance, they’re ready to be repotted.

Monitor the amount of light and moisture they get until the new plants have become fully established.

You’ll also want to remove diseased plants and dropped leaves from around the plant’s area immediately once you notice them prevent the fungus from growing on your healthy plants.

Softwood Stem

You can also take softwood stem cuttings – these come from young branches of shrubbery that are not yet woody.

The term “softwood” refers to the deciduous woody plant’s stage of growth that isn’t green (brand new), but also not is it woody (fully grown), instead it’s somewhere in between.

To see if your shrubbery is ready, try bending a branch, should it easily snap it’s ready to be used.

If it just bends because it’s flexible, it’s too young to be used, as it will more than likely rot before rooting. If there isn’t any flexibility, then it’s too old, so it will take longer to root.

April through June are the best times to take softwood cuttings, especially after its rained or you’ve watered.

You’ll want to spot healthy shoots that aren’t too thin or thick. Use pruning shears or sharp knife, cut a section of stem from at least one inch below a leaf node that is two to ten inches long.

Ensure that the leaf node has at least three pairs of leaves. Create a diagonal cut; you want a larger cut to maximize the surface area for the development of new roots.

Tip: Dip your sharp knife or pruning tool into a combination of one part bleach and nine parts water to prevent transmitting diseases to healthy plants from infected ones.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to put the cuttings into a container that is filled with wet paper towels to help keep the moisture in until you can get into the house to plant them.

Make sure that you’re taking more cuttings than you think you’ll need because not all of them are going to root.

Remove the lower section of leaves, then if you’re feeling motivated, scrape some bark from the edge of the cutting. Take the cutting and dip it into the water followed rooting hormone, make sure that you’re covering the wounds that are left after removing the leaves.

Note: Root hormone is more crucial to the use of softwoods than on houseplant cuttings.

Plant your cuttings into some pots that are filled with soilless potting mix, make sure that you’re planning them only deep enough to give the stems support and to hold the plant upright. Don’t use traditional garden soil, since this kind of soil will stay too wet, and rot the cutting before it can begin rooting.

After you’ve planted the cuttings, you’ll be able to trim its leaves to the right around half their original size. Even by doing this, the leaves will be able to conduct photosynthesis, but it won’t transpire as much water.

Place your cuttings containers inside a plastic bag to increase the humidity around your cuttings.

A misting system can also be purchased to keep your new plants at the right levels of moistness. Around six weeks later, you should perform a root check.

If the container that you put the cuttings into is small, then you might be able to see roots protruding through the pot’s drainage holes. If you don’t, then gently tug on the plant.

If it comes right up, it isn’t ready yet – replant it. If you encounter resistance, then it’s ready for the repotting process.

Once the roots have formed, transplant your new shrubs to a bigger pot with a fill mixture of 20 percent perlite and 80 percent organic potting soil.

Make sure that you use an organic liquid fertilizer that is kelp or seaweed-based to water your plants. Slowly “harden off” plants before you transplant them outside.

Hardwood Stems

Cuttings from hardwood stems are done after the tissue of the plant has become woody and is dormant.

Late fall – especially after a killing frost – is the best time for taking hardwood cuttings. Late winter months will also work.

You’ll want to seek out vigorous, healthy plants that are growing in full direct sunlight. The stems that aren’t too thick or thin are the best ones.

You want the stems that have a girth of at least ¼ or ½ inch and be around four to eight inches long. Cuttings should be done several inches from the terminal bud.

You are using a straight cut on the top of the end of the stem, which is slightly above a bud, and a diagonal cut at the bottom of the stem, just below the bud.

Throw away the top of the shoot. Make sure that you take more cuttings than you need just in case one doesn’t propagate.

Use rooting powder to dip the ends of the cuttings and put the stems separated by about two to six inches in a pot filled with moist soilless potting media. Place the stems well into the mix, so that only about two buds are visible at the surface.

You’ll then want to water and cover the cuttings using a plastic bag and place them in indirect sunlight.

Once the roots have grown, carefully transfer the cutting to a larger pot – don’t plant directly into the landscape just yet, wait until the beginning of the next season so that the plants are strong and larger.

Leaf Cuttings

There are several woody or herbaceous plants, including plenty of houseplants, that you can propagate using leaf cuttings. This method involves a stem and its leaf, or sometimes just part of a leaf which is then used to generate a new plant.

The instructions for the propagation using leaf cuttings are essentially identical as it is for hardwood and softwood stem cuttings, but these can be done anytime during the year.

plant leaves

Make sure that you’re selecting a full-grown, healthy leaf from a strongly growing plant.

Remove the leaf along with around 1 to 1 ½ inch of stem. Use rooting hormone to dip the cut and plant the cutting (up until the bottom of the leaf) at a slight angle into a moist soilless rooting mix.

After planting, make sure that you thoroughly water to settle the plant firmly into the potting mix.

As with any other cutting technique, you’ll want to put a plastic bag around the container to help increase the humidity but remember to store in a cool place and away from direct sunlight. After about four to six weeks, you’ll see new roots form, and your new plant will be ready for replanting in a bigger pot.

Keep in mind that there are several times when the same cutting will generate more than one plant. If this happens, you should carefully separate the new plants from their “parent” leaf and replant them in separate pots.

Dividing

Propagation by dividing is when you break up or cut a cluster of suckers or clump or crown into tinier segments.

It’s vital that each segment of the plant contains a bud. Otherwise, it won’t propagate.

Plenty of perennials benefit from using the dividing method as they lose their vigor when they grow old, plus you’ll get more plants to share with family, friends, or around your garden.

There are several techniques for dividing perennials; however, you’ll find that the basics are generally the same.

Dividing Perennial Plants

You should divide perennials that bloom in the fall during the spring, and spring-summer perennials in the fall.

You want to do the fall division early in the season because the plants will need four to six weeks to grow roots before the ground freezes. You also want to divide your plants early in the spring.

This is because plants benefit from wet, cool weather, and it gives them time to grow roots before the warm weather comes around.

To divide your plant, you want to water it thoroughly a couple of days before you divide it. This helps limit the stress from the division on the parent plant after you’ve watered it, you’ll need to cut some of the leaves so that it won’t lose much moisture.

When it comes time to divide, you’ll need to dig all around the plant and then tug it gently from the ground.

If you find a big ball of roots that you can’t lift, you can cut through it with a shovel. If you find that the plant has spreading roots, you can pull them apart.

Any plants that you find have horizontal rhizomes, underground stems, you can divide these using a sharp knife.

Place the plant segment(s) into a container full of water as soon as you cut them; this prevents them from drying out while you finish working. While you let the plants soak, dig a hole that is at least as deep as the plant was originally set in.

You’ll then want to add peat moss, aged chicken manure, or organic compost to give the plant a little boost as it becomes established.

Settle the segment of the plant into the hole and fill it with soil, make sure that you’re watering it well afterward.

Add a big layer of mulch to help the plant stay warm during the winter but be sure to take some of the mulch off in the spring to prevent it the plant from becoming too warm.

Now that you know how some of the more common methods of propagation are done, let’s talk about some common household plants that you can propagate yourself using these techniques.

Jade Plant Propagation

Jade plants are succulents that are native to South Africa, and they’re very common houseplants.

Jades are evergreen plants that have fleshy, round, and smooth leaves that grow in opposing pairs along the branches. It’s a slow-growing plant and will occasionally flower when conditions are right.

Jade is easy to care for, requires little watering, and is easily propagated.

jade plant propagation

Jade cuttings are easy to perform, but you must give them time and attention so that the cuttings will root. Since Jade is succulent, jade plants hate moisture. Cuttings from this plant can be taken from a part of the stem or the leaf.

Snake Plant Propagation

Snake plants, also referred to as mother-in-law’s tongue is a plant that has sword-shaped leaves that are almost waxy and smooth.

Snake plants are easy to care for, which makes them perfect for almost any interior situation, plus they’re visually striking.

snake plant propagation

The fastest way to get a new snake plant from propagation is to divide it. This is because the plant grows from the rhizomes which mass together and multiply as the plant gets older.

You can also use cutting techniques, but they won’t be as quick as using the divide method.

Rubber Plant Propagation

rubber plant propagation

Rubber plants are versatile and hardy houseplants. Propagating rubber tree plants is easy and means that you’ll have plenty of starts for family and friends.

Rubber plants grow very tall, which means that the indoor rubber tree will need to be pruned occasionally. After pruning, don’t throw away those cuttings, instead use them to propagate your plant.

ZZ Plant Propagation

ZZ plants are slow growing, and a reliable performer – it’s even doggedly loyal even if you mistreat it. Propagating ZZ plants is easy to do but can take up to nine months or more to root.

ZZ plants come from the Southeast coast of Africa and have been important houseplants for years.

zz plant propagation

To propagate ZZ plants, you need to do the divide method. This method can only be done once in a while on the ZZ plant because the plant produces new rhizomes very slowly and removing them frequently will damage the parent plant.

You can also go about doing leaf cuttings with this plant – this is a faster option since the plants grow quicker than the rhizomes.

Spider Plant Propagation

Propagating spiderettes (spider plant babies) from an existing spider plant is as easy as it comes.

Spider plants are given their name because when they’re growing, they look like spiders with their flowing, big leaves that give the appearance of legs.

spider plant

You can go about propagating your spider plant by cutting off the knob-like protrusions and tiny roots from the bottom of each spiderette. You can then choose to propagate those protrusions in water or soil.

Pothos Plant Propagation

Pothos plants are another popular houseplants because they aren’t fussy about water, fertilization, or light. When it comes to propagating your pothos plant, all you need to do is cut off the node on the stem of your plant.

pothos plant propagation

Pothos propagating begins with the root nodes from the stem right below the branch or leaf junctures. These tiny bumps of the stem are key to propagating the pothos plant.

Prayer Plant Propagation

Prayer plants are tolerant of low light conditions. However, it does best in bright, indirect sunlight.

The prayer plant requires well-drained soil and high humidity to thrive. They should be kept moist, but not soggy.

You should use warm water and feed your prayer plant every two weeks, from spring to fall, with an all-purpose fertilizer.

prayer plant propagation

To propagate your prayer plant, you want to repot the plant in early spring – this is when the propagation can be accomplished by division.

You can also take stem cuttings in the early summer and spring – you’ll want to take cuttings from the nodes that are closest to the bottom of the stem.

Polka-Dot Plant Propagation

Polka-dot plants are easy to propagate anytime during the year. For anyone unfamiliar with polka-dot plants, their leaves are generously sprinkled with either white or pink spots on a dark green leaf background.

polka dot plant

To propagate new plants from a parent plant, you need to simply take tip cuttings about four inches long and remove the leaves from the lower half of the stem.

You’ll then put the cuttings into coarse potting soil, such as cactus mix, and keep it moist.

Tip cutting is very similar to stem cutting, except instead of cutting off a part of the stem, you take a small portion of the stem and the apex or plant tip of a plant.

You’ll start by selecting a section of stem that has a healthy crown of leaves at the end. You’ll then carefully remove the lower foliage to leave a section of bare stem to insert into the propagation medium.

Umbrella Plant Propagation

The umbrella tree can make an attractive and large accent in any room.

Propagating cuttings from an umbrella plant is an inexpensive and easy way to create a collection of impressive plants for home décor and gifts.

umbrella plant propagation

To propagate an umbrella plant, you’ll want to clean a sharp knife with alcohol to prevent any spread of bacteria to your plants.

Then you’ll clip off a stem near the base of the plant and wrap the end in a damp paper towel. Then cut each leaf in half horizontally to reduce the amount of moisture it loses during the rooting process.

Final Thoughts

You now have all sorts of knowledge to help you get started with propagating your plants. Remember that this can be easily done by stem cutting, leaf-cutting, dividing, and so much more.

Each plant benefits from different propagating techniques, so make sure that you’re researching before you go ahead and stem cut a plant that propagates better by dividing.

We’ve given you some tips on how to propagate common houseplants, so use this to help guide you. Propagating is a great way to get more starts that you can put around your house, in your garden, or to family and friends.

Hopefully, this guide has given you some ideas of what you can do with your plants, so you don’t have to spend much money on new plants.

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