Often, there may be more than one way to propagate a specific plant. The ideal time to propagate is during the growing season (March through September). Using rooting hormone can increase your chances of success, and a seedling heat mat can speed up the rooting process. However, plant propagation is rarely 100% successful.
Many indoor plants can easily be propagated by using one of the following methods:
- Stem/cane cuttings
- Leaf cuttings
A clean, sharp pair of scissors is often your most important tool, and once you have decided whether to root into water or straight into soil, you can begin!
Water Propagate or Root Into Soil?
Each has their advantages and disadvantages, so it is really a matter of preference. Rooting directly into soil can eliminate a step, but unrooted cuttings in soil can dry out quickly if neglected or left unattended. Rooting into water is fun to watch, but eventually the cutting will need to be potted into soil, which may harm tender young roots in the process.
When potting up your new plant starts, use a high-quality potting soil or even seed-starting mix. Some plants have specific soil preferences such as cactus mix for succulents; try to match the soil type that the original plant was happily growing in. Adding pearlite or vermiculite to peat-based soils can help create a loose mix for easy rooting, but these additions may cause soil to dry out quickly and need more frequent monitoring. A temporary clear plastic dome or plastic bag can be used to cover the new plant for increased humidity during the early rooting process; just be sure to allow ventilation when excess condensation appears.
The best way to learn is to try a few methods with a large or vigorous plant from your collection and see what works best for you. Spider plants and Pothos are great teachers!
These are tiny plant side shoots growing at or near the plant’s base. Separate them with a sharp knife carefully to get as many roots as possible. Pot the offset directly into fresh soil.
Examples: Aloe, Banana, Echeveria, Haworthia, Pilea peperomioides
These usually appear at the ends of stems or leaves as immature versions of the larger plant. Remove and pot-up in fresh soil.
Examples: Spider plant, Mother of Thousands, Mother Fern
Take cuttings in spring or summer and allow succulents to seal up/dry out for a few hours to a full day before planting. Each stem or cane piece should contain at least one node, be 2 to 3 inches long, and be pushed into soil oriented in its original growing direction, pointing up.
Examples: Begonia, Dracaena, Dumbcane, Yucca (from canes), Jewel orchid, String of pearls, Star jasmine, Swiss cheese/Monstera, Pothos, Tradescantia (from stem cuttings)
Depending on the plant, cut or pull off a leaf and allow to dry for a few hours to a full day. Insert leaf into soil with the cut edge in first (some leaves such as those of a snake plant can be cut into several pieces). Always plant in the direction of growth and keep most of the leaf above ground. Keep warm and moist to encourage root development.
Examples: African violet, Begonia, Zygocactus, Echeveria, Jade plant, Snake plant, Wandering Jew, ZZ plant
This method stimulates rooting from a plant stem while it is still attached to the original “parent” plant, then cutting away the rooted portion once it has grown. Use a paperclip or hairpin to fasten or pin a stem into a small pot of soil; be sure that the portion of stem with a node is slightly under soil to encourage rooting. Once new roots have slowly formed, the new plant can be cut loose from the original.
Examples: Ivy, Pothos, Spider plant
Some plants grow to fill their containers and can be divided regularly to keep smaller or for sharing. Although we often divide plants with a spade or sharp tool outdoors, it is best done by hand or very carefully with a sharp knife for indoor plants. New plant divisions should be potted up right away and watered regularly, similar to the care of the original plant.
Examples: Cast Iron plant, Boston fern, Calathea, Dumb cane, Peace lily, Snake plant
Popular Indoor Plant Propagation Methods by Plant
- African violet/Saintpaulia: leaf cuttings in spring, can take 2 to 3 months to root
- Aloe: offsets
- Arrowhead/Syngonium: division or stem cuttings
- Begonia: stem cuttings at least 3 to 5 inches long with 2 to 4 nodes per stem; allow cutting to dry for up to a day before planting
- Bromeliad: offsets
- Cactus: cuttings or division
- Calathea: divisions (difficult to propagate)
- Cast Iron plant/Aspidistra: division
- Dracaena: stem or cane cuttings; allow cutting to dry for up to a day before planting
- Donkey’s Tail: stem cuttings; allow cutting to dry for up to a day before planting
- Dumbcane/Dieffenbachia: air layer or stem cuttings
- Echeveria: stem or leaf cuttings; allow cutting to dry for up to a day before planting
- Goldfish/Columnea: stem cuttings
- Haworthia: offsets
- Hoya: stem tip cuttings with one or more leaves per cutting
- Jade plant/Crassula: stem or leaf cuttings; allow cutting to dry for up to a day before planting
- Lipstick/Aeschynanth: 4-inch long stem cuttings from new growth
- Mother fern: plantlets or division
- Peace lily/Spathiphyllum: division
- Peperomia: leaf or stem cuttings or division; allow cutting to dry for up to a day before planting
- Philodendron: stem cuttings with several nodes per cutting
- Pilea peperomioides: division
- Pothos/Epipremnum: stem tip cuttings
- Red star/Cryptanthus: division
- Snake plant/Sansevieria: division or leaf cuts; allow cutting to dry for up to a day before planting
- Spider plant/Chlorophytum: offsets or division
- String of Pearls: stem cuttings; allow cutting to dry for up to a day before planting
- Succulents (general): stem or leaf cuttings or division; allow cutting to dry for up to a day before planting
- Zygocactus (Christmas, Easter cactus): stem cutting with at least 3 segments; allow cutting to dry for up to a day before planting
- ZZ plant/Zamioculcas zamiifolia: stem or leaf cuttings; may take several months to grow roots