University of Illinois Extension

Share Your Houseplants

“Houseplants make great gifts and are fun to share with family and friends. Many kinds of houseplants are easily propagated using a number of easy techniques,” said Rhonda Ferree, U of I horticulturist.

“To get started, you’ll need containers, a sterile cutting tool, soil, and a makeshift greenhouse. The container could be anything. I often use disposable cups. Use a good, sterile rooting media that is pre-moistened.” Purchase a premixed potting soil. For best results, create a “greenhouse” for the new plants to grow in until they are well-established. Ziplock bags or the little plastic zipper bags that curtains come in make good temporary “greenhouses.” Place your new plant starts in indirect light, opening the bag slightly to provide ventilation without losing humidity inside the bag.

“Division is the easiest way to propagate houseplants that form clumps such as ferns, mother-in-law’s tongue, African violets, spider plants, philodendron, pothos, and more,” she said. “Simply knock the plant out of its pots and pull the sections apart with your hands. Tough roots sometimes must be cut apart with a kitchen knife. Repot the divisions immediately, add water, and watch your ‘new’ plants grow.”

Some plants produce their own baby plants. Strawberry begonias and spider plants produce miniature plants at the end of long stems. After some time, you will see little root-like structures form on these new plant parts. When that happens, simply remove the plantlet and place it in a pot, making sure to get good soil to root contact.

For plants that do not form natural divisions or new baby plants, cuttings can be used. Cuttings are very simple and can be done a number of ways. Stem cuttings from the ends of branches can produce roots and develop a new plant. Simply remove three or four inches of the terminal or end growth just below a node (leaf joint). Some common plants that can be started this way are coleus, geranium, ivy, begonia, and many of the philodendrons. Insert the node of a stem into loose potting soil, water, and watch it grow.

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