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Good Growing

Propagating Houseplants

One of my great loves of plants is that we can create new plants from existing. There are a number of houseplants that are easy to propagate and if you're like me you can never seem to have enough of your favorite plants!

When propagating houseplants, there are usually three different methods and which method to use is determined by what plant you are trying to grow. There are two other methods of houseplant propagation which includes Division and Air Layering but that's for another time.

Examples of plants that can be propagated by each method:

  • Softwood/Herbaceous Cuttings (outer tip of plant, usually 3-6 inches long with a few leaves attached, with flowers or seed heads removed) – Dracaena, Croton, Holiday Cactus
  • Leaf Cuttings (The entire leaf, making sure that the petiole is kept short) – Jade, African Violet, Kalanchoe
  • Cane Cuttings (The stem is planted with no leaves – plant horizontally in the container and slightly covered, usually 2-3 inches long) – Dracaena and Dieffenbachia

With any plant that you want to propagate, make sure to choose healthy material to use in propagation. Since it takes time for cuttings to root out, if plant material is damaged it will reduce the chance of success. Avoid using materials that have insect or disease issues.

A 6-8 inch pot can be utilized to root out multiple cuttings in one container or you can also use individual smaller containers. Whatever your container might be, make sure to utilize a good quality potting mix or perlite and peat moss mixed 50/50. Make sure all pots or containers are sterilized prior to using for propagation.

Once you've taking your cuttings and planted them and making sure the potting medium is watered (avoid over saturation as you can cause rot of the cuttings if the potting mix stays overly moist), cover the container with a plastic bag to increase humidity. This is important since the cuttings don't have roots to take up water yet. Place the container in a sunny location but avoid direct sunlight as direct sunlight and a plastic covering will burn the cuttings. Some plants don't do well with the plastic covering such as Jade as the excessive humidity could cause rot issues. Jade are one of the plants that root better in a sand based rooting medium.

The time it takes for roots to form varies greatly from plant to plant. Some may form roots quickly others may take weeks before roots form. Keep a close watch on the cuttings and monitor for any root issues and adequate moisture (don't let the planting medium to dry out). If cuttings begin to rot the moisture level is too high – either the humidity level is too much or the soil medium is too wet or combination of both – either way remove those cuttings that have begun to rot and reduce humidity/moisture as needed. Once the cuttings have rooted transplant them to individual containers if planted in flats or multiple cuttings in a single container. Monitor closely as the transition to less humidity can cause some shock to the plants.

More Information

For more information on Plant Propagation visit the University of Illinois Extension Horticulture YouTube Channel for recordings from our Four Seasons Gardening Series.