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Propagating houseplants can be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of indoor gardening. Creating new plants from a parent plant is a quick way to grow a wide variety houseplants to share with friends or add to your current collection. Successfully propagating houseplants has everything to do with choosing an appropriate propagation method and selecting healthy plants to propagate from. Don’t attempt to propagate plants that are diseased or have overly thin or thick stems.

Before starting a propagation project, you’ll want to gather a few materials. The basics things you’ll need are a sterile soilless potting media mix, small planting containers with bottom drainage, sharp scissors or a knife, a pencil, and clear plastic bags. You may also want to pick up a container of rooting hormone powder. Most houseplants will grow new roots without a rooting hormone, but using one can speed rooting and increase the number of roots produced.

Many types of plants can be easily propagated through cuttings. Cutting is the process of rooting severed pieces of a parent plant, including stems, leaves, and roots. The advantages of this type of propagation are many. Taking cuttings is quick and efficient, is the only way to preserve some unique cultivars, and is a great way to rejuvenate old or overgrown plants.  

Tip cuttings are the easiest and most common type of cutting to make. To take a tip cutting, use a sharp pair of scissors or a knife to detach the terminal portion of a stem that has some leaves and at least two nodes. A node is a slightly swollen area where leaves and buds emerge from the stem, and also where new roots will grow from the cutting. To start the process, fill a small container with moistened potting mix and use a pencil to create a planting hole that is 1-3 inches deep. Next, take a tip cutting just below a node and remove the leaves on the lower half of the stem that will come into contact with the potting mix.  Dip the end of the stem in rooting hormone (optional) and insert the end of the cutting in the planting hole. Make sure at least one node is beneath the soil surface, as that is where the roots will form. Place the cutting in a warm location with bright, indirect light. Coleus, pothos, ivy, and geraniums are often propagated in this manner.

Leaf cuttings can also be used to propagate a number of houseplants. It takes longer to create a new plant from a leaf than it does a stem section, but if you don’t have much plant material to work with, leaf cuttings can be a good choice. Leaves with petioles (leaf stalks), including those of African violet, peperomia, and begonia, should be cut so that ½ to 1½ inches of the petiole remains. The lower end of the petiole should be inserted in the soil mix in the same manner as tip cuttings. Plants with leaves that do not have petioles, such as sansevieria, jade, or other succulents, should be inserted vertically into the soil media. Once the new plant has its own roots and has started growing new leaves, the original leaf can be removed.

With the exception of succulents, most cuttings need high humidity in order to grow properly. Until cuttings develop roots, they are very susceptible to drying out. If you don’t have a bright area with high humidity, you can create a humid environment around the cutting by placing a clear plastic bag over it.

How long it takes a cutting to root depends entirely upon the species of plant you’re propagating and growing conditions. Expect the majority of houseplants to begin forming roots within two to four weeks, but don’t be alarmed if it takes a little longer. You can check on the progress of your cuttings by gently tugging on them periodically. When you feel resistance, you’ll know that roots are forming.

Got questions? The Ask UNH Extension Infoline offers practical help finding answers for your home, yard, and garden questions. Call toll free at 1-877-398-4769, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., or e-mail us at answers@unh.edu.

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Got questions? The Ask UNH Extension Infoline offers practical help finding answers for your home, yard, and garden questions.
Call toll free at 1-877-398-4769, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., or e-mail us at answers@unh.edu.