Spring time equals propagation time for your plants equals the most fun part of the plant year. It’s been four weeks since I started working in ArteNova Mechelen, an old furniture shop turned in to a creative workspace. Together with other artists, we’ve been trying to make this empty building more cosy and inspiring. (Instagram-proof, so to say). The only thing missing, is some greenery. Oh, and a budget to buy new plants too. One of the solutions we came up with is propagation.
Propagation is an inexpensive and easy way to enlarge your plant collection. There are many ways to propagate your green friends, but be aware: not every method of propagating is good for every plant. Some plants are good to take cuttings, while others need a division. In the Plant Propagation Project I want to collect as many pictures of this year’s cuttings as possible. So we can all see them grow.
Do you want to be a part of this? Take a picture of your cuttings and add #plantpropagationproject. Maybe you’ll end up here on the blog.
But before you run to you scissors, I’ll give some tips to have the healthiest babies.
TAKE SOME CUTTINGS (PROPAGATION 1.0)
There are different kinds of cuttings: stem cuttings, leaf cuttings and even root cuttings (but we won’t see this last one, because it’s risky, next-level-cutting and even I haven’t tried this yet). The general definition of a cutting is a piece of the stem, leafs or roots of the source plant placed in a suitable medium such as moist soil. If the conditions are suitable, the plant piece will begin to grow a new plant independent of the parent, a process also known as striking. Sounds more complicated than it actually is. My definition is cutting a piece of your plant so it’ll make a new plant, or even shorter: one plant becomes two.
1 | STEM CUTTINGS
As the name suggests, stem cuttings are taken from the stem. Important here is to use a sharp and clean knife or scissors. The sharper the knife, the cleaner the wounds on your parent-plant and the better he’ll heal. I’ll give two examples of how to take a stem cutting: a top cutting from the basilicum and a regular stem cutting from the String of Hearts (or Ceropegia Woodii).
Tip: don’t worry if your parent-plant seems unhappy and unhealthy after you took a cutting. You’ve made a wound and the plant needs some time and energy to heal. After two to four weeks, he should be as good as before.
Top cutting of a basilicum plant
step 1 | take one stem of the basilicum plant and cut off the top with at least three pairs of leaves (10 to 20cm).
step 2 | pinch the lower leaves off (the two lowest pairs), so only the top leaves and one pair underneath that remain. This is important because one of the main functions of leaves is to store water, so the fewer leaves on your cutting, the more water for the new roots to grow.
step 3 | this isn’t really necessary, but I always do it. Put your cutting in water so only the upper four to five cm remain above. This ensures a faster growth of the roots. If you don’t want to use water, you can also put the cutting in some rooting powder and immediately in a small pot with cutting soil.
step 4 | after one to two weeks in water, you’ll see some fine white roots growing on the plant. When those are nearly three centimeter long, they’re ready to be potted.
step 5 | fill a small pot with soil (diameter max 10cm), make a hole with your finger and put the cutting in this hole. Be careful not to hurt or brake any of the newly grown roots. Gently fill the rest of the hole with regular house plant or universal soil and water your plant.
step 6 | put it on a nice, bright and warm place in your house. Try to keep your soil moist, not completely wet. And now the patience-part begins. Give the plant some love and you’ll see them grow bigger and bigger until they themselves can become a parent-plant.
tip: to be sure that the soil stays moist and the plant is hot enough, you can put a plastic bag over the whole plant and pot. It’ll create a micro-climate and won’t rot easily.
Regular cutting of a string of hearts (Ceropegia woodii)
The string of hearts can be propagated in different ways. Here I explain how to take stem cuttings. This process is nearly the same as the basilicum cuttings, only the length of the stem and the place of cutting is different.
step 1 | take one of the stems and cut it in pieces of 15 to 20cm long.
step 2 | cut off two to four pairs of the lower leaves (depending on how much space is in between) and put this part of the stem in water. Or, as I said with the previous basilicum cutting, dab it in rooting powder and pot it immediately in some soil.
step 3 | after two to three weeks in water, you’ll see some fine white roots in the water. When they are nearly three centimeter long, it’s best to put them in a pot with soil.
step 4 | fill a small pot with soil (diameter max 10cm), make a hole with your finger and put the cutting in this hole. Be careful not to hurt or brake any of the newly grown roots. Gently fill the rest of the hole with soil and water your plant.
step 5 | put the cuttings on a nice, bright and warm place in your house (but not on a heating system like on the pictures below). They don’t need much water. I suggest once a week or even once every two weeks, will be enough. And now the patience-part again.
2 | LEAF CUTTINGS
Leaf cuttings are only a bit different from stem cuttings. In stead of cutting the stem in pieces, you’ll have enough with one or two leaves to make a new plant. In this part, I’ll make a difference between succulents (a sanseveria and a smaller leaf succulent) and other house plants like the Epipremnum and Monstera.
Tip: if you’re not the best at keeping plants, but still want to try some propagation: start with a succulent. It takes some time, but they are the easiest to start with.
step 1 | cut off one sanseveria leaf right at the bottom of the leaf. Make sure it’s an semi-old leaf. The youngest leaves are to small and the oldest ones don’t grow as fast anymore.
step 2 | cut the leaf in pieces of 5cm and put these on a tray.
step 3 | let them rest until you see the wounds have a harder layer, this is called callus and is comparable to the crust on our own wounds (the one that starts itching, but you can’t scratch it off or it’ll start bleeding again. That one). This will take more or less a week.
step 4 | fill a pot of 15cm (depending on the amount of cuttings) with soil and put the cuttings one centimeter in the soil. Make sure your cuttings don’t touch each other, two centimeter between them should be perfect.
step 5 | and so we wait. Succulents don’t grow very fast, give it several weeks time to grow. The soil doesn’t always needs to be wet, it’s ok to let it dry a bit. So once every two weeks (in spring and summer) will be enough.
Tip: with succulents it’s hard to see how much they’ve grown. If you take a picture the day you put your cuttings in soil, you’ll have some point of reference for the weeks to follow. You’ll be able to compare your grown plant with the starting picture.
Smaller leaf succulent
step 1 | take you parent-plant and gently pull off every leaf. Put these leaves next to each other on a tray. If you don’t want your whole plant ripped in pieces (which I understand), you can also take only one stem and take away all his leaves. Don’t throw your stem without leaves in the garbage because if you keep caring for it like before, he’ll grow new plants too. (That’s what I call recycling!)
step 2 | let them rest until you see the wounds have a harder layer, the callus (this part is the same as with the sanseveria). It’ll take a week or so.
step 3 | when the crust is clearly visible, put the different leaves horizontally on a tray with one centimeter of moist soil. Don’t put the crust straight in the soil, just lay them down on the soil.
step 4 | daily spray de leaves so the soil doesn’t dry out. After a couple of weeks you’ll see the leaves dry out and a bit later new succulents will grow out of the wounds. It’s a kind of magic! But you really have to be patient.
step 5 | when your baby-succulents have one centimeter roots, you can put them in a small pot filled with soil and it’ll grow bigger. Only water them once every two or three weeks.
tip: succulents don’t need much water because they store it in their thick leaves. Therefor it’s no problem if you forget to water them every now and then.
Tip: Jeannie Phan, a Canadian plant-lover, recently explained on Instagram how to propagate these succulents. She gave a very clear overview with beautiful pictures. It’s definitely an account to follow!
Other house plants like Epipremnum and Monstera
step 1 | if you take a close look at your plant, you’ll see a stem where the different leaves grow on. Next to almost every leave you’ll see a small, brown bump. You might think it’s ugly and useless, but in fact it’s the start of a root.
step 2 | cut the leave off the Epipremnum with a small (one to two centimeter) piece of the stem and a root on it.
step 3 | put the whole cutting, except for the leave itself, in water. Make sure your little, brown root is under water.
step 4 | after a week or so you’ll see a fine, white root growing out of the brown one. When this is two centimeter long, it’s time to get it out of the water and in a pot with house plant soil.
step 5 | there should be at least two centimeter between the different cuttings so they have enough space to grow. To give you an idea, I put four cuttings in a pot with diameter 15cm.
step 5 | make sure to water the cuttings, the soil has to be moist. When hot outside, water your baby’s twice a week.
DIVIDE YOUR PLANT (PROPAGATION 2.0)
There are two methods of dividing your plant. The first one is even easier than taking cuttings, while the other one is more risky. But they’re both worth the effort and a try.
1 | TAKE THE BABY’S
On some plants like the Anthericum and the Pilea, the baby grows on a kind of root. So dividing them equals cutting the baby loose from the parent-plant. (like doctors do during birth by cutting the navel cord)
step 1.1 | make sure the baby is big enough to survive on its own. In general the baby should be at least four centimeter. To divide the Anthericum, you take a sharp and clean knife or a pair of clean scissors. Then cut the baby loose as close to the core of the baby as possible.
step 1.2 | With the Pilea you first have to find the big roots that connects the baby with the parent-plant. This root is maximum one centimeter under the soil. When cutting the Pilea baby, you should have a two to three centimeter from the connecting root still on the baby.
step 2 | put the baby’s with their ‘butts’ in some water and wait until you see fine, white roots. This will take more or less four days.
step 3 | fill a small pot (maximum diameter 10cm) with soil and make a hole with you finger.
step 4 | put the baby in the hole and fill the rest with soil. Make sure you only bury the roots and a very small part of the plant itself so it stands stable. If the plant sticks too deep in the soil, the baby will eventually start rotting.
step 5 | water your baby once a week. Twice a week when it’s really hot.
2 | PULL THE PLANT IN TWO
This is a more tricky kind of propagation. It took me two years to dare my first plant division. The method is possible on plants with several small stems coming out of the soil, like a Calathea and Asparagus Plumosus. The tricky part is that you have to split the plant in two, which means you also have to split the roots. BUT if you hurt a thick, important root to much, the plant is less likely to survive.
step 1 | try to water the plants a day or a few hours before the splitting so the soil will easily come off the roots.
step 2 | remove the plant from the pot. Now remove the soil from the roots as much as possible. But do it gentle, as mentioned before: you really don’t want to hurt its roots.
tip: to remove the soil, look in the center on the bottom of the plant, most of the soil and fewer roots are in the middle of the network of roots.
step 3 | divide the different stems in two and gently pull these two a bit away from each other. Don’t do this too rough all at once. If you can’t untangle the roots, you can cut them with a clean knife or scissors in two. Remember this is a patient job, it’s better to work on it for half an hour and don’t make too much wounds, than have it done in a few minutes but eventually kill your green friend.
step 4 | give the two parts their own pot with regular house plant soil. Same method as with the others: make a hole in the middle (this will be a bigger one than with the small baby’s), put the roots in the hole and fill it up with more soil.
step 5 | water them as you did before. But don’t give them any fertilization the first weeks. This is to make sure that none of the wounds on the roots will be burned.
There there. That was a lot more than I expected. I hope I didn’t overwhelm you with all this information. I’ve tried to keep a clean structure so you can use this as a small guide to propagating your plants. If you have general questions or uncertainties concerning a specific plant, don’t hesitate to ask. Oh, and don’t forget to use your #PlantPropagationProject.
And for now… Happy propagation, people!