Many indoor plants can easily be propagated by using the following methods: offsets, plantlets, stem/cane cuttings, leaf cuttings, layering or division. Often, there may be more than one way to propagate a specific plant; ideal time to propagate is during the growing season (March to 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. A clean, sharp pair of scissors is often the most important tool, and once you have decided 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 un-rooted 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. 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!

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 in which the original plant was happily growing. Adding pearlite or vermiculite to peat-based soils can help create a loose mix for easy rooting, however 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 (be sure to allow ventilation when excess condensation appears).

Propagation Methods

Offsets: 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 offset directly into fresh soil. Examples: Aloe, Banana, Echeveria, Haworthia, Pilea peperomioides

Plantlets: 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

Stem/cane cuttings: Take cuttings in spring or summer and allow succulents to seal up/dry out for a few hours or a day before planting. Each stem or cane piece should be 2-3 inches long and pushed into soil oriented in its original growing direction and pointing up. Examples: Begonia, Dracaena, Dumbcane, Yucca (from canes), Jewel orchid, String of Pearls, Star Jasmine, Swiss cheese/Monstera, Pothos, Wandering Jew (from stem cuttings)

Leaf cuttings: Depending on the plant, cut or pull off a leaf and allow to dry a few hours or a day; insert leaf into soil with cut edge in first (some leaves such as those of a Snake plant can be cut into several pieces). Always plant in 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

Layering: 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 stem is slightly under soil to encourage rooting. Once new roots have slowly formed, the new plant can be cut lose from the original. Examples: Ivy, Pothos, Spider plant

Division: Some plants grow to fill their containers and can be divided regularly to keep smaller or for sharing. Although outdoors we often divide plants with a spade or sharp tool, indoors it is best done by hand or very carefully with a sharp knife. 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 

 

Best Propagation Methods for Popular Indoor Plants

  • African violet/Saintpaulia: leaf cuttings in spring, can take 2-3 months to root
  • Aloe: offsets
  • Arrowhead/Syngonium: division or stem cuttings
  • Begonia: stem cuttings at least 3-5” long with 2-4 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” 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