Houseplant propagation is an inexpensive and easy way to get new plants from plants you already have. If you have seen a beautiful plant at your friend’s home, or want to share grandma’s Christmas cactus, here are some easy instructions on how to do it. Unlike seed, cutting and division of plants will result in an identical plant that will reproduce the same beautiful flowers, leaf structure, etc. that attracted you in the first place. So wish no more, that plant could be yours!
Planting Medium: Equal parts of perlite and peat moss or coconut coir, which is basically a soilless planting mixture. Potting mix is not recommended. Make sure that you add extra perlite or pumice rock for succulents and cactus plants. These plants will rot if they are in soil that does not drain well.
Rooting Hormones: Rooting hormones are often used to promote root formation. The end of the cutting is dipped into hormone prior to sticking the cutting into the planting medium.
Light: Light is an important environmental factor in plant propagation. Too dark and the cuttings will not root as well. Direct high intensity light can stress cuttings, which might cause them to burn or drop leaves. Diffused light generally provides enough light without causing injury to your new babies.
Heat & Humidity: Since cuttings do not have roots, they cannot replace water lost through transpiration. Therefore, it is important to maintain high humidity around the cutting to cut down on moisture loss. Placing a clear plastic dome or plastic over the propagation area can provide humidity. Ventilation is also important for the cuttings, so make sure air can flow around the cuttings.
Water: The propagation medium should be thoroughly moistened before you plant. Many organic materials resist wetting so be sure to apply the water slowly and in several applications.
First, let’s talk about stem cuttings. This process is the most common. Stems and side stems are the main sections of the parent plant, which produce further growth for leaves or flowers. They can be cut if they are growing but not flowering. Gulley’s has huge greenhouses devoted just for stock plants. These are plants that we use just for cuttings to grow new plants from them every year.
A healthy, strong, mother plant works the best, with no sign of disease or stress. Make sure that the mother plant is not flowering when you are going to propagate. Take the cutting with a very sharp clean knife or scissors, below the leaf node (where the leaf meets the stem). The cutting should be 3 – 5 inches long if possible. Remove the lower leaves so there are just a few at the top of the stem. Use a dowel or pencil to create a hole in the potting medium, and gently place the cutting so that the stripped leaf node is below soil level. To have better success, dip the cutting in a rooting hormone before planting. Lightly water your cuttings after sticking them into the soil, make sure that they stay moist but not soggy.
Many houseplants grow larger by sending up young rosettes, suckers, or stems from their roots or base. In time these plants can become crowded, which causes diseases and diminished flowering. Remove the plant from its pot when the compost is somewhat dry. It is often easier to turn the pot on its side, and gently remove the plant. If the plant is overly root-bound it may become necessary to break or cut away the pot.
Separate the mother plant into clumps, if it won’t come apart use a sharp, clean knife or saw. Examine the clumps to find young sections that have stems with leaves and roots. Repot using a pot just large enough to hold the roots. Plant in the middle of the pot, making sure it is upright, and at the correct level in relation to the top of the plant. Water lightly, provide warmth and out of direct sunlight for a week or two. The mother plant can also be repotted with fresh soil at this time! If you are repotting into the same pot, make sure to clean the pot with soap and water before repotting to reduce the chance of disease.
Do you know the difference between Cacti and Succulents? All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Succulents are defined by their moisture storing capacity. Cacti have small, round, cushion like structures called areoles from which spines, branches, hair, leaves and even flowers grow.
Protect your fingers, if necessary, by wearing gloves, or wrapping them with tape. Using a sharp, razor blade or knife sterilized with alcohol, remove a stem cutting off of the parent plant. Avoid taking long stem cuttings and it is important to make a clean cut. Pruning shears crush tissues and a simple tear gives jagged edges. Both usually do not heal fast enough for the cutting to survive without water during the callusing stage and they won’t root out well. Remove the lower leaves, leaving two to four inches of bare stem exposed and dip the stem of the cutting in a rooting hormone for increased success. Let the cutting sit out in warm air so that it can form a callus. This should take a few days to a week.
Fill a small pot to the brim with specialty cactus soil with extra grit added, or mix your own from scratch. Gently press the soil down to level it off. Inorganic grit, sand, or pumice gives the soil the appropriate drainage and aeration.
Again, protect your fingers if necessary, and plant the callused stem cutting in the prepared potting mix and top dress to prevent soil loss. Water succulents immediately, but wait a few days before watering cacti. Place the potted cutting in a warm, bright, airy, location and keep moderately moist.
You can also produce new succulents by stripping leaves off the parent plant. This method is especially helpful when propagating succulents like echevaria, which are slow to send up new babies from their base.
To propagate from a leaf, gently twist the leaf off of the stem. We’ve found that it has to be a clean pull, meaning nothing gets left on the stem. If you get some of the stem that is fine too, but if the leaf is ripped above the stem joint it will not work.
Let the leaf callous for 1-3 days before placing the leaf on top of the potting medium. DO NOT plant the leaf into the soil, simply place the leaf on top. Mist with a spray bottle only when the potting medium is completely dry. If you water too often, you run the risk of the new succulent starts rotting.
Once a new rosette and roots have grown from the end of the leaf, you can transplant your new succulent into a small sized container. Continue to keep it dry, the roots are small at this point and will not need much moisture.