Propagating Plants at Home

Propagating-Plants-at-HomeA technique known as “vegetative propagation” can be interesting and fun. Any age can participate with little equipment and a few simple guidelines.


Vegetative propagation uses stems and leaves to obtain new plants. There are many reasons for using this technique, one of the being that some plants, such as seedless grapes or bananas, do not produce viable seed, so the only way to produce true-to-type plants is to use this technique. Many plants grown from seed also will not resemble the plant from which the seed was taken. New plants grown from stem and leaf cuttings will be true-to-type except on rare occasions.


You will need to construct a miniature greenhouse to begin the process. Two wire hoops are inserted in the growing container to support a dome of clean plastic material (clear plastic bag, etc.). Choose an eight or six inch in diameter plastic or clay pot with drainage. Place a saucer under the pot to contain the draining water.


Rooting media should be porous and sterile. Concrete sand or horticultural vermiculite are excellent choices. If sand is to be used, be sure to run water through it to flush residual silt and sodium. Let it bake in direct sun for a few days to reduce disease possibilities. The “greenhouse” should be located indoors in an area with even temperature where it can take advantage of morning light and indirect sunlight the remainder of the day.


Beginning with stem cuttings is a sure way to gain confidence in both technique and potting materials. Selecting cuttings from vigorous, healthy plants will boost your rooting success.


There are three types of stem cuttings used in plant propagation: soft-wood, semi-hardwood, and hardwood cuttings. Soft-wood material is near the terminal ends of branches. Individual cuttings should be about four inches in length. All leaves should be removed except for the one or two near the growing point. Semi-hardwood cuttings are made from more mature wood behind the terminal ends of branches. Hardwood cuttings are made from material located some distance back of the terminal ends of the branches. Leaf removal and length for semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings are the same as for soft-wood cuttings.


Preparing for leaf cuttings falls into two categories: leaf-bud and leaf-blade. Leaf-bud cutting differs from leaf-blade cutting in one aspect; the auxiliary bud and petiole must be taken with the leaf blade. An example of this would be a rubber plant leaf blade cutting. The rubber plant cannot develop an auxiliary bud, as say, an African violet. Remove the bud from the rubber plant stem, so that it can produce a new plant. Leaf-blade cutting of an African violet simply entails removing a leaf blade with a portion of the leaf stem (petiole).


You are now ready to put your cuttings in the “indoor greenhouse.” Fill the container with your rooting media and water it thoroughly. Use a blunt sterilized instrument (knife, metal spoon handle, etc.) and make openings in the media to receive the cuttings. These openings will reduce breakage of the cuttings.


A few easily rooted plants are as follows: soft-wood cuttings – Chrysanthemums, Coleus, Euonymus, Ivies, Philodendrons, Pothos (Devil’s Ivy), Rosemary, Wandering Jew (Spiderwort); semi-hardwood cuttings – Cocculus (moonseed), Lantana, Pyracantha, Viburnum; hardwood cuttings – Figs, Oleander, Pomegranate, Roses; leaf-bud cuttings – Rubber Plant; leaf-blade cuttings – African violets, Begonias, Jade plant, Peperomia, Sansevieria (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue), Sedum (Stonecrops).


Stem cuttings made from hardwood, semi-hardwood, and soft-wood should be inserted about half-way (2″) into the media. Lightly tamp the loose soil around the cutting to reduce moisture loss. Leaf cuttings should be inserted so the petiole and a portion of the leaf blade is buried. Be cautious when placing leaf cuttings such as Sansevieria (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue) in the media, remember that the top part is up and the bottom part is buried.


At last, it is time for watering. Be diligent and water twice a day after cutting placement. Use a teaspoon of liquid BioFlora Seaweed in a quart of water used to water the cuttings to enhance the speed and abundance of root formation. Use enough of the water mix to realize a small amount of drainage each watering. Discard the excess water (a large outdoor plant would appreciate the excess water).


The hoops in the container are ready to have the clear plastic placed to produce the greenhouse dome. The plastic “tent” keeps humidity and prevents foliage wilting. Lift the edges to water and then replace.


Each type of plant will require different time periods to initiate roots; some in three weeks, some longer. After four or five weeks, gently remove a cutting and look for roots. If four to five roots are seen, the cutting can be removed and planted in a good soil mix (add one ounce of BioFlora Dry Crumbles 8-3-6 + 8% Ca to five pounds of soil mix).


Pots with rooted cuttings should be placed in an area that gets morning sun and shade in the afternoon. After no wilting occurs, the pots can be moved to more sun if the plant type can tolerate some. Indoor plants will not need conditioning; the can be potted and kept indoors.




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Michael Lindsey

Michael Lindsey

Michael Lindsey is an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Specialist at Global Organics Group in Phoenix, Arizona. He holds both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science degree in Entomology from the University of Arizona, and is licensed as an Agricultural Pest Control Adviser and Certified Crop Adviser in both Arizona and California.