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Grow Your Plant Collection for Free! Propagation for Beginners

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

Photo by Mike Marquez on Unsplash

Have you ever looked around at your room and thought to yourself that you could use even more plants to make your space come alive?

We’ve all been there. I’m here to let you know that you can grow your collection without going to the neighborhood nursery or spending lots of money. This is where propagation comes in: taking part plants and creating smaller sibling plants. It might sound like a foreign concept, but it’s not so bad after you learn the basics. Let’s talk about a few ways to get started that’ll help build your confidence. I promise you won’t need a degree in botany to get the hang of it!

All you need to start to propagate your plants successfully are a pair of shears (or scissors), a glass jar, some disinfectant form, and some space on your windowsill. That’s all you’re going to need unless dealing with some unique types of plants.

Some of the easiest plants to build up your propagation muscles are leafy green vines like pothos, prayer-plants, or philodendrons. These photogenic apartment staples tend to be low-maintenance when it comes to propagating since they do best with the most convenient propagation method: leaf cuttings.

Grab a Leaf Cutting

Photo by Kara Eads on Unsplash
Photo by Kara Eads on Unsplash

Leaf-cutting is the most manageable way to propagate your plants since it only requires basic plant knowledge and time. Not a whole lot can go wrong, and even if it does, not much is lost.

First, you need to know what nodes and aerial roots look like. On most plants that take well to the leaf-cutting method of propagation, nodes can be found right below where a new branch comes off the plant. It’s usually a dark bump or small bulbous growth. On the other hand, aerial roots are much easier to spot: like their name suggests, they look like roots that aren’t actually in any soil. Locating either or both of these parts on your plant is the most crucial part of getting a good cutting.

Once you’ve located an aerial root and a node on your stems or vines, grab your clippers and sanitize them. You’ll want to make a cut about an inch below the aerial root or node and take care to cut at a 45-degree angle. This ensures that your cutting has the best chance possible to grow more roots. Make sure you take your time at this stage.

Watch the Roots Grow

Photo by Brina Blum on Unsplash

After getting a good cutting, all you need to do is to pop it into a glass jar full of water near a window. The glass jar lets you inspect the cutting without disturbing it. You’ll be able to see when new roots form, plus the glass allows the baby roots to soak up as much sun as possible.

Most of these plants will take about a month or so to grow really strong, healthy roots that can adjust to being placed into a soil environment. If you transfer them too early, the plant will die almost immediately, since the roots won’t be able to absorb water effectively. Waiting too long will mean that the roots won’t take well to being in soil, since they will be expecting an excess of water to survive.

Just be patient and let the roots tell you when they’re ready. A thick and juicy white hue will be the cue for you to pot up the cutting. The more of them, the better.

Choosing the Right Medium

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Another thing to keep in mind if you want a successful propagation is potting your cuttings in the right potting medium for your plant. There are so many options available out there, from regular soil to semi-hydroponic LECA. Every plant is different and has different preferences.

Researching each plant that you’re propagating would be ideal. However, a good rule of thumb is to use a similar mixture to what your parent plant was potted in. This newly propagated plant will most likely be acclimated to that. If it was initially in a cactus mix, keep the new plant in a cactus mix. Of course, there are exceptions, and there’s always room to experiment.

Photo by Sanni Sahil on Unsplash

There are other methods that I didn’t mention here, some of which can yield even better results, but those get a little more advanced. You can do some more research and delve into things like sphagnum moss or aerial layering, but what I’ve listed above is probably the most accessible if you’re new to the propagation world.

Good luck and have fun growing your plant family, y’all!