If you’ve never propagated a houseplant before, don’t let the technical term deter you. Propagation—the process of growing new plants from the roots, stems, or leaves of a mother plant—comes easy with a little know-how. Once you’ve got it down, it’s a plant-palooza! You can clone your favorite greenery, grow descendents of a botanical heirloom, or just nurture extra plants to swap or gift your friends.
There’s a variety of ways to create plant babies from cuttings. So, to help you dive in, here are the materials and steps needed for the 3 most common methods, along with some of the indoor plants that work best for each style.
Know When to Propagate Your Plants
All methods of houseplant propagation involve a little bit of art, science, and luck. You can give your plants a refresh any time of year, but to up the chances for success, start the project in spring or summer, when the mother plant (the one you’re going to clone) is actively growing.
Prepare to Propagate Your Plants
While easy enough to do, the propagation process includes moving around a lot of soil. Find a spot where you can get a little messy, and then gather these materials:
- Mother plant
- A sharp, clean pair of pruning shears or scissors
- Small starter pots (with drainage holes)
- Miracle-Gro® Indoor Potting Mix
- Watering can with water
- Rooting hormone
- Clean glass vessel (water propagation only)
- Oven bag or portable humidifier (soil propagation only)
- A chef’s knife (division only)
- Miracle-Gro® Indoor Plant Food
Choose Your Propagation Style
Which method of propagation you choose—leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, or division—depends on the type of houseplant you have, and its preferences. Each style has about the same amount of steps, and growing a new set of roots is a slow-ish process whether in water or soil. But, keeping tabs on root development is part of the fun!
1. Stem Cuttings in Water
For a stem cutting, you remove a vigorous stem from a mother plant and help it grow new roots in water. This method is as fascinating as it is functional—you can watch the roots grow right inside the glass vessel!
Rooting plants in water works best on natively tropical varieties, like pothos, philodendron, monstera, and fiddle leaf fig. Here’s how to do it.
1. Using your sharp shears, cut a 3- to 4-inch piece of stem just below the point where a leaf attaches to it (also known as a node).
2. Gently remove leaves from the lower part of the stem, because this plant pool party is stems only—any leaves sitting in water will rot.
3. Fill your vessel with filtered water. Be sure to change the water out every few days, while the roots develop over the next 2 to 4 weeks, until the roots grow 1 to 2 inches long.
4. Now you need to transplant your cutting. This is a key moment, taking the plant from life in water to one in soil. Fill a small pot two-thirds full with Miracle-Gro® Indoor Potting Mix. The nutrients and lightweight texture will help your plant adjust nicely. Make sure the roots are 1 inch below the rim, add potting mix around it, and gently press down.
5. Water thoroughly, until you see it run out of the bottom of the pot. Put it back in the light, and give yourself a pat on the back: You’ve got a new houseplant!
2. Leaf Cuttings in Potting Soil
In the way stem cuttings use stems, leaf cuttings use—you guessed it—a plant’s leaf to grow new roots. Try to root a few leaves at once, since not all of them may take.
Houseplants with soft, fleshy foliage, like African violet, snake plant, peperomia, and succulents can be easily propagated this way. Here are the steps.
1. Using sharp scissors, cut a leaf from your plant about a one-half to one inch down its stalk (also called a petiole). If it’s a leaf without a petiole, like a snake plant, cut it into 2-inch pieces, keeping track of which side is the “bottom” (the part that was closer to the base of the plant) as you lay them down.
2. Fill a pot with Miracle-Gro® Indoor Potting Mix—the lightweight texture will help roots spread out once they form. Then, dip the bottom of each leaf into a rooting hormone to encourage growth, and anchor it into the soil so that it’s standing up vertically. You can put all of the leaves in one container.
3. Because your cuttings don’t have roots, they can dry out quickly. Keep them hydrated via humidity. Lightly water the soil now, and then keep the container near a portable humidifier or place it in an oven bag and seal it shut with twist-ties or a knot. If you use plastic, don’t place the cuttings in direct sunlight, as they can overheat.
4. In a few months, you should see new plantlets forming around the base of each cutting. That means they’re ready for their permanent homes! Gently transplant each newbie with roots into its own pot (minus the original cutting, which you can add to your compost), and then continue to care for it like you did the mother plant.
Indoor plants that produce stems at their base can be propagated by division. This simply means splitting the plant in half or thirds to create 1 or 2 more plants.
Use this method and the steps below for your ZZ, bromeliads, peace lilies, and ferns.
1. Remove your houseplant from its container and place it on a covered surface (or the ground, if you’re outside).
2. Gently pull the plant apart, separating it into smaller pieces with your hands or a chef’s knife.
3. Make sure each new section has some roots in it.
4. Fill the new pot(s) two-thirds full with Miracle-Gro® Indoor Potting Mix. The nutrient-dense formula will help give each new plant a boost as it expands into its new space.
5. Place each piece into its own pot and fill in the potting mix around it so the soil level is 1 inch below the rim.
6. Water well, place it in bright, indirect light, and look after it (and the mother plant, of course!) just like you did before.
Maintain Your Newbies
Check in on your plant babies often to make sure they’re not showing signs of transplant shock (yellowing or wilting leaves are the main indicators). Some plants just aren’t stoked on change, and fair enough. If the leaves on your new guy are looking a little sad, keep the soil moist and trim back some of the foliage (if there’s already growth) so your plant can focus its energy on growing roots instead of leaves. A month after they’re in their new homes you can begin giving your new houseplants a weekly serving of Miracle-Gro® Indoor Plant Food, according to the label instructions. The regular pick-me-up will help keep them strong and perky.
Once you master these methods, you’ll be on your way to houseplant heaven. If your house starts looking more like a nursery, share your new plant buddies with friends, find a local shelter that would like some new indoor greenery, or participate in plant swaps with other propagation enthusiasts. Sharing is caring!