Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
What You Need:
- Scissors or pruning shears
- Fresh potting soil
- One or multiple new containers or pots
- Peat moss
- Optional: rooting powder
But, since I tried plant propagation for the first time, I’ve learned to grow and revive plants with ease and confidence. If you’re a beginner or looking to level up your plant collection for the summer, you’ll want to give propagating a shot.
So, what does the word propagate mean? If you haven’t heard the term before, don’t worry. It’s the process of growing new plants by using the ones you already own (did someone say free plants?). It’s cost-effective and sustainable by nature—instead of buying all new plants (the cost of which adds up), you can multiply the ones you already have at home.
Propagated plants can even produce buds that bloom seasons ahead in comparison to a brand new store-bought plant.
The simplest propagation method: cutting
Arguably the most popular way to propagate plants is by cutting leaves or stems from an existing plant. “The cutting method is the most preferred by homeowners as it's simple and easy,” says Gena Lorainne, gardening expert at Fantastic Services.
This method entails cutting snippets from old plants and letting them grow in water until their roots have started to sprout. Once they’ve established some roots, they’ll be ready to pot as a brand new plant.
What plants can you propagate?
If you’re wondering what plants can be propagated, know that your options are seemingly endless. You can regenerate indoor and outdoor plants, flowers, herbs, ready-to-eat vegetables, and so much more.
Some of the most popular houseplants to propagate include pothos, spider plants, dumb cane, and snake plants. Additionally, cactus plants and succulents like aloe can be propagated in both water and a dry mixture, even if they aren’t keen on heavy watering.
Fun fact: You can even propagate avocado pits to become avocado trees (that is if you have the patience to wait about 12 years for fresh avocados).
How to propagate a plant
1. Take stem, leaf, or root cuttings
Before you start, make sure you have a healthy parent plant that will stand strong even if you take off a few clippings, Lorainne says. Snip off 4 to 6 inches of a mature vine, preferably with one or two nodes sprouting out. You can also take root cuttings and leaf cuttings as well, Lorainne tells us.
When propagating succulents, you can cut off a snippet from the stem, or snip off a small leaf if your succulent is on the stout side. For both the stem and the leaves, let the open cut dry and “scab” over for a few days before adding it to water or a dry mixture.
2. Add to water or a peat moss/perlite mixture
You can grow your new root, leaf, or stem cuttings in one of two ways: using water or using a dry matter mixture. Although there is no right or wrong method, we recommend experimenting with both on your own to see which one your plants are most responsive to.
Propagating plants in water is nearly fool-proof. Place your plant cutting into a small, clear glass filled with rain or filtered water and watch as it forms roots over time.
Basic herbs like basil and mint, along with small vegetables like green onion, celery, and romaine lettuce, can easily be propagated through taking cuttings from produce you buy at the store. For vegetables with unexposed roots, you’ll have to slice off a thin layer at the base before adding it to your water or dry mixture.
A huge benefit to herb and vegetable propagation is that they will grow on their own in water for a long time. That means you don’t actually have to transfer them to a pot with soil right away if you don’t want to. I keep a mason jar full of water to grow green onions right by my kitchen window—within a few days, I can cut and use them. No soil needed!
As far as dry propagation is concerned, Lorainne recommends going for a soil-free mixture, as she says normal soil can be too rich for tender roots. “Simply combine one part peat moss with one part perlite. Wait until the root is established and transfer to normal potting soil,” says Lorainne.
3. Monitor and care for your plant cutting
After a few days, check on your cutting to see how it’s holding up. If it isn’t starting to show signs of root sprouting, you may want to adjust your environment.
For example, cuttings shouldn’t be exposed to direct sunlight, which is a little too harsh. So, move your plant to an area with diffused or indirect light during this growth period.
During propagation, your cuttings are sensitive and require more humidity than your original plant. If its growth is stunted, try using a plant mister whenever the cutting looks dry to give it some extra moisture.
If your cutting still struggles, Lorainne recommends using powdered rooting hormone to boost root growth.
4. If necessary, transfer to a pot
Once the roots have grown out at least one inch long, your cutting is ready to transfer to a new pot or jar. Place fresh soil of your choice into a planter, making room for the cutting and its roots. Carefully transfer the cutting, covering the roots up and compacting it tightly.
As mentioned before, you can leave smaller vegetables, herbs, or indoor plants in a container of water for an extended amount of time. But over a few weeks, it will eventually decay in quality since water won’t provide all the necessary nutrients that soil will.
Take propagation to the next level
While cutting plants for propagation is the simplest method, it isn’t the only method. If you’re ready to take on something that requires a little more expertise, try budding and grafting.
Lorainne says these techniques are used to combine two plants to create one new variety that can properly root itself. Dwarf fruit trees are commonly grafted and produced, considering they produce full-size fruits at a compact size that’s more friendly for the indoor space.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.