Yard and Garden: Propagating houseplants

Many common houseplants can be propagated from stem and leaf cuttings. (Photo credit: Iowa State University)

AMES — When houseplants get too big or need more plants, many can be vegetatively propagated. Vegetative propagation is the growing of new plants from vegetative parts such as leaves and stems. . Many species are easily propagated at home using techniques such as stem and leaf cuttings. In this article, extension and outreach gardeners at Iowa State University offer tips for propagating your favorite houseplants.

Q. How do Pothos, English Ivy and Heartleaf Philodendrons propagate?

Many houseplants, such as pothos (Epipremnum aureum), English ivy (Hedera helix) and heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum), are best propagated using stem cuttings. Stem cuttings are produced to produce new plants using the tip or part of the stem with leaves and buds attached. New roots form from shoots at the bottom of the stem.

To take stem cuttings, cut a 3- to 6-inch long stem that has at least two nodes (a node is where the buds and leaves form on the stem). Remove lower leaves and flowers and berries (if present). Although not always necessary, treating the cut with a rooting hormone can help the stem section root faster. Affix the cuttings to pre-moistened media (perlite, coarse sand, or vermiculite) with at least one node and no leaves buried in the media. Tighten the rooting medium around each cutting to keep it upright.

Once all the cuttings have been inserted, water the rooting medium well and place the cuttings in bright, indirect light and high humidity. Plastic domes or bags are a good way to increase humidity. Water the perlite regularly over the next few weeks to keep the rooting material moist. Most houseplant stem cuttings will form roots in 3 to 6 weeks. When the roots are at least an inch long, plant the cuttings in a well-draining potting mix.

Q. How do I propagate African violets?

African violets (Saintpaulia ionantha) are propagated by cuttings. Select firm, healthy leaves and cut them off with a sharp knife. Leave 1 to 1½ inches of the leaf stem (petiole) attached to the leaf blade. Fill the pot with coarse sand, vermiculite, or a 50:50 mixture of perlite and sphagnum moss. Moisten the rooting medium and insert the petiole of each leaf into the rooting medium at a 45 degree angle. Compact the rooting medium around the petiole of each leaf cut. Once all the cuttings have been inserted, water the rooting medium and let it drain for a few minutes.

Then cover the cut with a clear plastic bag. Secure the plastic bag to the pan with tape or rubber bands. A closed environment will greatly reduce water loss from the cuttings and prevent them from withering or dying before rooting. Roots usually form in 3-4 weeks. New plant leaves usually appear in 6 to 8 weeks. Several plants are usually formed at the base of each petiole. Separate the plant by carefully pulling or cutting it off. Plant the plants individually in containers using a well-drained potting mix.

Q. How do I breed a snake plant or my mother-in-law’s tongue?

The snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue (Dracaena trifasciata, also known as Sansevieria trifasciata) can be propagated by cuttings of leafy parts. Remove leaves and cut into 3 to 4 inch tall sections. For each section, the area closest to the base of the parent plant is the bottom and the area farthest is the top.

Cut the top of the cut at an upper slant or notch so that the leaf section will not root upside down so it is easy to remember which end is up. Dip the bottom end of each section in rooting hormone , insert 1 to 2 inches deep into moist rooting medium (perlite, coarse sand, or vermiculite). Keep the rooting medium moist with regular watering. New roots form in 3-5 weeks and shoots appear in about 2 months.

Q. Can I plant houseplants in a glass of water?

Many stem and leaf cuttings will root easily in a glass of water. Many types of houseplants take root easily in water, but the roots that form are coarser and less suitable for growing in regular potting soil. soil often shows signs of stress such as wilting, leaf drop, leaf browning and dead tips. Helps propagules recover after planting.

If using water, change the water often (1-2 times per week) and do not lower the water level or expose the developing roots to air. When the roots reach about an inch long, transplant the cuttings into potting soil.

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