Propagating Houseplants by Cuttings

close up of a succulent in Reiman Gardens tropical plant conservatory

Many houseplants such as coleus and begonia can be propagated by stem cuttings. This process is easy – just follow these steps below:

  • Start with a moistened, well-drained potting soil. Sand or perlite works well too. While some plants will root in water, others will rot. Roots that develop in soil, sand, or perlite are better than those formed in glasses of water.
  • Consider rooting hormones. Some plants, like coleus, root easily with no rooting hormone. Others, such as citrus, will require it to be successful. Nearly all plants will benefit from a rooting hormone.
  • Cut a stem piece between 4 and 6 inches long. Bigger is not always better. If it is too large the cutting may not root well or become lanky.
  • Make the cut just below a node (the spot where the leaf attaches to the stem). This is where most new roots will first emerge.
  • Remove leaves from the lower half. Leave three or so leaves on top.
  • Remove any flowers or fruit. They will put more stress on the cutting and slow the process down.
  • Dip the cutting into the rooting hormone. Never insert the cutting directly into your clean container of hormone. Always dump out what you need into another container and discard any unused portion.
  • Using a pencil or another item, create a hole in the soil and insert the cutting. Be sure that hole is slightly larger than the stem diameter so the rooting hormone is not wiped off by the soil as its inserted.
  • Firm the soil around the cutting and water sparingly. If conditions stay too wet, the stem will rot before it roots. If conditions are too dry, the cutting will dry out before it roots.
  • Maintain very high humidity around the cutting. Use a plastic bag, bell jar, or cloche to keep it humid. Be sure the bag does not touch the cuttings. Inflate the bag with air or use sticks or other support to keep the wet bag off the leaves.
  • Check regularly and add moisture if needed. A very light tug on the stem will tell you if the plants are rooted or not. Easy to root species will root in weeks. More difficult species will take months. As long as the plant is green, things are moving along fine.

Houseplants easily started by cuttings are listed below. Follow these steps for the species in this list, and you could have dozens of healthy plants just in time for spring!

  • Coleus (Solenostemon)
  • Begonia (Begonia)
  • Impatiens (Impatiens)
  • Geranium (Pelargonium)
  • Jade Plant (Crassula)
  • African Violet (Saintpaulia)
  • Philodendron (Philodendron)
  • Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus)
  • Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea)
  • Pothos (Epipreremnum)
  • Wandering Jew (Tradescantia)
  • English Ivy (Hedera)
  • Mint (Mentha)
  • Salvia (Salvia)
  • Dracaena (Dracaena)
  • Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera)

Prepared by Aaron Steil, Assistant Director

Photo caption: Crassula ovata ‘Hobbit’