Propagating Foliage & Flowering Plants
A good propagation medium is made up of components that provide optimum
aeration, drainage and moisture holding characteristics. These are usually
made up from combinations of peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, sand or similar
materials. The primary role of a propagation medium is to provide support and
moisture while the plant is developing. These requirements are quite different
from those of a potting medium, which may have to sustain a mature or growing
plant over a long period of time. Generally speaking, potting media are not
recommended for plant propagation purposes.
Many plants will easily root in water. However, the roots that form can be
extremely fibrous and stringy. Plants rooted in water often have a difficult
time becoming established after they are transplanted to a container.
The propagation medium should be thoroughly moistened before use. Many
organic materials, like peat moss, have a waxy outer coating that resists
wetting. Be sure to apply water slowly to obtain uniform distribution. This
may require 2-3 applications. It is not uncommon for a medium to look wet on
the surface but to be powdery dry in the middle. A well moistened media will
make it easier to stick cuttings later on.
Light is an important environmental factor in plant propagation. Generally
speaking, low light levels cause plants to root slowly. However, high light
intensities can stress cuttings, causing them to burn or drop leaves. Diffused
sunlight generally provides enough light for optimum rooting without causing
injury to the cuttings.
Since cuttings do not have roots, they cannot replace the water lost
through transpiration. Therefore it is important to maintain high humidity
around the cuttings to cut down on the amount of moisture lost to the
These conditions can be provided by placing a clear piece of plastic over
the propagation area. This causes condensation to form on the underside of the
plastic that provides the necessary humidity.
Adequate ventilation is also required to avoid disease problems. The
plastic covering should be placed such that air can flow freely around the
cuttings as they root.
For best results, maintain day temperatures at 70 degrees F. During winter
months, soil can be as much as 10-20 degrees less than air temperature, so
provide bottom heat when possible. Ideal rootzone temperatures for most plants
are approximately 70-75 degrees F.
Rooting hormones are often used to promote root formation. These materials
provide supplemental auxin, a naturally occurring plant hormone that is
responsible for root development. The basal end of the cutting is dipped into
the chemical prior to sticking it into the propagation medium. These products
come in different strengths and will vary according to the type of plant being
Stem and Section Cuttings:
There are two types of stem cuttings: tip cuttings, which include the apex
or plant tip and a small portion of the stem; and section cuttings, which
include a 2- to 3-inch section of stem (not including the apex or plant
tip> and leaf joint.
To take a tip cutting,
select a section of stem with a healthy crown of leaves at the end. Carefully
remove the lower foliage to leave a section of bare stem to insert into the
propagation media. Bottom heat, provided by a heating cable, will encourage
rooting. Generally, cuttings do best with a media temperature of approximately
75 degrees F.
Plants Propagated from Stem Cuttings:
Plants which can be propagated from stem cuttings include the following:
African Violet - tip cutting
Acalypha (Red-hot cat tail) - stem cuttings
Aglaeonema (Chinese evergreen) - tip cuttings*
Begonia - tip and stem cuttings*
Beloperone (Shrimp Plant) - tip cuttings
Brassaia actinophylla (Schefflera) tip cuttings
Christmas cactus - tip cuttings
Cissus (Grape Ivy) - tip cuttings or stem cuttings
Citrus - tip cuttings
Coleus - tip cuttings*
Crassula (Jade Plant) - tip cuttings*
Croton - tip cuttings
Cordyline terminalis - tip cuttings*
Dieffenbachia - tip cuttings*
Dracaena (Ti Plant) - stem and tip cuttings*
Ficus elastica (Rubber Plant) - tip cuttings
Ficus benjamina (Weeping Fig) - tip cuttings
Fittonia - tip cuttings
Geranium - tip cuttings*
Hedera (Ivy) - stem cuttings*
Helxine (Baby's Tears) - stem cuttings
Hoya carnosa (Was Plant) - tip cuttings
Impatiens - tip cuttings*
Maranta (Prayer Plant) - tip cuttings
Monstera - tip cuttings
Nepthitis - tip and stem
Peperomia - tip cuttings
Philodendron - tip and stem cuttings*
Pothos - tip and stem cuttings*
Pilea cadierea (Aluminum Plant) - tip cuttings*
Plectranthus (Swedish Ivy) - tip cuttings and stem cuttings*
Podocarpus - tip cuttings
Poinsettia - stem cuttings
Selaginella (Resurrection Plant) - tip cuttings
Asterisk* indicates these are particularly easy to propagate.
Rooting Plants in Water:
Some plants root so readily from stem or tip cuttings they can be started
in plain tap water. The water must be kept clean and well aerated for best
results. A bright location out of direct sunlight is best. After roots are
formed plants should be transferred to individual pots, or grouped together in
a hanging basket. The following plants are among the easiest to root in plain
African violet (Saintpaulia)
Cissus (Grape Ivy)
Cordyline terminalis (Ti Plant)
Ficus pumila (Creeping Fig)
Hedera (English Ivy)
Helxine (Baby's Tears)
Philodendron oxycardium (Heart Leaf)
Philodendron pandureaform (Fiddle Leaf)
Plectranthus (Swedish Ivy)
Syngonia (Tri-Leaf Wonder)
Tradescantia (Wandering Jew)
Zygocactus (Christmas Cactus)
Many plants with soft, fleshy foliage have developed the ability to
reproduce themselves from leaves. Considering that some plants grow hundreds
of leaves, you can appreciate the propagation potential for these species. In
addition, leaf propagation is much faster and more reliable than propagating
plants from seed.
The most widely practiced method of taking a leaf cutting is to snip off a
healthy leaf, complete with a short piece of stem. The end of the leaf cutting
is then dipped in a rooting hormone and the stalk is stuck in to a moist
propagation media. Bottom heat of about 75 degrees F should be provided if
possible. Adequate humidity levels are maintained by frequent water sprays, or
by covering the propagating tray with clear plastic.
After about two or three weeks the leaves should be well rooted with a new
plant forming at the base. It is these new plantlets which form around the
stem which are used to transplant. The old leaf can be discarded.
Plants which root most readily from leaf cuttings include African Violets
Leaf cuttings of African violets root so readily, they can simply be
suspended in a well aerated, jar of water. The suspended leaves can be
supported by simply covering the mouth of a jar with foil or paper held in
place with a rubber band. Holes are easily punched in this covering, and the
leaf stems inserted so the bottom of each leaf stalk touches the water.
Sansevieria is another
interesting plant that can be started from leaf cuttings. The leaves are long,
leathery and sword-shaped. Just select a whole leaf and then cut it into
2-inch sections starting from the tip all the way down. Remember...if cuttings
are stuck upside down they will not root.
Leaf cuttings can be literally crowded together, almost shoulder to
shoulder. This crowding will not harm them, and once the root systems have
been developed they can be separated for transplanting into individual pots.
Plants Propagated from Leaf Cuttings:
Plants which can be successfully propagated from leaf cuttings include the
Leaf Vein Cuttings:
Plants with prominent leaf veins can be propagated from leaf-vein cuttings
in two ways:
Common plants that can be propagated from leaf vein cuttings include:
- take a leaf and cut it into sections, each section with a vein. The
bottom portion of the vein can then be pressed into the propagation medium
with the leaf portion sticking up to root just like a leaf cutting. In
this manner one leaf can produce up to a dozen new plants.
- choose a large leaf and slash the veins at 1 or 2 inch intervals on the
underside of the leaf. Place the underside of the leaf in contact with the
propagation medium and weight down the leaf to keep it in contact with the
soil. New plants will spring to life at each cut in the leaf.