Deb Babcock: Propagating your houseplants is easy
February 14, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Some of my favorite houseplants are ones from friends who gave me pieces of stem and leaf from plants in their own homes. Propagating houseplants is easy to do and a great way to increase your houseplant collection or make gifts for friends.
One way to propagate houseplants is by placing a piece of stem and leaf in water or potting mixture to root. Ideally, you'll want to root a 2- to 4-inch piece of stem with four or five leaves on it. Make your cut just below the point where the leaves are attached. Remove the lowest set of leaves and insert the cutting into moist rooting mixture. This method does not harm the parent plant and is a quick way to propagate new plants. You might want to place several cuttings into the pot so you have more growing sections and fill the pot more quickly. Covering the pot with a plastic bag and setting it in good, indirect sunlight will help speed root development.
Other ways to propagate are through division, main-stem cuttings and air layering. These methods destroy the parent plant. Houseplant seed is yet another option, though it is difficult to find and does not store well.
Thick-leafed plants such as African violets, some begonias and succulents can be propagated by taking a leaf and laying it on the surface of the rooting medium. Cut the veins in several places and place small weights on the leaf to hold it in contact with the soil. New plants will form at the location of the cut veins, which can then be repotted.
Plants with cane-like stems can be propagated by cutting the stem into sections of 1 inch to several inches, making sure that at least one node is on each section. Lay the segments horizontally atop the rooting medium or upright with half the section in the soil. New roots will form, and a shoot will grow from the uppermost bud.
Any plant that produces underground stems or a crown without a long, above-ground stem can be divided. This is best done in late winter or early summer, when the plant comes out of a period of inactivity. Keep as much of the root system intact as possible and replant in a new pot at the same level as it was growing.
Air-layering is a propagation technique generally used on overgrown plants whose only attractive foliage is at the end of a stem. Weeping fig, Norfolk Island pine, dumbcane and tree philodendrons can be air-layered. To do this, the stem should be girdled at least one-third of an inch entirely around the stem. Cut a diagonal slice halfway through the stem and hold it open with a small stick. Dust rooting hormone in the slice, place a moist ball of sphagnum peat moss around the wounded area and wrap in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Keep moist. After two to four months, roots will appear on a new plantlet, which can be removed below the root ball and repotted.
Deb Babcock is a master gardener through the Routt County Extension Office. If you have questions, call the Extension office at 970-879-0825.