How To Propagate Plants for Beautiful DIY Holiday Gifts
It’s a fact: everybody loves plants and there’s a plant for everybody. Don’t believe us? Here are a few reasons why indoor plants are amazing. Whether the person you’re thinking of is a beginner or an expert, plants make amazingly thoughtful gifts. And they don’t have to be expensive.
Here’s a secret: If you have a plant yourself, you can almost always turn that plant into lots plant babies. Give these plantlets to your friends and family, and you have a thoughtful, vibrant gift on the cheap! How? You just need to learn how to propagate plants.
You don’t have to be an expert to propagate plants. Whether your thumbs are green or purple, propagating most plants is as easy as taking a clipping and following a few rules. The best part is that clipping back your plants will only make them grow new stems, and so there’s little or no risk involved for your plant friends.
Right now is the perfect time to propagate plants for holiday gifts. If you follow these steps in the next few weeks, come December your plantlets will be fully established and ready to be transferred to a new home.
So find some cute pottery, and get propagating! Or, to truly go for it and produce your plantlets en masse, try using an old nursery 6-pack left over from your veggie starts. When it gets closer to the holidays, visit your favorite nursery and find some local, handmade pots, and transplant your plant babies. If you need some inspiration, we have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to plants in great pottery.
How to Propagate Plants – Vining Tropicals
There are a number of ways to propagate tropical plants including air-layering, leaf cuttings and nodal cuttings. However, we think that the easiest method with the quickest turn-around is to root plants from step tip cuttings.
- Take cuttings. Find a healthy, growing tip on your plant. Using a sharp, clean knife, clip the stem 3-5 inches from the tip, just below a node (where a leaf meets the stem – often identified by a little brown bump or aerial root). Take 2 or 3 cuttings following this process per pot.
- Prepare the cuttings. Clip off the leaves that are just above the cut end. You’ll want to bury at least an inch of plant, with 1-3 nodes under the soil. Optional (but recommended) – Dip the cut end in a rooting hormone (or just use a solution of 1 tablespoon honey dissolved in water).
- Fill your pot with clean, fresh potting soil. Water lightly until evenly moist. Using a chopstick, dig holes for your cuttings. We usually place 3 cuttings per pot. Gently insert your cuttings into the holes, and lightly firm the soil around them.
- Depending on the species, it can take 1-3 weeks for your cuttings to develop roots. During this time, it’s important to keep humidity high around your plants, and to keep the soil evenly moist (but not drenched). Direct sunlight can be harsh for cuttings, so try to avoid this. However, warm temperatures will lead to faster rooting and higher success.
Optional – Before planting cuttings in soil, root them in water. Place your cuttings in a vessel filled with clean, room-temperature water. Ensure that the nodes stay submerged. You should notice roots developing in 1-2 weeks. When aquatic roots are 1″ long, transfer to soil using the above process. Take care not to let the roots grow too long – aquatic roots differ from those that develop in soil, and once they get too big, it will be hard for your plants to make the transition back to soil.
How to Propagate Plants – Succulents (and some Cacti)
If you’ve ever had a Jade plant, you know that succulents simply love to be propagated; they do it themselves all the time! There are two easy ways to propagate succulents; stem cuttings and leaf cuttings.
Method 1: Propagate plants with stem cuttings –
Take cuttings. Identify a few healthy stems on your plant, and take cuttings with a clean, sharp knifes. Don’t use scissors, as they may crush and damage the stem. As with the tropicals, take your cuttings just below a node (where leaves meet the stalk). For cacti, cut off new branches or pups – these root particularly readily.
Prepare and cure cuttings. Cut off leaves on the bottom half of your cuttings. Dip the cut end (and the wounds created by removing the leaves) in a rooting hormone, or honey solution as described above. Let your cuttings dry out for 3 or 4 days in a cool, dry place. This is very important, as the wet, succulent stems are particularly susceptible to rot and disease.
Fill your pots (which shouldn’t be much larger than the cuttings themselves) with a clean, well-draining cactus or succulent soil. Water the soil so that it’s evenly moist, and create holes for your cuttings using a chop stick. When the cut ends of your clippings have cured, bury them in the potting medium and gently firm the soil around the new plants.
- While it’s rooting, your succulent or cactus should be protected from direct sun, and should get plenty of airflow. Keep the soil lightly moist (a spray-bottle works great), but not drenched, to avoid rotting.
Method 2: Propagate plants with leaf cuttings –
This method takes longer, but is much easier to do in large quantities.
Select a leaf for cutting. Pick a healthy leaf near the top of your plant (or towards the outside, if your succulent grows out rather than up, as in a rosette). Cut the leaf where it meets the stem with a clean, sharp blade.
Cure the cutting with root hormone and let it dry, as described above. If the leaf starts to shrivel, you may have to plant it early.
Place your cut leaves on top of clean potting soil in a small pot, allowing the cut end of the leaf to make full contact with the soil. You can bury it slightly, and elevate the rest of the leaf with a pebble, if that’s helpful.
- Leaf cuttings take longer to develop than stem tip cuttings, but you can more easily track their progress, as you’ll see small roots and leaves develop at the cut end. Keep these cuttings lightly moist while rooting, and shield from direct sun. It can take 4-6 weeks for roots to enter the soil.
There are plenty of other methods that you can use to propagate plants, but we find that these work pretty consisently and tend to be the easiest. Your friends and family will be delighted with their new plants, and you can keep some for yourself to cultivate your indoor jungle!
Ready to dive in? Want to learn more?
We’ve got you covered. Consider the beautiful book called Root Nurture Grow to learn everything you could possibly need to know about houseplant propagation. When you’re ready to get cutting, a locally made Propagation Vase makes an ideal vessel to watch your cuttings root.
mandy smith said:
Wonderful instructions which are very helpful, but a question please…if ive accidentally left my water based cutting and the roots are now too long or climatised to water…what can i do, can it stay in a clear decorative vase, if so, how do i then feed it, and what with.. Thank you.