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How to Propagate Plants from Cuttings

A variety of potted houseplants near a window

Last week, we covered ways to get houseplants for free. You can check out those tips in that article:

How to Get Plants for Free

One of those methods is to take cuttings from existing plants, whether those plants are some you already own, plants from friends or family, or cuttings acquired through group trades.

Growing plants from cuttings is basically a shortcut to breeding more plants.

But what do you do once you have a cutting? And how exactly do you make a cutting? Is there a wrong way? Will it harm the existing plant? Will the cutting grow?

Let’s take a look at various methods for how to propagate plants from cuttings or existing plants.

What’s the difference between propagation and cloning?

A small potted plant and pruning shears

Plant propagation is sometimes referred to as plant cloning because the new plant has identical DNA to the plant it was cut from. It’s not exactly cloning in the way the term is more often used, but the result is a plant with the same makeup as its predecessor.

Method 1: Dividing a cluster

The first propagation method doesn’t technically involve cutting. You may notice that some plants grow in clusters. In this case, you can pull up the entire plant out of its pot, and separate one of the clusters right at the roots to be grown in a separate pot.

This results in more plants around your house, as well as making more room for the plants to grow rather than moving one plant to a bigger pot. Bonus: dividing a cluster can actually help the plant to thrive because it doesn’t get crowded out for nutrients.

Method 2: Snip off a leaf segment

This is the method that most people think of when we talk about propagation from existing plants, and it involves actually taking a cutting. To take a cutting, look for full, healthy tips on the ends of leaves or stems.

About four to six inches is a good length for a houseplant cutting. Make sure that the shears you use are well-sharpened to make a clean cut on the plant. You’ll want to make the cut just below one of the nodes where leaves grow on the plant.

When you cut a segment off a plant, have a container or bag with a moistened cloth or paper nearby to keep the cutting from drying out (or you can transfer the cutting directly to a jar of water). A dried-out cutting is unlikely to grow, so you need to keep it moist.

Replanting the divisions or cuttings

Once you have your cluster or segment, you only need an appropriately-sized pot or other container with moistened soil or growing media, and you can plant it as normal.

Alternately, you can put the cutting in a jar of water until the roots sprout.

Beer bottles holding pothos cuttings in front of a brick wall

Before planting, check that the cut has been made about an eighth of an inch below the last node you want to keep. This will help the plant grow roots easier. Also trim off any leaves that would be too close to the soil. You don’t want buried leaves when you plant it. Excess leaves may actually dry out your cutting and inhibit growth.

Check out The Tye-Dyed Iguana in Fairview Heights for a variety of growing media perfect for propagation!