Lizzi Brosseau holds the root ball of a Moonshine snake plant, just prior to propagation at Freckle Farm in Hyde Park, UT.
By Lizzi Brosseau
Propagation Explanation Coming Your Way!
Propagating indoor plants is a great way to share a beloved plant baby with a beloved human. Anyone can propagate an indoor plant—no horticulture degree or master gardener certificate required. With the help of Lisa Gramse, store manager at Freckle Farm in Hyde Park, Utah we here at Modern Gardener are here to show you how.
In this post we’ll explain three of the most common types of propagation, with three common varieties of indoor plants. If you’re a visual learner, you can also check out our video below.
Video: Indoor Plant Propagation with Freckle Farm
What is Propagation, and Why is it So Popular?
Propagation is defined as a verb, “to cause to continue, or increase, by sexual or asexual reproduction.” Sexual reproduction in plants is generally caused by pollination, followed by the dispersal and germination of seeds. If you garden outdoors or have started plants indoors, then you’ve had a hand in sexual reproduction for your plants.
The type of propagation we’re talking about here is asexual, or “vegetative” reproduction, which means that a plant is being reproduced from a part of itself. Basically, you’re taking pieces of a mother plant and putting them into soil or water to make plant babies.
Spider plant pups, often called “spiderettes” after a week of rooting post-propagation.
Propagation has become a popular DIY activity because propagated plant babies can help fill your home with more of the plants you love most, and they also make great gifts! If it’s the thought that counts when it comes to gift giving, imagine sharing a plant that you’ve already put a lot of time, thought and love into keeping alive, and then sharing that time and effort. That’s why propagating indoor plants is so popular these days—you’re creating and spreading plant love all over your home, and the homes of those you love!
Lizzi Brosseau and Lisa Grames cover a newly transplanted pothos stem cutting in a plastic bag to create an ideal environment for root growth.
How to Propagate: Three Plants Propagated Three Ways
When we first approached Lisa Gramse at Freckle Farm to help us learn about indoor plant propagation, she said the best way to introduce us to propagation is by learning the three most common methods, by using the three most common plants used in propagation. Those methods and plants are...
Propagation by division, most often used for snake plants.
Propagation by stem cutting, most often used for pothos.
Propagation by plantlets, most often used for spider plants.
So let’s take a quick look at each of these methods.
Snake plant pups ready for repotting, after being separated from the mother plant.
Propagation by Division: Snake Plant
Propagation by division means that you are dividing the roots of the plant. Snake plants make great plant babies through this method because of their habit of growing roots and stems into easy to pull apart clumps. They are a popular plant to propagate because they are attractive and one of the easiest indoor plants to maintain.
Here are the steps to propagate your snake plant:">
When your snake plant’s leaves are about 2-3 inches, you can begin propagating. First, remove your entire plant from its container.
Holding the root ball, look for groups of leaves that can be separated from other groups. You’re looking for the smaller clumps of leaves, called “pups” or “suckers” which have grown off of the mother plant.
After you’ve identified the groups of leaves in your plant, start to gently separate them. You’ll do this by snapping or cutting the larger white root, called a rhizome. The smaller roots are aerial roots, and you’ll want to be gentle with them as well.
You can lay out your snake plant pups on the ground or a table to see how many and what size pups you’ve separated. This will help you know how many you can place into the container you’d like to repot them in.
Lisa recommended keeping your pups snug in their new pot. If your pup has more than two inches of space between its roots and the edges of the pot, consider adding another pup to the pot.
Add moistened soil to the pot, keeping the base or crown level of the pups level with the top of the pot so that water doesn’t run off or pool near the leaves. Pat the soil down firmly around the pup to secure the plant upright in it’s new home!
A pothos stem cutting rooted in water, and in soil.
Propagation by Stem Cutting: Pothos
Pothos and snake plants are popular among plant lovers for similar reasons—they both come in many attractive varieties and are nearly impossible to kill. Pothos are most often propagated through cutting their vining stems, and placing the cuttings into either soil or water. It’s common to see pothos cuttings rooted in water, but Lisa says that she’s often seen pothos plant babies shocked when they are transplanted from water to soil. If possible, she recommends rooting them directly into soil.
Here are the steps to propagate your pothos:
Cut off a long vine from your pothos, with at least 9 leaves. This can be a good opportunity to trim your plant back to it’s pot, to keep the plant looking full in it’s pot.
Take your vine and cut it into at least 3 sections, where each section has at least 3 leaves.
With your new section that has three leaves, cut off two of the leaves, leaving one that will remain above the soil or water line in it’s new container.
You’ll notice that behind the place where the leaves used to be, that there are nodes. These nodes will initiate root growth when they are buried in soil or water, and having two of them will make it more likely that your plant with thrive.
Submerge the two lower nodes on the stem into potting soil.
In your pot filled with moist soil, add at least two other stems, being sure that the two nodes are covered, and that the leaves are above the soil. This trick will help your plant fill the pot better than one stem cutting will!
Firm soil around the stem cuttings, to keep them standing upright.
A trick to encourage root growth in stem cutting propagation is to cover the newly transplanted stem cuttings with a produce bag for up to a week. Be sure to keep the plant in an area with bright, indirect sunlight and to keep the soil moist. This will imitate a greenhouse effect that will help the young plant grow strong roots.
Four “spiderettes” propagated into their new container.
Propagation by Plantlets: Spider Plant
Spider plants are a really fun indoor plant, because it sends off long stems that grow “spiderettes” or “pups” which when grown in a hanging pot create a jungle aesthetic. These spiderettes are actually baby spider plants that when they come into contact with soil, will begin growing roots and start growing into a new plant!
Because of this, spider plants are very easy to propagate, and here’s how we learned to do it:
Cut off a long stem from the spider plant that has at least 4 spiderettes growing on it. Cut the stem off at the base of the plant.
Take a close look at the spiderettes on your stem. You may notice that the spiderettes that are nearer the end of the stem are already starting to grow roots, while the spiderettes that are on the other end still have relatively undeveloped nodes. Spiderettes that are starting to grow roots are ready to propagate, so snip the stem on either side of the spiderette.
When you have at least 3 spiderettes, rest them on top of moist soil in your new pot. You can nestle them into the soil a bit, but they will start to grow roots if they are just sitting on top of the soil.
Like the pothos cutting, you can also cover your newly transplanted spiderettes with a produce bag for up to a week, to create a greenhouse effect that will encourage root growth. Keep the soil moist and the container in a indirect but brightly lit area of your house.
Share the Plant Love with Propagated Indoor Plants
Propagating indoor plants is a fun activity for individuals and families, and we hope that this quick guide to the three most common types of propagation aid you on your way to creating the lush indoor plantscape of your dreams!
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Modern Gardener Host and Author
Lizzi works for PBS Utah as a digital producer and host of Modern Gardener. Read more