Want to create a garden oasis on a budget? Keen to give your green thumb a fresh challenge? Have some plants you adore and want more of?
You no doubt know the name, but let us properly introduce you to plant propagation: the process of growing new plants from existing ones using various techniques. It’s like garden magic!
The only thing standing in the way of you becoming a plant propagation pro is the right tools and know-how—and Jack’s got your back.
Just note that propagation does require patience. It’s not as quick as a plant grab at the garden centre. It’s also a skill that may take a few tries to master. But persevere; it’s definitely worth it.
So, what exactly is plant propagation?
Plant propagation is essentially a single plant making its own identical twin. No funny nature business required!
There are a few propagation methods, including propagation from plant cuttings and leaves, dividing plants and layering (aka growing from runners).
Of course, plants can be grown from seed in soil. But seed germination isn’t always possible. For example, seeds may not be visible, or certain plants may not produce seeds cause of how they were cultivated or reproduced.
Some garden plants that are easy for seed propagation include sunflowers, cosmos, heirloom vegies (such as tomatoes), sweet peas and billy buttons.
Propagating with cuttings and leaves is the best method for beginners—and easy pickings. Many popular indoor and outdoor plants are ideal (keep reading for some examples!).
Depending on the species, cuttings can be propagated in special soil or water or propagated in water before being transferred to soil.
What you need to get started
Before you get picking and cutting, here are a few essentials you’ll need:
- A sharp pair of secateurs, scissors or a sharp knife
- Disinfectant to clean your tools
- Water and/or sterile potting/propagating mix
- Rooting hormone or eco-friendly honey
- Pots (for soil) or propagation vases (for water)
Both water propagation and soil propagation have their pros and cons. Water lets you easily see when the roots begin to sprout and is neater and cleaner. But it does come with challenges, for example, maintaining water quality.
Soil, on the other hand, is where most plants naturally grow, so the conditions for growth are rosy, and you don’t send plantlings into shock when transplanted. But soil is messy, and it’s harder to see the root growth.
The growing medium you choose ultimately depends on your chosen plant (a bit of research is needed here!) and your personal preference.
Clipping the perfect cuttings
Now you know what propagating involves, the next step is figuring out which of your beloved plants, flowers and shrubs are suitable for propagation.
Your biggest clue is nodes. These are the little bumps along the stems and the site of a lot of cellular activity. This is where the new roots shoot from once they’re H2O activated.
All plants have something that acts like a node, but nodes aren’t always on the stem. Some plants don’t even have stems. Vining plants, like Swiss cheese (Monstera), are ideal as the stem nodes are highly visible.
Where you cut is up to you. Just ensure you have at least one node (ideally 2-3) on the cutting and cut 1-2 centimetres away from them. Cut smoothly and at an angle so there’s more surface to callus and form roots.
For most plants, we recommend cutting off around 10-15 cms. If cuttings are too long, they won’t root well, or it could make the plant a bit spindly.
If you have multiple nodes on your length, you can cut separate segments to make separate plants. The more the merrier, we say!
Most cuttings do best if taken in spring to mid-summer, while stems are young, flexible, and in their growth phase. Just ensure the plants you hope to propagate are healthy and disease-free. A healthy plant will be more likely to propagate and produce healthy babies.
If a plant has no stem, you can propagate straight from a single leaf. This includes lots of lovely succulents, such as Jade plants and jelly bean plants. Make sure you cut, leaving a small piece of stalk.
How to turn your cuttings into plantlings
Once you have your cuttings from a parent plant, clean your pots or propagating vases with a bit of elbow grease and fill them with water or your sterile potting mix or propagating mix. The quicker you use them after cutting, the better.
It’s a good idea to dip the cut end in rooting hormone or delicious honey (if you prefer something natural) to encourage growth.
If you’re using soil (potting mix), make a hole using a stick or your finger, and insert the snipped end of your cutting into the hole, ensuring at least one node is buried. Now pat down the soil to make it stable and give it a good watering.
If you’re using water, place the cutting into your filled container, ensuring at least one node is submerged and no leaves are underwater. You can place lots of cuttings in one container if you like.
To propagate plants from a single leaf is trickier and may be harder to see wins. Like cuttings, you can dip the end in rooting hormone or honey. You can then place them in your soil or water.
Tips for propagation success
Once your cuttings or leaves have been planted or submerged in aqua, you need to make sure you give them the ideal conditions for root growth.
Here are some top growing tips:
- Place your cuttings in bright indirect light – don’t put them in direct sunlight
- Water regularly (soil) or change the water weekly
- Create a humid environment – use plastic bags to cover them if needed
- Keep them away from pets and small hands
It’s easy to figure out when water-propagated plants have been successful, as you’ll be able to see the small roots form. Just wait until you see multiple visible roots roughly 7-10 cms long before transplanting them. Or simply leave them in propagation vases for a stylish display.
For soil-propagated clippings, give them a gentle tug. When they feel stubborn, this means the root system has sprouted enough and is ready for re-planting into larger pots or your garden beds.
To give you a guide, clippings usually take a few weeks (3-4) to grow their own roots and become rooting plants. Remember, patience is key!
Plants that love to be propagated
To help you on your propagation journey, here’s a list of the easiest and most popular plants that are great for getting started:
- Jade plant (Crassula ovata or money, lucky or friendship plant)
- Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)
- Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
- Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
- Happy plant (Dracaena fragrans)
- Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa)
- Geraniums (Pelargonium)
- Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
- Fuchsias (Fuchsia magellanica)
- Lavender (Lavandula)
- Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)
Let the propagation begin!
Plant propagation is like discovering a hidden gardening superpower.
With a little patience, the right tools, and a touch of green love, you can multiply your existing plants to expand your outdoor or indoor oasis on a budget. You can even gift your self-reproduced pretties to friends, family and neighbours.
Are you ready to turn a few plants into many plants?
On your way to becoming a propagation pro? Why not share your images on socials, tagging @meetdiyjack?
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