How to: Propagate Plants in Water
After getting over the crippling fear of cutting and pruning your plants, you can prepare for propagation. And, let me tell you, propagation is really fun. There is something incredibly satisfying about watching a baby plant row up to be a mature, strong plant. Too bad there isn’t an experience that like with humans.
The internet is riddled with ways to propagate plants, but an easy way is rooting cuttings in water. The rooting plants in water method is pretty foolproof, and all you need is a glass jar (which many people have) and water (which people should have) so propagating this way is basically free. And you get to watch those little roots develop! It’s a fun time. Plus, I love feeling like a mad botanical scientist with glass jars everywhere. Weird, but true.
When to Propagate Plants
When is the right time to propagate your plants? There really isn’t a clear answer as the maturity and heath level of said plant plays a big part in the decision. Since when to propagate is tricky, it’s becomes a question of why you should propagate.
I usually want to do one of the following:
-Have the plant retain a certain shape for aesthetic reasons – such as shaping a Monstera
-Keep its growth under control – such as pruning Pothos to stay bushy and not stringy
-No reason, I just want to
If a plant is growing too prolifically, it should be pruned, and if it’s a healthy plant, that’s a good sign you can propagate it.
Here’s an example with Monsteras: I’m asked often if you can attempt to propagate a young monstera with one stem and a handful of leaves like this:
I often say no. Why? This is much too young. You would basically be chopping off the only growth the plant has which can be fatal as it is still immature in its toddler years. Even if there is a node like this, you should still give the plant time to grow.
Don’t get desperate. You want to be mindful and choose a larger (preferably mature) plan with multiple leaves and stems. This allows the best chance for healthy root growth (see below) and a successful propagation.
Now, like anything in gardening and in life, sometimes bad things happen. Yes, I’ve had some monstera root rot and a few Pothos dry out, but most of the time with proper care and precaution, propagation problems can be eliminated. 95% of the time my cuttings have grown up healthy and plump (in a good way).
How to Root Plants in Water
Tools for Propagation
Before you create a bunch of plant babies, prepare your tools. I suggest preparing a clean workspace and grabbing these items before you cut anything:
- A sterilized knife or snippy scissors
- The plant you are about to chop up
- A glass jar or vessel for said plant cutting
- Clean filtered water
- Optional: marble or aquatic rocks
Easy Plants that Root in Water
While there are thousands of eligible plants you can root in water, here are a common bunch that are easy to start with:
-Aroids such as Monstera, Philodendron
These plants are easily propagated by cutting a piece of them and pacing it in water to root. The roots then take an average of 1-3 months to develop, depending on the plant.
How to Propagate Plants
These plants need to have a chunk cut from the mother plant and must include a node or root in order to propagate.
- Find a stem with a few leaves and a little node.
This node will turn into roots. Sometimes this node is not visible as a nub, but as a little root band (like on Tradescantia, or Peperomia, below).
- Place the cutting in your jar.
Fill with filtered water so the node is fully submerged, usually about 1/2-3/4, but leaves are free and above water. I put some rocks in the bottom, too.
- Put in a warm, bright location.
Avoid direct sunlight. Change water every few days. The average time to start seeing root develop is a month or so.
- Time to plant?
I like to keep my plants in water longer than they need to be, sometimes 6+ months, to make sure it has solid growth. Once there are solid roots, plant in high quality soil.
Some plants push out little baby plantlets that can be separated from the mother plant and placed in water to encourage root development. I like to think of it as giving them a leg-growing boost. These are the best plants to propagate this way: -Pilea peperomioides
-Peperomia argyreia (pictured above)
*Note that Spider Plants produce their plantlets on the end of their leaves. It’s weird but true. You can separate these the same way, just cut them sharply off the mother plant and plop them into your jar. There’s no need to rinse the roots (which are usually visible) since they were not birthed in soil.
- Identify the plantlet is healthy and strong.
- With a sharp knife (scissors may not work) separate the plantlet from the mother plant cleanly.
- Clean the cutting’s roots thoroughly under lukewarm water (hot or cold water can be damaging) to remove any extra soil.
- Prepare your jar and center the plantlet so the base floats in water. It’s best not to have the bottom of the plant touch the bottom of the jar.
- Wait 3-5 months and you should see solid root growth! I recommend changing the water every week.
When planting time comes, be sure to use a high quailty soil (I like Espoma) mixed with a bit of perlite (about 1/4 ratio to soil) and some stones on the bottom for drainage. Place your new plant in a bright spot out of harsh sunlight and turn regularly to keep him straight.
This is my Pilea after 5 month in water and just after planing:
And then after 4 months in soil:
Isn’t he gorgeous?
Hopefully I’ve made a somewhat daunting task of propagation easier and tear-free. Take the plunge and make some more plants! Rooting plants in water is the most forgiving method out there.
Share you propagation stories or questions below! I’m happy to help.
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