University of Illinois Extension

Main Navigation

Caring for Houseplants - Houseplants - University of Illinois Extension

Vegetative Propagation of Houseplants

Cuttings

Taking cuttings is the most common method of vegetative propagation. Cuttings can be made from stems, leaves, roots, parts of leaves and thick canes. Select plant parts that are insect and disease free.

Stem Cuttings

Stem cuttings are usually taken when the plant is actively growing in spring or summer, though you can succeed during other months too. Stem cuttings usually include a portion of the stem with some leaves, and is usually 3-6 inches long. In general, each stem cutting should have a minimum of two nodes, but not more than six. A node is where the leaf emerges. Sometimes it is a bumpy or raised area.

The tip of the stem is usually selected and often gives the fastest result. However, mid or basal stem cutttings can also be used for most plants.

Make a clean stem cut and remove excess leaves, allowing 2–3 to remain. If you are propagating a flowering stem, be sure to remove any flowers or seed so that the energy can be devoted to producing roots.

Pre-moisten the rooting media and insert a pencil to make a planting hole. Remove any leaves that would be below the soil line, and insert cuttings 1-3 inches deep. (Exception: Some plants such as succulents, cacti, geranium (Pelargonium) and rubber plant (Ficus), should not be directly stuck into rooting media without first allowing the cut surface to air dry and heal over. During this waiting period, callous tissue forms on the cut end and helps prevent disease.) You may dip the stem cutting into a rooting hormone powder and then insert it into the rooting media.

Finally, gently press the rooting media around the cutting. Mist with water. To keep humidity high, place a clear plastic bag over the pot and cutting(s). Move to bright light. Do not place in direct sunlight.

How long will this take? Rooting time varies by species. Tender plants with water filled stems tend to root quickly, within a week, while others with tougher stems may take 10-14 days.

Check regularly. When roots are one inch long, it is time to plant the cuttings into their individual pots.

Cane Cuttings

Some plants such as Dieffenbachia and Dracaena can be propagated from cane cuttings. Two- or three inch cut sections of the cane can be placed vertically or horizontally in the pre-moistened rooting media. Be sure that each cane section has at least two nodes.

Vertical

Stand the cane in rooting media. New leaf clumps will form at the exposed nodes and roots will form at the buried nodes.

Horizontal

Lay the cane horizontally, making sure that half is buried in rooting media. New leaves and shoots will form at the exposed nodes while roots will form at the buried nodes.

Leaf Cuttings

Leaf cuttings consist of the leaf, or the leaf blade and petiole. This type of cutting must initiate both roots and shoots and usually takes longer to develop a mature plant than a stem cutting.

For plants with fleshy leaves such as jade, simply insert the leaf into the pre-moistened rooting media. For plants with thick and fleshy petioles such as African violets, insert the petiole into the pre-moistened media. Then cover with a clear plastic bag and move to bright, but indirect light. New plants will form at the base of the leaf or petiole. The old leaf can be cut away and discarded.

Rex Begonia and other fibrous begonias will develop young plants from their primary leaf veins. Make a cut through the major veins and lay the entire leaf on the rooting media. Use a pin to hold the leaves in place. New plants will form at the wounds.

For Sansevieria, cut the long leaf blades into 3-4 inch sections. Cutting must be properly oriented in the rooting media. To avoid a mix-up or confusion, notch the terminal edge. Then insert the cuttings, notch-end up, into the pre-moistened rooting media. When the new plant has formed, the old leaf section can be cut away and discarded.

Leaf-bud Cuttings

Leaf-bud cuttings consist of a leaf blade, petiole, and a portion of the stem containing a bud. This type of cutting is useful for plants that will not initiate shoots from a leaf cutting, and also allows many cuttings to be made from a small amount of plant material.

More Information about Vegetative Propagation of Houseplants