4 Ways To Propagate Any Houseplant And Create A Gorgeous Indoor Jungle

You can get tons of plants without spending a dime.

June 12, 2017
plant cuttings in water
Photograph courtesy of Darryl Cheng

We love houseplants. We love them so much that we want them vining all over our windows and filling every nook and cranny of our apartments—basically we want a jungle in our homes. The good news: that's very attainable, and actually quite inexpensive, provided you propogate even just a few of your plants properly. (Here's more on how to decorate with plants and thrift store finds.)

Our propagation vision is inspired by plant blogger Darryl Cheng, @houseplantjournal on Instagram. He cares for over 70 plants from Tillandsia air plants to his favorite massive Monstra Deliciosa, and through his photography and blogs, teaches people how to be responsible houseplant parents. If you’re ready to expand your collection, Cheng has the inside scoop on how to propagate almost everything. (Check out these 29 creative succulent planter ideas you should definitely steal).

(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)

Most houseplants fall into four main categories of propagation, and when you follow some simple instructions, you can essentially double your home jungle in a month or so under the right conditions. Of course, for a little while you’ll have to pay a little extra attention to the small jars, trays, and pots around your home that are taking root, but it won't take long to reap the gorgeous rewards. (Propogated plants also make super simple DIY gifts in a pinch!)

Here are 4 ways to get started propagating all your plants:

Related: 10 Hardy Houseplants Anyone Can Grow

Stem clipping

Most vining plants, like those in the Pothos or Philodendrons family (Philodendron silver seen above), make great candidates for this method of propagation, as one vine can make multiple plants. In addition, vining plants have the tendency to get a bit sparse near the pot, so propagation can help with the look of the plant in general, says Cheng.

Stem propagation is easy and satisfying, because during the rooting, the clipped end remains submerged in water and you can watch as the roots grow. Your windowsill will look magical. Common vining plants you might have in your home are Philodendron (Micans, Green Heart Leaf, Brazil, Brandi, Grazielae), Pothos (Jade, Devils Ivy, Silver, Golden), Tradescantia, and Maranta or Prayer Plant. 

How to do it: 

1. Using a sharp, clean knife, clip the stems or vines close to the soil
2. Cut the main vines into small sections including a leaf, stem, and part of the main vine
3. Submerge the cut ends in water and place in indirect sunlight. Cheng likes to use small laboratory flasks, which are quite adorable and stylish. After several weeks, you’ll start to see new roots.
4. It is possible to keep these cutting indefinitely in water, which is a very cool way to decorate, but if you’re looking to plant these clippings in soil, wait until the roots are at least an inch long. If re-potting, soak the soil, bury the roots, and place in indirect sunlight

Related: 8 Houseplants That Can Survive Your Neglect

Root division

Bushy plants work well when propagated by root division, says Cheng. (Snake Plant, or Sansevieria, pictured above.) Initially, the two plants will look like halves of plants but when the roots reestablish themselves, the foliage will fill in nicely. This method is a bit messier than other types of propagation, because you’re essentially repotting a few new plants, so set yourself up with some old newspaper or outside in the grass.

It’s also a good idea to know how many new plants you want (or can fit in your room), and prep a few pots in advance. Plants around your home that will work well are ferns (Boston fern, Asparagus fern, Caterpillar fern), Peace Lilly, Snake Plant, ZZ Plant, or Oyster Plant.

How to do it: 

1. Gently remove your entire potted plant and loosen the soil away from the roots. 
2. With a clean, sharp knife, cut the root ball in half and repot
the divisions into appropriately sized pots. Some plants may naturally have separate shoots attached by only a few roots. Cut the roots and repot.
3. Care for the new plant as any newly repotted plant with bright indirect light but no direct sun and keep the soil evenly moist.

Related: 10 Houseplants You Hardly Ever Have To Water

Leaf cutting

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This is a favorite among succulent-lovers (we’re guilty), because you can get many new plants from just one stem of leaves. (Pictured above: mini succulents on a xerographica.) Before propagating, you’ll want to prep a medium sized tray with about an inch of equal parts soil and volcanic rock, or sand. (Here's more on how to propagate succulents.) We like using old baking tins or a spare water tray from a flowerpot.

Leaf cuttings love bright indirect sunlight, so be sure to create some space by a window that you can easily reach to water. Plants around your house for this method are Sedum, Crassula (Coral, Argentea, Campfire, Tetragona, Jade), Graptopetalum, Echeveria (Glauca, colorata, setosa), Kalanchoe, Seneco. 

How to do it:

1. Crisply remove around 10 healthy leaves. Some will inevitably die, so it’s a good idea to take a bunch, but be sure to leave enough so the original plant can still photosynthesize.
2. Place your leaves with the clipped side up in the tray and allow them to scab over for about two to three days.
3. Turn the scabbed side into the moist soil. Soak the tray about every two weeks or whenever the soil goes completely dry. In a month or so, you will notice a new plant develop from the base of the old leaf

Related: 5 Houseplants That Thrive In Dark Rooms

Trimming offshoots

A post shared by Darryl Cheng ~ (@houseplantjournal) on

Some plants are kind enough to propagate for us, like bromeliads (Pictured above: Sansevieria, or Snake Plant) . Bromeliads sprout off shoots or ‘throw pups’ that are easy to remove. A rule of thumb is to let the pup grow at least three inches before removing, so it has a good chance of surviving on its own. Replant the offshoot in a pot of its own without rooting in water.

Tough spider plants have been known to love this step and look great doing it. They’re also virtually indestructible—so a great plant to start with. Other good plants for this method are Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea), Bromeliads, Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema), Dieffenbachias, and Snake Plant.

Related: Choose The Best Plant For Every Room In Your House

How to do it:

1. Locate the pup ready to be removed and trace it back to the parent plant
2. With clean, sharp clippers or scissors cut the pup as close to the parent plant as possible. A few leaves may fall away, and that’s totally okay.
3. Repot your new plant in appropriate soil and place in indirect, bright light. The parent plant will continue to grow and may throw more pups.