Propagating Your Houseplants With Leaf Cuttings


Before you start with leaf cuttings, you need to follow a few simple guidelines. This article will explain those guidelines and get you acquainted with leaf cutting propagation.

Tips for Propagating Leaf Cuttings

Before you start with leaf cuttings, you need to be sure to water the plant you’re planning to cut a few times prior to starting, preferably the day before. This will make sure the leave will remain full of water and not deteriorate before roots have formed.

Before you cut the leaf, make sure it is healthy, disease- and pest-free and a good copy of the parent plant. You should use relatively young leaves for cuttings because their surface hasn’t weathered yet. The older leaves don’t root rapidly enough to start plants.

After you’ve put the leaf cuttings into compost, place the pan outside of strong, direct sunlight, otherwise, your little leaf cuttings will shrivel up. You’re better off placing them on a cool, well-shaded windowsill, which will prevent the leaf cuttings from drying up. Also, keep the compost moist during the rooting. As soon as you see roots and shoots start to develop, you can remove the plastic covering and lower the temperature of the plants.

Some plants, like the iron-cross begonia (B. masoniana) and cultivars of Cape primrose (Streptocarpus) are increased by using whole-leaf cuttings. You would first cut the stalk off of a healthy leaf close to its base. Be sure not to leave a short snag on the plant. as it could later die back. Then, stick the severed leaf upside down on a wood board and cut off the stalk close to the leaf.

Using your knife, make cuts 20 to 25 mm apart across the main and secondary veins of the leaf. Make sure you don’t cut completely through the leaf.

Take that cut leaf and place it vein-side down on equal parts of moist peat and sand. You can use some small stones to hold the cuts in contact with the compost.

Water the compost but allow the extra moisture to evaporate from the pan. Afterwards, cover the pan with a transparent lid. Place the pan in gentle warmth and light shade. The young plants will start to grow and when they are large enough to handle, you can replant them into their own pots.

The cultivars of Streptocarpus can also be increased by cutting it’s leaves into little sections. You would take a healthy leaf and place it on a board. Using your knife, cut the leaf laterally into pieces about 5 cm wide. With your knife, make 2 cm deep slits into the compost and insert the cuttings into the slits.

You can use leaf triangles as well. These are usually easier to stick into the compost than leaf squares. They also tend to be slightly larger. That gives them a greater reserve of food while they are growing their own roots, helping to sustain the cutting. Make sure you water the mother plant the day before you take a cutting so the cutting lasts long enough to root.

You will want to cut the leaf, severing it close to the plant’s base. Then you can sever it again next to the leaf. Take the leaf and lay it on a flat board. Using your knife, cut the leaf into triangles, each with its point toward the position where the stalk joined it. Fill the seed tray with equal parts moist peat and sand. Using a knife to make slits into the compost and then insert each triangle into a slit.

Finally, you can do leaf squares. You will get more cuts from one leaf with squares than you would with triangles. After you sever the healthy leaf from the plant, you can cut the stalk off and place the leaf on a board. Cut the leaf into strips about 3 cm wide each. Make sure there is a main or secondary vein running down the middle of each strip. Take each strip and cut them into squares. Each square needs to then be inserted into the compost (again, equal parts sand and moist peat) about one-third of its depth. You want to be sure to insert the squares with the side that was nearest to the leafstalk facing downwards or they won’t root.

Make a slit into the compost with your knife and insert a cutting. Pat the compost around it so it’s firmed up. You can lightly water the surface and stick the pan in gentle warmth and light shade. Cover the pan with plastic and when the cutting develop plants big enough to handle, you can transplant them into individual pots. Water the compost gently and put the plantlets into light shade until they are established well enough.

Finally, you can take the leaf squares and lay them horizontally on top of the moist peat and sand. Press them into the surface. Use hooked pieces of wire to hold them onto the surface. These, too, will root.

So you see, there are many ways to use leaf cuttings to propagate plants. Just be sure to follow the steps correctly and lay or plant the cuttings the right way, and you’ll have plants galore!


How to Propagate Houseplants

Well grown mature houseplants are relatively inexpensive to buy and generally easy to come by, so why do people go through the effort of trying to propagate them?

The main reasons are that although plants can be cheap to purchase, they're almost always cheaper to propagate. It's also very easy too.

A number of Snake Plant (Sansevieria) being propagated through leaf cuttings

When it comes to propagating there are many methods to pick from and we explore each of them below. Whether you're increasing your own stock, planning on giving them away to friends and family or wanting to start fresh with a smaller version of an "old friend", we're going to teach you step by step about creating your own houseplants.

The Basics

There are several basic rules to remember when it comes to this topic.

  • Cuttings and new plants will typically need more attention than fully grown ones.
  • Neglect - for example failure to keep the compost moist (or on the other hand, too wet) could easily end your attempt in failure.
  • Always use fresh compost (if rooting using soil) or fresh water (if rooting using water).
  • A rooting hormone is a good way to increase your chances of success but not essential.
  • Make sure your equipment is clean, this includes everything from the cutting knife down to the container your new plant will grow in.
  • Finally, never expect a 100% success rate but equally, never let failure put you off from trying again.

Remember the golden rule - Houseplants want to be Propagated. You aren't trying to force them into doing something they don't want to do (unlike attempts to push your dog outside to do its business when it's pouring with rain!) so don't be afraid to give it a go.

Soil vs. Water Rooting Method

Cuttings need roots before they'll "take" and exist by themselves, so if there are no roots at the initial stages you need to encourage the cutting to grow some. This is done either by planting up the cutting directly in potting compost (Soil method). Or in something like a small container, vase or glass with just water that you change and refresh every few weeks (Water method).

Propagating a Pilea Plant using the water method. Before and after photos

So which is better? In general, using the soil method tends to reduce the number of steps when it comes to propagation, because once rooting has occurred you just need to grow the plant on. However do remember that the cutting will need more attention to stop it from being over or underwatered. Also some propagation material just isn't suitable for the water method either so you will have to use the soil method in those instances.

If you're using the water method you'll eventually have to pot up the new cutting into soil which carries a small risk of failure as you may damage the fragile roots when transplanting. That said the water method is quick and doesn't cost anything. It's a great method if you don't always have access to a garden or compost to hand.

Neither method is fail proof however and in general we would simply advise picking the method you like the look of the most or is the most practical for you at the time. Alternatively you could take multiple cuttings and try both.

Propagation Equipment

We often get asked about special equipment that might be need for successful propagation. In the majority of cases you can honestly get by with some very basic tools. A pair of kitchen scissors (and if rooting in soil) a simple plant pot and some compost, are sometimes all the things you need.

That said, you'll often have more success if you use Rooting Hormone Powder and a Heated Propagating Mat. Both of these things encourage roots to form and at a much quicker pace than if you just let nature take it's course. They're not expensive either, as you should be able to buy both together for less than $20 / £15 quite easily.

Obviously if you're only planning to propagate one plant, it's really not going to be worth buying these things. But if you think you'll do it often, (or are a keen outdoor gardener) they're something to seriously consider as you'll get your money's worth in the long run. A propagating mat sold by Amazon that we quite like is below (just click the picture to go there).

Okay, so you've decided how you would like to root the cuttings. If you know how you're planning on gaining the new plant material then there are some quick jump page links below.

If you're not sure or this is a completely new topic for you, just scroll down the page and decided which method is most suitable for the plant you're trying to propagate. Quite often each houseplant can be propagated through a number of different methods so you usually have a fair amount of choice.


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Nevertheless, it’s definitely worth a try – especially if you revel in the process of taking care of your plants and watching them grow.

To find out more about propagation – including how to do it and which plants are the easiest to start with – we asked Patch Plant doctors Richard Hull and Richard Cheshire for their top tips. From the easiest plants to propagate to a step-by-step method, here’s what they had to say.

What is propagation?

As we’ve already mentioned, propagation is simply a method by which you can grow new plants from a cutting or part of one which is already established. However, there are a number of different ways to do this.

“There are many ways to propagate a plant such as dividing roots or taking a leaf cutting,” Hull and Cheshire explain.

“Different plants will prefer different methods.”


3 Ways to Propagate Houseplants From Leaf Cuttings

To propagate an African violet, break a leaf off from the main stem of the plant, making sure to keep the petiole (leaf stem) attached. Insert the petiole into either water or a moist potting mix. Pot up leaves that have been in water as soon as roots form.

To propagate a rex begonia, set a healthy leaf, top side up, on moist potting mix. Slice through a few of the veins with a clean knife and pin the leaf down with toothpicks so the cuts come in contact with the potting mix. Keep moist, covering the pot with a clear plastic bag to create a mini greenhouse if you like. Pot the plantlets that grow from each cut, once they have a few leaves on them.

To propagate a snake plant, cut a leaf into sections with clean pruning sheers. Make angled cuts so the bottom ends come to a point in the center. Dip bottom ends in rooting powder insert in moist potting soil. New plants will form to sides of leaf sections.


Watch the video: 8 POWERFUL HOMEMADE ROOTING HORMONES. Natural Rooting Stimulants for Gardening


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