So you want to try your hand at growing plant babies in water? Below are some tips & tricks to get you started!
Growing plants is water is super easy, and many house plants are well suited to this. Whilst the best time of year to grow plant babies is in spring or summer, but they’ll still grow beautifully (albeit a tad slower) in autumn and winter. I like to propagate all year round!
This guide covers the following (click to skip to the relevant section)
- Cutting preparation tips
- Maintenance tips
- Where do I get a cutting?
- What will happen to the plant I take the cutting from?
- What plants can I use?
Cutting preparation tips
- Prepare your cutting using the method that works for that plant. Before you snip, jump onto google and enter the plant's name and the term propagation, as there’s a few methods depending on how the plant grows
- Take a cutting from a healthy part of the plant, and ideally newer growth
- Remove any leaves that will sit in the water, as these will rot and make your water become dirty more quickly
- Take multiple cuttings at once, as not every cutting will take (that’s nature for you)
- Tap water is fine, but you can use filtered or rain water if you so choose
- Place your cuttings in a spot that receives indirect light. A window sill is often a good place for this. Avoid leaving in a super hot room if possible, as heat will speed up the rotting process
- Rooting powder or Seasol (or other seaweed solutions) mixed into the water can speed up the root growth, but is not essential. I prefer to use plain water as I have my propagation vessels on display and don’t like the look of murky water
- Change the water in your vessels once a fortnight, or once you notice it going murky. Ensure that the water doesn’t evaporate (keep this in mind if it’s in a hot room)
- Once the roots are a few cm long, they’re ready to be transplanted into soil, and potted up as you would a regular plant i.e. in a pot that is a little bigger than the roots
- You can leave your cuttings in water for longer, however your chances of successful soil transplantation decrease as the roots become used to being in water, and will go into shock if placed in soil after a long time in water
- Many plants can live in water indefinitely. You will eventually need to upgrade the size of the vessel as the roots continue to grow. You may also want to consider adding a tiny amount of fertiliser to the water every month or two, as water does not have the nutrients that soil has (so plant growth will be limited in water)
Where do I get cuttings?
The most obvious choice is to use cuttings from either your own collection, or plants you have access to (with permission of course). Many plant owners will be more than happy to give you a cutting or two from a plant if you ask nicely.
However if you’re new to the world of plants & don’t have access to any, the best place to go is to a nursery and buy a whole plant. I recommend finding a nursery that specialises in indoor plants, and refer to the below list for some ideas of what to look for.
If shopping online is more your thing, we recommend Green Beanz who have an amazing range of plants for beginners and plant addicts alike. Many of their plants are suitable for water propagation.
Another option is to join plant groups on Facebook (C.I.P.P.A. aka Crazy Indoor Plant People Australia is one of my faves), or connect with plant lovers on Instagram and ask if you can have some cuttings. Offer to pay for postage if there’s a plant of theirs that you’re keen on. Or offer to trade cuttings/plants if you have some already.
What will happen to the plant I’ve taken the cuttings from? Won’t I hurt it?
Taking cuttings from a plant stimulates growth, and helps to make the plant bushier (in addition to taking your rooting cuttings and planting them up the top). In the case of a vine plant (such as Devils Ivy), a new stem will often grow from where it was cut and/or higher up the vine, or from the top. Don’t be scared to make the snip – remember that plants get snapped & broken all the time out in the wilderness. They’re resilient!
What plants can I use, or what plants do you recommend for water propagation?
The most common plants to propagate in water are listed below. Please note that plants often have more than one name they’re referred to as, so I’ve included some common variants below.
Vine Plants – these need to be cut below a node, i.e. where the stem of the leaf grows from the main stem. The node often has aerial roots growing from it, which will often grow longer once submerged in water. This guide can be followed for any of the below plants, showing you how to find a node & the right place to snip
- Devils Ivy / Golden Pothos (this is my number one recommendation as they are easy & cheap to buy, and grow roots within a week).
- Other Pothos variants such as Snow Queen, Marble Queen, Satin etc. also grow roots in water
- Heart Leaf Philodendron / Philodendron cordatum / Philodendron hederaceum
- Philodendron micans
- Peperomia scandens
- Monstera adansonii / Swiss cheese plant
- Monstera siltepecana
- Monstera deliciosa / Fruit salad plant
Stem cuttings – these are plants that will grow roots along the stem that they’re cut from, often from multiple points
- Begonia e.g. Rex or Angelwing
- Chain of Hearts
- String of Pearls (and all similar ones e.g. string of beads/bananas/etc.)
- Donkeys Tail / Burros Tail
- ZZ Plant
- Fiddle Leaf Fig
- Maranta (cut these just below a leaf node)
- Coleus (cut below a node)
- Woody stemmed succulents – many of this can be snipped anywhere along the stem. See this guide for more info
- Snake Plant / Mother in Law Tongue / Sanseviera (check this link for more info on how)
- Peperomia plants such as Emerald Ripple, Watermelon, Obtusifolia, etc. which need to be snipped with some of the petiole (the stalk that joins a leaf to a stem), and will grow roots from the base of the cut petiole. These typically take at least a month to show any signs of roots, so require some patience
- Many succulents can be propagated from a single leaf. See this link for more info
- Cacti – such as those that produce pads e.g. Bunny Ear Cacti
- Begonia e.g. Rex or Angelwing (ensure the petiole is included)
Pups – plants that grow pups can be placed in water to grow new roots or encourage the existing roots to grow longer
- Spider plant
- Pilea / Chinese Money Plant
From a bulb or seed
There are some plants that will not grow from water propagation, including: Alocasia, Calathea, Peace Lily, Ferns & Palms, to list a few. So don't forget to google the plant name and propagation before you snip!
Happy plant baby making! Feel free to shoot me a DM over on my IG page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.