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Putting the 'pro' in propagation: Plant cuttings that grow in water

Putting the 'pro' in propagation: Plant cuttings that grow in water

Plant propagation is a natural technique that has been used by humans for millennia. The word propagation comes from the Latin propagare  or propagatus which means to ‘set forward, extend, spread, or multiply’ and that’s exactly what propagation’s all about! 

One of the easiest ways to propagate plants is via cuttings. All you have to do is snip off a viable section from the mother plant and then plant it in the right substrate (potting mix). With the right care, it will grow into a new plant! 

Why does this work you may wonder? Well, when you snip off a section of a plant, the plant cutting starts to think it’s dying (sorry little plant baby!). As a survival technique, the plant sends out growth hormones and begins to grow fresh, roots and leaves to stay alive and thrive. (Sometimes you’ve gotta to be cruel to be kind). 

Aroid plants and water propagation

While many plants need potting mix or soil to propagate, some plants also propagate in water. Most of these plants, like pothos, philodendrons and monsteras are Aroids (part of the Araceae or Philodendron family). These guys evolved from swampy ancestors and have adapted to grow in flooded conditions as a survival technique (cue: ‘I'm a Survivor’ by Destiny’s Child).


Today we’re giving you a step-by-step guide to propagating pothos, philodendrons and monsteras in water! Before we get started, we wanna say this – not everyone gets it right on the first (or second) try. But don’t worry! Once you nail water propagation, it’s super rewarding and you’ll have a quick and simple way to grow your indoor plant collection. 

Step 1: Find the right spot

Before taking a plant cutting, you gotta find the sweet spot – the nodes. Nodes are like tiny growth factories that help a plant create new leaves or roots. They are the key to successful propagation! To find a plant’s nodes, look just below leaves or at points where stems or vines meet. (Learn more about plant physiology here).


Luckily on vining plants, nodes are pretty easy to spot. On pothos and philodendrons, they appear as tiny bumps. These bumps will, in time, actually develop into aerial roots waiting for the opportunity to attach themselves to something they can climb on (this is where plant stakes come in handy! Wink, wink). 


When it comes to monsteras, not all nodes will be as obvious. The node will be slightly more swollen than the rest of the stem and will have a petiole and leaf coming out above it. Some monstera nodes will have longer aerial roots coming out of them (which are designed to stabilise the plant as it grows). Nodes with aerial roots are also viable for propagation (you just need to take the cutting before the root hits the soil).

Step 2: Use clean tools

Make sure you use a clean pair of gardening shears or secateurs when taking cuttings to avoid contaminating your cuttings or mother plant! Clean your shears thoroughly with soap and water and then apply a bit of rubbing alcohol before you start snipping.


Step 3: Snip your plant cutting

Once you’ve located a primo node and got your secateurs ready to go, it’s time to make the snip! Make a cut a couple of centimetres before the selected node. (We find cutting at 45-degree angle works better than slicing straight across the vine). For the next cut, make sure you include a section of healthy stem above the node. This just makes it easier to stand the cutting upright in a container of water.  


If you want to create an even healthier plant cutting, cut off a longer section that includes multiple nodes, as well as the stem sections in-between (internodes). This will encourage more growth and may result in roots growing from multiple nodes (yay!).

Step 4: Trim it up

If you have taken a top cutting or a plant cutting with multiple nodes, it might need a slight trim. Trim off any leaves that will become submerged when you place it in water. You don’t want any leaves to end up underwater when you put the plant cutting in your vessel; otherwise the leaves will become mushy and smelly and be a source of disease. (ick!).

Step 5: Place into water

Pop your plant cutting(s) into a glass container (like a cup, mason jar or small vase) and move it to a spot that receives high to moderate levels of indirect light. Just remember, it’s all about balance! Too much direct light will cook your plant cuttings; too little light and your cuttings will die, they need sunlight to photosynthesise. 

Step 6: Be patient! 

Growing a brand new root system takes time! So be patient and check on your plant cutting’s growth each week. Eventually you will notice fine, fibrous roots developing from the node. Top up the container with water every few days or whenever it gets too low (while making sure there is no cloudiness or mould growth). If the water gets cloudy, change the water ASAP! This will keep the growing root system nice and healthy. 


Water babies

Once your cuttings have established root systems, they can keep growing in water forever. It’s totally doable and looks amazing! But with great power, comes great responsibility. The longer your plant cutting is left in water, the more vulnerable the plant becomes. This is because water has little to no nutrients, and can increase the risk of fungal infections. You can keep your plant protected by changing its water regularly and adding a hint of fertiliser each month during the growing season.


Down and dirty

If you’d rather transplant your plant cuttings from its glass container to a pot, it’s best to wait until the root system is fully established. This happens when the roots are about 1-2 cm in length. This can take anywhere between 4 and 6 weeks (depending on the amount of light and temp of your home). 


Find a small pot and fill it with fresh, quality potting mix. Make a small hole in the centre of the soil, pop in your plant cutting and tuck her in nice and snug. Move the pot to a posse with bright indirect light and keep your potting mix just moist, not too wet and not too dry.


An alternative solution

If you’re looking for another nifty way to propagate cuttings, just follow steps 1-4 above, but instead of placing your plant cutting into water, use a Jiffy Pellet


Simply place a Jiffy Pellet into a cup or container, soak it in water and then throw out any excess. Watch the pellet fully expand and after 10 minutes you can place your plant cutting into the hole on top. Keep the pellet watered and you will eventually see new roots growing. Once it’s grown a root system, pop the entire pellet into a pot. Fill with quality potting mix and bada bing, bada boom! A brand new indoor plant!


Check out our full range of vining plants online

We stock a wide range of pothos, monsteras and philodendrons babies just waiting to join your indoor plant collection. With free delivery Australia wide, we guarantee healthy plants or your money back!

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