Learn to propagate houseplants from leaf cuttings


Plant propagation simply means making more plants. There are plenty of ways to propagate, both indoor and outdoor plants; the best method depends on the type of plant.

Seeds are one method, used by most plant breeders. Then there are cuttings; nip off a section of the plant, coax it to root, usually in water, and you have a duplicate of your original plant.

Many gardeners routinely take stem cuttings from their plants.

The propagation technique of leaf cuttings is not as common, but is a lot of fun and is easy to do.

There are four different types of leaf cuttings:

Leaf and petiole cuttings

Leaf and vein cuttings

Leaf section cuttings

Succulent cuttings

This article will focus on the most popular technique of leaf and petiole cuttings. There are some things to consider before getting started.

Provide the correct conditions. Propagate in a spot with bright light, avoiding direct sunlight which can cause cuttings to dehydrate.

A bright window with a sheer curtain is a good spot. Consider providing some humidity so that leaves will not dry out.

Many gardeners try to mimic conditions in a greenhouse by starting leaf cuttings in a partially closed plastic bag or a terrarium. This holds moisture in and also eliminates exposure to heat or cold drafts.

If you have a short patience span, leaf propagation may not make you happy. Many plants have their own timeline to develop roots and it can take several weeks or longer for new plants to form.

Using water, potting mix and rooting hormone powder. Leaf cuttings of some plants work similar to stem cuttings: place them in a glass of water until roots form.

However, potting mix can have a higher success rate as the new plants don’t have to adjust to growing in soil versus water.

Purchasing a light potting mix (versus potting soil) works well for most plants.

The use of rooting hormone powder is another option. It can be found wherever plants are sold. Plants will root without it, but, it can facilitate and even accelerate the rooting process.

Leaf and petiole cuttings. The petiole is the term for the leaf stalk.

This method involves taking a leaf with a chunk of the leaf stalk or stem with it. Most houseplants can be propagated by this method. It’s especially suitable for plants with thicker stems such as African violets.

Using a sharp knife, cut a healthy midsized leaf with 1.5 to 2 inches of stem. Cut at an angle versus straight across. You can dip the cut end in rooting hormone powder and shake off any excess powder.

Take a pencil to poke a small hole in the potting mix and simply place the cutting in about half way, firming the soil around it.

In a few weeks’ new plantlets will form at the base of each stem. Leave the original leaf until it turns brown and shrivels allowing it to support the new plant as long as possible.

When transplanting your new plantlets into pots. The larger the new plant and its root system, the better it will take transplanting.

Avoid propagating patented plants: those which have a patent number on the plant tag or if you see the term “PPAF” on the plant tag. This term stands for “plant patent applied for”.

For more information on plant propagation visit the Home and Garden section on the Oneida County Cornell Cooperative Extension website at cceoneida.com click on Gardening Fact Sheets and then Gardening Practices.

The horticulture hotline is open on Wednesday and Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. to noon, 315-736-3394.


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