Propagating House Plants:
Getting More from Your Plants

Propagating house plants is a rewarding experience. And the rewards of making leaf cuttings sprout or a stem cutting take root are even greater when you can share these free plants with friends and neighbors.

Some house plants are easier to propagate than others. And the best method depends on the type of your plant. If you want to know what type of propagation works best for your plant, take a look at House Plants Encyclopedia A-Z.

American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation: The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques covers just about any plant you could want to propagate.

Loaded with pictures to show you exactly what to do, and the step-by-step how-tos leave nothing to chance.

By far the most common method of propagating house plants is by taking cuttings...stem, leaf, or root.

Stem Cuttings

Taking a cutting from a plant means removing part of the parent plant to grow a new one.

Once a stem is cut, its moisture supply is cut off. So the moisture level needs to be maintained while the cutting grows its own roots.

Some plants root so easily that the cutting can simply be placed in a glass of water. Others need help from a rooting hormone powder.

Spring and summer are the best times to take cuttings, because the plant is actively growing.

Leaf Cuttings

Propagation by leaf cutting is easy to do.

African violet is best known for this, but leaf cutting also works well for rex begonias, kalanchoes, and some peperomias.

Use a sharp knife or razor blade to cut the leaf stem about 1 inch below the leaf. Insert the stem just below the surface of moist potting mix at a 45° angle, taking care to keep the leaf above the potting mix. Once the plantlets form at the base of the cutting, cut away the parent leaf and pot in fresh potting mix.

The leaves of mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) can be propagated from only a section of a leaf. Cut the leaf into horizontal two-inch sections, taking care to keep them the same way up that they were growing, and insert each section into moist potting mix about one-third of its depth. Two or three plantlets will form from each leaf section.

Root Cuttings

To propagate a plant from a root cutting, insert the root pieces vertically in moist potting mix, keeping the ends that were closest to the crown at the top. When plantlets form, pot them in fresh potting mix.


Dividing works well for mature plants that grow in a clump, such as peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii) and mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata).

Propagating house plants this way is one of the easiest methods -- and the messiest.

Remove the plant from its pot and lay it on a flat surface. Carefully pull the roots apart, trying to do as little damage as possible. You may need to use a sharp knife for dense roots, taking care not to cut more than is necessary.

The new plants can be planted into separate pots a little bigger than their root system.