How To Make Houseplant Cuttings
Multiply your houseplants by rooting cuttings in water.
On any given day, my windowsills sport jars stuffed with houseplant cuttings. The current collection includes an upcycled mayo jar with night-blooming cereus, a flea market juice glass with a variegated spider plant and a jelly jar with heart leaf philodendron stems. Taking cuttings is a cheap and easy way to increase your houseplant holdings. It’s also a great way to curtail the long stems of vining houseplants, like golden pothos.
Golden pothos is hands-down one of the easiest houseplants to grow. It’s a tropical beauty, unfurling green leaves marbled gold. This plant also purifies the air and withstands low light, which makes it ideal for any room in the house. Left untrimmed, stems trail and even climb, if given a support. My husband has a few treasured pothos, and he likes to let stems trail. When I discovered one stem attaching to the baseboard in an effort to climb, I knew it was time for taking cuttings.
Taking cuttings for rooting in water is a simple process that works with many different plants, including coleus, Swedish ivy, purple passion, English ivy, wandering Jew, spider plant and butterfly plant (Syngonium). I’ve been rooting houseplant cuttings in water since I was 8 years old. This is one gardening project anyone can do.
Our pothos plant had stems that stretched nearly 6 feet. If stems are tangled, you don’t have to untangle them to take cuttings, but separating them does make it easier to figure out where to cut stems.
Choose Where You’ll Cut
The spot where a leaf attaches to a stem is called a node. At this point, the stem contains a high concentration of the plant hormones that cause new growth of leaves, stems or roots. If you cut just below a leaf node, when you place that cutting in water, the hormones in the stem spur new roots to form. Some plants, like golden pothos, also have aerial roots that appear on stems as brown bumps. These aerial roots sprout and form long roots when placed in water.
Cut the Stem
Use scissors or pruners to cut stems. Many reference books recommend taking cuttings that are 5 or 6 inches long. While that offers many places for roots to sprout, it also means you need a deep pot to contain those long stems—and those pots will be too wide for newly planted cuttings. Instead, keep cuttings on the short side, around 3 inches long. If you know what pot you’ll be planting rooted cuttings into, use that as a guide for your cutting length.
Pinch or snip off any leaves that will fall below the water line in your rooting jar. Remove leaves carefully so you don’t create a wound on the stem. Any leafy structures in the water will rot and foul the water.
Snip Stem Tips
Remove any long stem tips at the top end of cuttings. Left alone, this stem stub eventually dies back and looks unattractive. Making a clean cut now allows the stem to heal well before planting time.
Put Stems in Water
Place stems in a watertight container. I like to use clear glass so I can easily monitor root development and water level. Avoid using cherished glasses or heirlooms because, depending on your region and water quality, as water evaporates, it can leave quite a difficult-to-remove hard water ring. If you have spring water, use it—it supplies minerals to developing plant roots. I often use tap water with good results. Change water regularly; every other day is ideal, but I have gone a week or two without changing it and things turn out fine. Top off the water level as it evaporates.
Feed the Mother Plant
Water and fertilize the plant that provided all the cuttings. The process of cutting spurs remaining stems to sprout. With vining plants like pothos, if you dislike the vining look, keep plants trimmed to create a bushier pot. Plant cuttings after all stems have produced roots. Try potting many stems in the same pot to create a lush, fuller look.