Plant Propagation for House Plants
Updated: Jul 31
How can we multiply indoor plants without using seed?
This Lesson Plan is part the Home Module of SustainEd Farms' virtual programming.
Learning Objectives: Plant Propagation
Students will be able to…
Make cuttings from their favorite house plants and transplant them into suitable containers
Identify when cuttings are ready to transplant into soil
Care for cuttings and transplants
propagation /ˌpräpəˈɡāSH(ə)n / noun. - in horticulture, creating new plant individuals through sexual or asexual reproduction
asexual reproduction / āˈsekSH(o͞o)əl rēprəˈdəkSH(ə)n / noun. - a process by which plant clones (genetic copies) are created without pollination and seeds (necessary for sexual reproduction) by using the vegetative parts of the plant to make the copy
1. Gather the materials you’ll need to propagate plants. These will include any existing house plants you may have, extra vases or containers that can hold water, clean scissors or a sharp knife (be careful!), and -- for much later -- a ruler for measuring root development. For transplanting a propagated stem or root after more roots have established themselves, you will need a larger potting container, soil, and water.
💭Decisions, Decisions… What are some common house plants I can purchase, or ask a friend for, if I don’t have any plants at home to propagate?
Ex. Spider Plant
Ex. Snake Plant
Ex. Wandering Jew
2. Watch the following YouTube video to see a plant propagation demonstration, and then perform the propagation yourself by continuing along with this lesson.
3. Filling nearly to the top, put tap water into your water-holding containers. You want them to be full, but not have so much water that spilling will occur when the new plant is placed into the container. For aesthetic purposes, or to help balance the plant root/stem(s), consider putting glass gems in any clear water containers you may have.
4. Select where on your parent plant you will make a cutting. Though this is not a difficult thing to do, the science of what will successfully propagate and what will not can guide your decision-making process...
💭Science exposed! Why is it that some plant parts will make a new plant, while other parts will not?
The answer boils down to the apical meristem, which is a fundamental plant part that contains cells that are “undifferentiated” -- cells that have not yet been assigned to grow into a certain part (stem, root, leaf, etc.) of a plant yet.
You can think of apical meristem cells as “stem cells” -- cells that are not yet specialized in animals that can develop into circulatory, immune, or nervous system cells.
When making a cutting, it will be helpful, and sometimes necessary, to select a large enough shoot that will contain some portion of apical meristem, which can then grow all of the necessary plant parts to become its own plant.
This means you should select a portion of the plant stem with about 3 to 4 “nodes” to cut-- see model below:
5. Preferably working in the morning so that your new cutting will receive a full day of sunshine, use a clean blade or pair of scissors to make a precise cut on your selected plant stem (not the primary stem, but an offshoot that contains meristem). Make it quick and decisive! If they are present, remove the bottom leaves from your cutting with the blade or scissors.
6. Working quickly, transfer your cutting to water by placing the cut end into the vase or container while trying to keep the remaining leaves above the surface. Put your plant in adequate light (you may need to research if your plant needs direct sunlight or diffuse light). Check the water daily, and fill to the top as necessary.
7. Over the next several days and weeks, observe the root growth of your cutting. When roots are 3-6 inches in length, you can prepare to transplant your cutting.
8. Transplant: Fill a container with soil that has at least twice the depth of your cutting’s roots. Make a hole in the center of the container with your fingers that matches your root depth, and insert the plant into the soil roots-first. Cover the roots with the surrounding soil, set your plant into similar sunlit conditions, and water the plant.
Download the PDF version of this lesson plan: