For those who have resolved to grow their indoor jungles even more in 2022, break out some sharp scissors and a vase filled with water.

Propagating houseplants is a fun and easy experiment — and if done right, it can give you some new plants that you can pot at home or give to friends. We’ve compiled a list of tips for beginners.

What to know before you begin

Danae Horst, owner of Folia Collective in Los Angeles and author of the book “Houseplants for All,” said that spring is the optimal time to propagate houseplants, but there’s no reason that you can’t propagate any time of the year, especially if you have cuttings or an overgrown plant.

Horst said that, for beginners, she generally recommends propagating in water because it’s easy to track root development and most tropical houseplants do well using the method.

With some plants, such as cacti and succulents, she said, a soil medium such as cactus potting soil or pumice substrate is preferred.

Some varieties of tropical houseplants may need to be started in a soil substrate as well, and options include perlite and sphagnum moss.


Some plants require that you cut them at their nodes, while others might require a simple leaf cutting or division of a pup from a larger plant. Horst recommends doing plant-specific research in advance to determine which part of the plant will produce roots and what its specific propagation needs are.

With many houseplants, it’s best to cut them just below their nodes, or the point at which a leaf protrudes from a main stem. The bumpy points along the stem should be submerged in the water, as these will become roots.

For water propagation, Horst says plant owners should have a vessel for the water, a sharp cutting instrument such as scissors and rubbing alcohol.

Horst disinfects her scissors with rubbing alcohol prior to making a cut.

“That just ensures that you’re not transferring anything to the plant that could give it an infection or cause it harm,” she said. “And the sharpness is just to ensure that when you’re cutting, you’re cutting clearly through the tissue and you’re not mashing it as you cut through it.”

The kind of vessel does not need to be fancy, said Ana Mirandé, owner of L.A.-based Plant Mami. She said it can be something as simple as a Mason jar.


A number of online tutorials say that tap water works fine for propagating houseplants. While it’s not necessary, Mirandé said she likes to use filtered water because it’s less tough on cuttings.

What is important is to keep the plant’s leaves out of the water as they will cause the liquid to get murky, which isn’t good for the houseplant, Mirandé said.

For plants grown in a soil substrate, Horst recommends applying rooting hormone after taking the cutting. Rooting hormone is typically sold in powder form and can be found at garden stores and nurseries.

If the vessel for the cutting is glass, Horst recommends it be colored rather than clear. She said this will help slow the growth of algae in the water.

Mirandé said it’s also very important to make sure to periodically change out the water or top it off if it evaporates.

Levels of difficulty

Some houseplants are easier to propagate than others. Anything that vines, drapes over a pot or has aerial roots will be a good bet for propagating, Mirandé said.


Horst said some easy varieties include pothos and philodendrons. She said spider plants are also fairly easy, and do a lot of the work for you.

“When they send out their little babies, those babies, if you leave them on the mother plant long enough, will actually start to form roots just in the air,” Horst said, adding that they can then be cut off and either placed in water to develop stronger roots or placed directly in soil.

Some other varieties the Mirandé said are easy include monsteras and marantas.

Some plants are slightly more challenging, including peperomias and zz plants, which are propagated by taking a leaf cutting and placing it in soil, Horst said.

Sansevierias — or snake plants — are also propagated from leaf cuttings that can be placed in either soil or water. You can even make multiple cuttings of a single leaf and propagate each piece.

“Just make sure you remember which way is up with all those little cut pieces,” Horst said.


The cuttings need to be placed pointing the same direction they grew on the plant. And the cut ends need to scab over before propagation is attempted, Horst said.

Know when to transplant

Every plant develops at a different rate, so knowing when they’re ready to transplant really comes down to monitoring, Horst said.

Plants grown in water will need to be pulled out and transplanted after they’ve developed 1-2 inches of roots, and should not stay in the water any longer than that, Horst said.

“Roots that live in water for an extended period of time actually become a slightly different kind of root that helps to enable the plant to take up oxygen through the water,” she said. “If you leave them in water too long, the roots change form and then it’s harder to transition them into soil later.”

When the plant is placed in soil, it’s important to really soak it, Mirandé said.

“You don’t want to keep it wet because it can create root rot, but when you first plant it, you want that soil to be completely saturated,” Mirandé said, explaining that this process is about acclimating the plant after it spent a period of time with its roots exclusively in water.

Horst said to remember that propagation is a very low-stakes activity and that it should be viewed as a fun science experiment rather than a stress-inducing activity.

“If it fails one time, try it again the next time,” she said.