How to Propagate Indoor Plants

Propagating Indoor Plants from Seeds

Many traditional houseplants can be easily propagated from seed. For herbs and edible plants, seed sowing is often the easiest way to gain new plants.

As indoor plants are not hardy, they will need sowing in a fairly warm environment. A windowsill is usually a good spot, as long as it is not directly above a radiator, which would dry the seedlings out. Take a seed tray or pot and fill it with seed and cutting compost, firming it down lightly. Finely sprinkle the seed over the compost and cover with a light dusting of compost or with vermiculite. Water and place in a propagator or cover with a clear plastic bag. Once the seedlings have appeared, they will need to be pricked out into individual pots so that they have the space to grow. Indoor plants that can be easily grown from seed include: Basil (Ocimum); Begonia; Campanula; Capsicum; Chives (Allium); Coriander (Coriandrum); Cyclamen; Exacum; Impatiens; Mint (Mentha); Origano (Origanum); Parsley (Petroselinum); Pelargonium; Sinningia; Tomato – many kinds.

Propagating Indoor Plants from Tubers, Plantlets and Offsets


In winter, begonias die back to tubers. If they are kept fairly dry in their pots they will sprout again the following year, however, if you lift and divide them, you can increase your stock.

In winter, once the foliage has died down, remove the tubers from the pot and clean them off. Dust with fungicide and store in a dry place. In spring, place the tubers on the surface of a pot of well-drained compost until shoots appear. Then cut the tuber in half, ensuring that each section has a shoot. Pot each section up in its own pot.


Many indoor plants naturally produce small offsets, which can be potted up and will form new plants.

Select a plantlet from the main plant and pin it down into a small pot of compost. Keep it watered. When new shoots start to emerge, it is likely that the plant has rooted. Sever the plantlet from the mother plant and treat it as a normal houseplant.

Plants that produce plantlets include Chlorophytum, Cryptanthus, Haworthia, Saxifraga and Tolmiea.


As some plants grow and bulk up they produce small offsets. These are shoots that have developed small root systems so they can be teased from the main plant and potted on. This is one of the simplest forms of propagation.

To propagate from offsets, first water the mother plant thoroughly and leave it to sit for an hour. Then tip the plant out of its pot and select an offset. Gently pull it away from the main plant, making sure you preserve as much root as possible. Pot up in a small pot of compost and keep well watered.

Plants that produce offsets, include all of the bromeliad group and many of the succulents. Bulbs produce bulbils that can be treated in the same way as offsets.

Propagating Indoor Plants by Division 

Some plants can easily be split in two to produce more plants. As well as increasing your stock of certain plants, this reinvigorates those that have become congested.

To divide a plant, first water it well and leave it while it sits for an hour. Remove the plant from the pot and gradually pull the rootball open with your hands. Carry this out as carefully as possible, trying not to break many of the roots. This frees up the root system, making easier when it comes to dividing the plant. Once you have split the plant in half, you can then break the two halves down into smaller sections, each containing a few good shoots. This method can ultimately provide you with several more plants to grow on. Replant these new sections into small pots of fresh compost and water in.

Plants that can be divided include Adiantum, Aspidistra, Calathea, Chlorophytum, Cyperus, Maranta, Sauntpaulia, Sansevieria and Pteris.

Propagating Indoor Plants with Leaf Cuttings

Taking cuttings is one of the most popular ways of increasing stocks of houseplants, and there are several different methods that are suitable for different plants.

Leaf cuttings

This is the method used to propagate begonias.

  1. Fill a small seed tray with seed and cutting compost.
  2. Select a healthy leaf and turn it face down before making a small cut across each of the main veins with a sharp knife.
  3. Place the leaf facing upwards onto the compost and pin down along the veins.
  4. Water in and cover with either a propagator lid or with a clear plastic bag. Small plantlets will appear along the veins.
  5. When they are large enough, tip the soil out of the tray and pot the plantlets up individually.

Part leaf cuttings

Vegetative growth in plants from stem cuttings

Vegetative growth in plants from stem cuttings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Part leaf cuttings are used to propagate Sansevieria, Begonia and Streptocarpus.

  1. Fill a seed tray with compost.
  2. Slice a section of leaf about one and a half inches in length and insert it into the compost.
  3. Keep it watered until shoots appear.
  4. Pot each new plant into its own pot.

Whole leaf cuttings

Whole leaf cuttings are used to propagate Saintpaulia, Peperomia, Echeveria and Crassula.

Cut off several leaves from the plant and place them into a small pot full of compost or individually into sma pots. Plantlets will eventually appear at the base of the leaf. Once the new growths have established themselves, pot them on into individual pots.

Tip: It is important to use a sharp knife or pair of secateurs for taking cuttings. Clean cuts are less likely to get infected with rots than those that have been cut with blunt knives and have jagged edges. Keep all tools clean and sharp.

Schematic showing a plant cutting

Schematic showing a plant cutting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Increasing Your Stock of Houseplants with Stem cuttings

Cuttings taken from plant stems are the most common form of cutting and can be used to propagate a huge number of indoor plants.

Taking a cutting

Using a sharp knife, take several cuttings from new growth. Prepare the bottom of the cutting by paring back to just below where a set of leaves emerges. Then remove the bottom few leaves and push the cutting into the compost. Place several cuttings into the same pot. Roots should form within a few weeks and the plants can then be potted on individually.

Plants that can be propagated from stem cuttings include: Acalypha, Callisia, Codiaeum, Columnea, Crassula, Epiphyllum, Fittonia, Gynura, Impatiens, Kalanchoe, Pelargonium, Peperomia, Pilea, Rhoicissus, Stephanotis and Syngonium.

Stem section cuttings

Cacti and other succulents can be propagated from a section of stem, rather than a complete one. For columnar cacti, remove a section of stem and insert into compost in the same way as a cutting.

How to Make Cane Stem Cuttings

These are the thick stems produced by houseplants such as Cordyline and Dracaena and can be used for propagation if the leaves drop off the lower parts of the stem. Chopping up stems for cuttings is likely to kill a plant, but the process does eventually create several others.

Taking a cane cutting

Cut the stem off from the main plant and cut a section about 5-8cm (2-3in) long, ensuring that there is at least one healthy bud, which comes from the parent plant’s leaf nodes. Place horizontally on the compost and push in to about half its thickness, making sure it is the right way up so that the bud is facing upwards.

Cane cuttings can also be inserted vertically into compost. Ensure that they are not placed in too large a pot, as this will create large amounts of cold, wet compost, which will not be conducive to growth and may lead to decay and rots.

To encourage more rapid rooting, place the cutting in a warm place in a black plastic bin bag. Check the compost every ten days or so to ensure it has not dried out. When shoots appear, remove the bag and gradually acclimatize the new plant to a lower humidity and lower temperature. Only transfer to a larger pot when the smaller pot is full of roots.

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20. April 2012 by admin
Categories: Houseplants | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on How to Propagate Indoor Plants


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