How to Propagate Plants in Water – A Quick Guide

Propagating plants sounds like a complicated task to most people, but it can actually be quite simple depending on the type of plant you’re dealing with. There are many types of plants that can be easily propagated in soil, but it can be done with plants growing in water as well.

Plant propagation doesn’t always work the first time you try it, but when it does, it can be a rewarding experience. In this article, we’ve got everything you need to know about how to propagate plants in water and we’ve also included some different types of plants you can work on.

What is Plant Propagation?

Plant propagation is a way of growing new plants by using a leaf or stem of a plant that already exists. It’s a cost-effective way of adding more plants to your garden and can be done in water, soil, or by air layering.

Why Propagate Plants?

Propagating your own houseplants is an exciting and fun experience, especially when the new plant begins to sprout roots. However, there are many other reasons to try propagation:

  • A propagation station can be a beautiful part of your interior décor.
  • Self-propagated plants make great gifts for the special people in your life.
  • Dying plants can sometimes be saved through propagation.
  • Plants that grow need to be pruned regularly. When pruning, you can grow the pieces into new plants instead of throwing them away.
  • If a piece breaks off one of your plants, you can propagate it and plant it back again with its mother plant.

Propagation in Water vs. Propagation in Soil

For houseplants, water propagation is the most frequently used technique to increase their number. It’s also the easiest method of propagation for beginner gardeners with little to no experience. Unlike plants grown in soil, water plants don’t require sturdy, well-developed root systems. They have narrower roots which occupy a much smaller area since they can absorb the water directly instead of through the soil.

Propagating plants in water increases the productivity of the plant by more than 150%. This is due to two main reasons: firstly, they save energy through smaller root structures, and secondly, they have constant access to nutrients, water, and sunlight.

How to Propagate Plants in Water

Plants can be propagated at any time of the year, but the ideal time there is a better chance of success during spring and summer when they’re actively growing. Plant maturity and health also play a critical role in the propagation timing.

What You Need:

Before you start the process of propagating your plants, make sure that you have everything you need. Clean up your work area and gather the following items:

  • A healthy plant to propagate
  • A sanitized sharp knife or pair of scissors. These should be very sharp, as if you try taking cuttings from a plant with a blunt cutting tool, it could damage the stems.
  • A glass container or vessel
  • Filtered clean water at room temperature
  • Garden gloves

How to Propagate a Plantlet in Water

  1. Some plants produce tiny plantlets that can be removed from the mother plant and placed in water to promote root growth. Before starting the procedure, check the condition of the leaves. If the leaves are healthy and thriving, you can go ahead with the process.
  2. Remove the plantlet from the mother plant using a sharp knife and wash it with lukewarm water to remove any extra soil or dirt. Avoid using extremely hot or cold water or water with harsh chemicals such as chlorine which can kill the plant.
  3. Place the plantlet in a container that’s big enough to support it and fill it up with water. The bottom of your cutting should not touch the base of your water container.
  4. Place the plantlet in a spot where it would be exposed to adequate amounts of sunlight. Change the water in the container at least once a week and in about two weeks you’ll start to see roots sprouting.

Steps to Propagate a Stem in Water

  1. To propagate plants from cuttings, examine the stem of a healthy plant closely and cut it at a 45o angle below a healthy node. Cutting at angle increases the surface area, allowing the plant to take in more water. The stem should be at least 3-6 inches and the node will grow into your new plant.
  2. Remove any leaves and flowers from the bottom half of the cutting, leaving just a few at the top. Most of the water that’s taken up the leaves will be lost, so removing them decreases the amount of water loss.
  3. Fill half of the container you’ve chosen for your plant with clean water and place the cutting inside it. Place it in a spot where it would get enough indirect sunlight.
  4. Ensure that the water remains clear by checking the cuttings daily. Change the water regularly, at least once a week or when you notice cloudy or green water. Feed your cutting regularly with organic liquid fertilizers for optimal growth.

Factors That Affect Plant Propagation

When propagating plants in water, keep in mind that every plant is different and has different requirements. Here are the most important factors for successful plant propagation:

  • Light

Light is a crucial environmental component necessary for in-plant propagation. If your cuttings are placed in low light, they will take longer to root. On the other hand, intense, bright light can scorch the cuttings. Diffused sunlight is usually sufficient for good roots without causing harm to the plants.

  • Temperature

The ideal temperature requirement is 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. However, if you’re propagating in winter, your cuttings will need some moisture as well as protection from the elements.  To maintain a favourable temperature, warm the bottom of the container by using a heating cable or mat, but be careful not to overheat it.

  • Rooting Hormones

Hormones play an important role in encouraging the root growth of plants. There are several different types available on the market, so you can choose a rooting hormone depending on the type of plant you are propagating. Auxin is a naturally occurring plant hormone that’s important for root formation and is a popular rooting hormone supplement. To use, dip the bottom of the cutting in the hormone and then place it in the water for propagation.

Most common houseplants grow roots when they’re propagated in water. Here’s a list of common and popular plants that can be easily propagated in water and require very little maintenance:

1. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)

chinese evergreen

This is an herbaceous perennial that’s native to the Philipines. It has beautiful, glossy leaves and is a low-maintenance indoor plant that thrives in low light.  It’s one of the best plants to propagate if you’re new at gardening or if you don’t have time to spend on maintenance.

2. Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)

Dumb cane is a popular indoor plant with large, often variegated leaves. It thrives in both soil and water and doesn’t require much care.  Dumb cane is seriously toxic to dogs and cats so if you have any, you might want to give this plant a second thought.

3. Begonia (Begonia semperflorens-cultorum)

begonia plant

Begonias are easy to plants to grow as long as the stems are kept cool and moist. There’s no need to use a rooting hormone for these plants since they’re quite hardy and can tolerate neglect. All you need to propagate this plant is a glass of clean, fresh water and a healthy begonia cutting and you’ll soon have a beautiful new plant.

4. Coleus (Coleus scutellarioides)

Coleus plants are evergreen perennials known for their vibrant foliage colours, patterns, sizes, and shapes. These plants grow easily and take about 3 to 4 weeks to root. They’re also very easy to take cuttings from. They prefer warm climates and make excellent indoor plants.

5. Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum)

Spider plants are extremely popular as indoor plants, since they don’t need a lot of maintenance and have air-purifying properties.  They produce plantlets that can be trimmed and rooted in water to form new plants.

6. Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)

Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)

Lucky grows best in moist soil, but it can also be grown and propagated in water. In optimal conditions, a healthy lucky bamboo plant can grow about 18 inches every six months and takes about two years to reach its full height.

7. Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)

This resilient fast-growing vine, also known as golden Pothos, is a favourite among indoor gardeners due to its heart-shaped variegated green and yellow leaves. It grows easily in water as long as it’s provided with sufficient nutrients and sunlight.

8. Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum)

This tropical vine is well known for its toughness which is what makes it one of the easiest plants to grow and propagate in water. All you have to do is drop vine in a container filled with water and it will grow perfectly well on its own. The only maintenance it would need is to have the water changed once a week or when it begins to turn brown.

The Bottom Line

Propagating your plants in water is a lot easier than propagating those grown in soil since you’ll have less mess to deal with. Before you start, choose a plant that you would love to have growing in your home. There are many plants that come with various benefits and some that are perfect for indoor decoration, so you can choose one depending on your needs.

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