Even with spring beginning on the calendar, it’s early to move gardening beyond last season’s sanitation outdoors. While the weather settles, a creative outlet with a favorite indoor plant is to propagate cuttings. If it works, you’ll have more plants, like this begonia, to keep or share with others.
If you’ve ever included Coleus leaves in a bouquet, maybe it was a surprise that its stem was rooted in the vase water within a week. Some plants are easily rooted as cuttings. Coleus or slightly sprouted sweet potato are examples. These plants have root cells in their stems, often where leaves attach. If the plant is damaged, the new segment of the stem can grow roots to establish a new plant very similar to the parent plant.
Some plants depend on the hormone auxin produced by the plant in the tips of its leaves to cause cells that become root cells to grow in a damaged site in its stem. A tip section of grapevine or some fig species (Ficus) is placed with leaves above the water. Auxin flows from the leaf tips downward and collects at the cut end where roots grow.
Choose a houseplant with herbaceous flexible, usually green (not woody) stems for the first time topropagate a cutting. Begonias are common and easy starters. Above is the parent plant used for cuttings.
- Make cuttings that include the tips of the branches, including several leaves, and trim leaves that will be below water. This method accommodates both ways that plant cuttings may root. The begonia plant leaves are attached to a rhizome. In past cuttings, I included a rhizome section with a large leaf to ensure the cutting would likely root. Here only the leaf and its stem are the cutting, and it also produces roots.
- The end of the stem opposite the tip may be dipped in rooting hormone to boost the plant’s own auxin production.
- Put the cut end in a glass of water. Place the plant in indirect or fluorescent light and monitor for moisture. Check for root growth after a few days. The cuttings above took two weeks.
- Plants will grow in water for weeks. When ready, plant the rooted plant into a hole in the potting mixture bigger than the stem and gently lower the stem so that fragile roots are not damaged. Pot several per container as not all cuttings may thrive. Provide adequate water and light as the plant continues to adjust and grow. These are just planted.
An article that goes further into the propagation of vines and perennials with clear steps and photographs is in the April 2022 issue of Fine Gardening magazine. It’s available for browsing at the Yankton Community Library.
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