How to Water Propagate Houseplants
Do you love your houseplants and want a few more? If so, your options are to buy more houseplants, which we fully support and encourage, and to propagate a few that you already have on hand. If you choose to propagate, however, you may be confused about which method to use — after all, you can take leaf cuttings, root divisions, stem cuttings, and rhizome divisions, to name a few. But while those methods are perfectly acceptable — ideal even — for some types of houseplants, other houseplants aren’t quite so picky. In fact, there’s a large group of houseplants that love to be propagated with water — it’s fast, easy, and free, and we’re going to show you how.
7 Quick Steps to Water Propagating Houseplants
- Plants (see recommendations in the next section)
- Sharp knife or scissors
- Small clear glass jars or containers*
- Take a cutting 4-6” long from your desired plant, just below the leaf node (that’s where a leaf attaches to the stem, or a little bump along the stem).
- Remove any lower leaves from the stem, leaving only the top 2 or 3 leaves on the cutting.
- Place cuttings in the small jars filled ½ to 2/3 with water. You can place several cuttings in one jar, but it’s important that the jars or containers are smaller because cuttings release hormones into the water that will encourage rooting, and you don’t want to dilute that in a large container with lots of water.
- Place jars in a location that is bright and warm, such as by a sunny window.
- Monitor water level and quality, and be prepared to either add more water or change the water out to keep it fresh.
- Roots begin to develop in about 3-4 weeks, sometimes a little longer. Cuttings are ready to be removed for potting when the new roots are about 1-2” long.
- Plant in a small pot and keep soil moist (but not soggy) until you see new growth at the top of the plant — at this point you can repot it into its more permanent container.
Quick tip: While you can theoretically use almost any small container to water propagate, clear glass is preferable because it allows you to easily monitor the root growth and water level/quality. Plus, it’s fun to easily see those roots developing!
Quick tip #2: You may have seen some plants like pothos always growing in water and never transplanted into soil. Pothos (and other suitable plants) can actually stay in the water indefinitely, but they fare best if started in water from the beginning. If you want to leave your rooted cutting in water, plan to add some liquid fertilizer on occasion and be aware that your plant growth will likely be a bit slower than that of plants grown in soil. Other than that, you’re good to go!
Which Plants Can You Water Propagate?
While many plants take well to water propagating, not all do. The plants that do the best with this method are those in the Araceae family, because they originate from plants that grew by water or in swamps. You won’t have much luck, for example, with water propagating a prickly pear cactus; it simply doesn’t like to be in water.
That being said, experimenting is always fun, provided you’re open to trial and error (as most gardeners are). But if you’re looking for some reliable go-to’s, try these plants for an easy way to increase your houseplant count:
- Pothos: Pothos is arguably one of the easiest houseplants to grow, period. And they take so well to water propagation that it’s almost criminal.
- Try Pothos N’ Joy with its beautifully variegated leaves, or go for Pothos Satin for its intriguing silvery splashes of color on the deep green leaves.
Philodendron: Philodendron is another easy-peasy houseplant — we love Philodendron Brasil for its lemon-lime leaf striping, but Philodendron Neon is a definite waker-upper.
Christmas/Thanksgiving/Easter cactus: It’s a cactus, but it’s from the rainforest, so you know what that means! Water propagation is fair game here, but with this one, you’ll simply take a 2- to 3-segment cutting from the plant, then let it dry out for a few hours before popping into water.
Anthurium: Glossy green leaves and exotic, heart-shaped flowers, anyone?
ZZ plant: While no houseplant requires zero care, ZZ plant comes close. Those dark shiny leaves and upright growth make it a super attractive option.
- Peperomia: Indoor gardeners love peperomia for its low maintenance ways, but add its lovely textured foliage on top of that and you’ve got a winner. Our faves include Peperomia Watermelon with leaves that look like (you guessed it) watermelon markings, and Peperomia Marble with leaves that (yes, you guessed it again) have an intriguing marbled appearance.
- Katie Elzer-Peters