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Taking cuttings is a simple way to extend your plant collection for practically nothing—aside from the cost of soil and pots, the plant babies are free. Here are a few basic tricks to ensure success

Heather Arndt Anderson  – January 13, 2020 | Updated June 11, 2020

The best thing about growing houseplants is spreading the love by propagating new plant babies to share (or just to build your collection). And it’s easier than you think—no special equipment necessary. Here are some easy tips and tricks for getting tons of new plants for next to nothing.

Look for the Rooty Bits

philodendron cuttings
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At the plant’s nodes (where leaves come out and branches happen) are a special type of cell that can code-switch to go from making shoots to making roots. Sometimes little bumps will stick out, raring to grow into roots. Philodendrons, pothos, and monstera have aerial roots, as do succulents.

Cut Below the Node

And, if there are already aerial roots, just pop the cutting into a glass of water. You can also let it dry slightly for a day and then pot it in some really moist potting soil. If it doesn’t have aerial roots, strip the lower leaves off the stem first. This works well with plants like rosemary, lavender, or any other mint-family herb. Begonias sprout easily from stem cuttings too. 

Mimic Greenhouse Conditions

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Keep the soil and air evenly moist. This is easily accomplished by putting the pot on a tray of pebbles and slipping a plastic bag or clear plastic cup over the top of the plant and pot (or reuse plastic salad tubs and clamshell takeout boxes). Water a little more often at first, until roots develop. After a couple weeks, treat your toddler plant like a regular member of the plant family. 

Photo by Jesse Waldman for Pistils Nursery

You Can Also Start Plantlets from Leaves

Plants such as begonias (above), African violets, and peperomias are just champing at the bit to grow babies, and you can get tons of new plantlets from leaf cuttings, right in their new pot of soil. Cut an adult leaf off a healthy plant, leaving about 2 inches of petiole (a.k.a. leafstalk). Poke a hole in fresh potting soil, about as deep as the petiole is long. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone and then insert the leaf into the hole with the tip of the leaf pointing away from the pot’s center. 

Your Pup Runneth Over

cheap plant hacks
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Another trick for free plants is to choose a plant that’s already got tons of pups ready to go, and pot the pups. Plants like never-never plant and snake plant often have little spikes popping out of the soil in a ring surrounding the main plant—these are the pups, and they’re your ticket to Plantsville! To separate them from their mother, gently pull the whole plant out of the soil onto a sheet of newspaper, brush the soil off the roots, and you’ll see a network of shoots with new roots. These can be snipped off and potted.