Growing Houseplant Runners: Tips For Propagating Runners On Houseplants

Growing Houseplant Runners: Tips For Propagating Runners On Houseplants

By: Heather Rhoades

Some houseplant propagation is achieved through seeds while others can be grown via runners. Propagating houseplants with runners produces a replica of the parent plant, so a healthy parent is absolutely necessary. Keep reading to find out how to propagate runners on houseplants.

Propagating Houseplants with Runners by Layering

When you propagate from runners and arching stems, it’s called layering. Ivy (Hedera spp.) and other climbers can be reproduced this way. Make sure you water the plant well the day before you choose to perform this method of propagating houseplants.

Place a pot filled with cutting compost next to the parent plant. Fold a stem near a node (without cutting it off) to form a ‘V’ in the stem. Anchor the V of the stem into the compost with bent wire. Firm the compost from above and water the compost. Keep the compost moist. This helps the roots develop faster and better. When you see fresh growth at the tip of the stem, roots have been established and you can remove the new plant from it’s mother.

Air Layering Houseplant Propagation

Air layering is another way to propagate runners on houseplants and a great way to give a tall, leggy plant that’s lost its lower leaves a new lease on life. This is often used on rubber plant (Ficus elastica) and sometimes on dieffenbachia, dracaena and monstera. All air layering involves is encouraging roots to develop just below the lowest leaf. When there are roots established, the stem can be severed and the new plant repotted. This is, however, not a fast way to propagate houseplants.

Again, be sure to water the plant the day before. Then, using a sharp knife, make an upward cut two-thirds through the stem and 8 to 10 cm below the lowest leaf. Make sure you don’t bend and break the top of the plant. Use a matchstick to keep the surfaces of the cut apart. If you don’t, the wound will heal and it will not readily form roots. You will want to trim the ends off the matchsticks and use a small brush to coat the plant surfaces with rooting powder.

After that, take a piece of polythene and wind it around the stem with the cut area in the center. Make sure your string is strong and tie it about 5 cm. below the cut. Wind the string around several times to hold it. Carefully fill the polythene with moist peat. Fill it to within 8 cm of the top and tie it off. It acts like a bandage. Take the plant and place it in gentle warmth and shade.

Within two months, roots will show through the polythene. While the roots are still white, cut the stem below the tube. Remove the polythene and string. Keep as much of the peat in the polythene as possible for repotting.

By using these methods to propagate houseplants, you can increase the number of plants you have for your personal use or share them with family and friends.

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How to propagate your houseplants

House plants bring life to our homes and some much-needed greenery at a time when we're spending more time indoors.

But did you know you can easily multiply your house plants by propagating them?

Propagation is the process of breeding a plant from the parent plant. Give this method a go with your favourite houseplants to multiply the greenery in your home.

Did you know?

At Kew Gardens and Wakehurst we propagate plants to supply our gardens and to preserve rare and endangered species.

From Madagascan palms to English waterlilies, many of the plants we propagate are critically endangered and start their new lives in our nurseries.

Water propagation

Many plants can be propagated in water. This is an easy way to propagate your plants at home and you can also watch the roots grow and develop.

Many house plants can be propagated in water, including common houseplants in the Araceae family.

Good plants to try:

  • Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema commutatum)
  • Devil's roots (Epipremnum aureum)
  • Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
  • Swiss Cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa)

What you'll need

  • A plant
  • Scissors or a pruning knife
  • A vase, jar or bottle filled with tepid water
  • Pots of compost

Method

1. Using scissors or a pruning knife, cut the plant just below a node (where a leaf attaches to the stem). Cut at a 45° angle. This angled cut will maximise the amount of water that can be absorbed by the cutting. Your cutting should be between 7–16cm long.

2. Cut off the lowest leaf and any other excess leaves, leaving just the top 2 or 3. Any part of the cutting that sits in water should be free of leaves (otherwise they will rot).

2. Half fill a glass, vase or bottle with water and place the leaf cutting in it. Place it somewhere bright and warm (but not in direct sunlight).

3. Change the water every couple of days to keep it fresh.

4. Rooting will generally take 3–4 weeks, although some plants take longer. Once roots between 2 - 5cm long have formed in the water, it's time to plant the new plant into a pot of pre-moistened compost.

5. Keep the compost moist (but not too wet), and you should start to see new growth on your plant. Say hello to your new house plant friend.

Propagating cacti

Give propagation a go with cacti to multiply your spiky pals.

What you'll need

  • Tongs
  • A pot
  • Cacti compost
  • Scissors or a pruning knife
  • Gardening gloves

Method

1. Put on your gloves, and choose a healthy piece of stem around 10cm long. Cut the stem using scissors or a pruning knife.

If you're trying this with a cacti that has segments (such as prickly pears), you'll need to remove a whole segment.

2. If you can, make 45° cuts at the bottom of your cutting to create a dome shape. This will help the wound heal better.

Using tongs, place the cutting on a plate on its side until the wounds have callused (sealed over, hardened and dried out).

3. Once dry (after about 1–2 weeks) fill a pot with well-draining cacti compost. Make a small hole, place the cutting upright in it and water the compost. Leave in a bright spot, but not in direct sunlight.

4. After 2–4 weeks, it will start to root and you'll have a baby cacti. Remember to water it when the soil gets dry.

Top tip from our horticulturalists

Try dusting the end of the cactus (the part that you cut) with sulphur powder. This will prevent bacteria and fungus from growing and rotting the cutting which will stop it growing roots.

Remember to wear gloves while doing this.

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Although there are lots of different techniques and ways of going about propagation, there are typically three main methods you can use, depending on the plant you want to propagate:

Taking Cuttings: If you’ve heard of propagation before, chances are this is the method you know about. Although the type of cutting you’ll need to take depends on your plant (plants with thick, fleshy leaves like succulents will require only a leaf to be removed, whereas other plants will need a section of stem and some leaves), the aim of the method is the same: to submerge the cutting in water or soil so that it develops roots of its own.

Offsets: Some plants produce baby plants or ‘offsets’ as part of their usual growth – a spider plant is a prime example. In this method of propagation, you simply wait until the baby plant has grown big enough to sustain itself, chop it off and then replant it into a new container.

Root Division: This is a great method to use if your plant is getting too large or bulky, and works best for mature plants with separate stems. To practice root division, all you need to do is pull your plant out of its pot and tease the plant’s roots apart to create separate ‘sections’, which can then be repotted and grown as another plant.

How to propagate a houseplant

Out of the three methods described above, the easiest method of propagation (which works for most houseplants) is using cuttings and propagating them in water. Below, Hull and Cheshire explain exactly how to do this in six easy steps.

  1. Choose a healthy vine or stem with healthy leaves. Snip below a node (which is where a leaf or aerial root meets the stem).
  2. Remove two or three leaves from the base of the stem/vine and sit that bare section it in a glass vessel filled with water.
  3. Place it in bright east facing light and keep the vessel topped up.
  4. Eventually, new roots will appear – you can leave the cutting in water for a good while to make sure that thick and long roots have developed.
  5. Plant the cutting in 2/3 houseplant potting mix to 1/3 pearlite (and a sprinkle of rooting powder for extra assurance).
  6. Watch your plant flourish!

What are the easiest plants to propagate?

All plants can be propagated, but some are much easier than others. According to Hull and Cheshire, these are the three easiest ones for beginners to try:

“The Devil’s Ivy is a very satisfying and easy plant to propagate,” they say. “Simply take one leaf (the final leaf at the end of a vine) and cut it off about three leaves down. Then remove the bottom two leaves and place the long cutting in a bottle/jar of water and watch how new roots emerge from the ‘leaf nodes’ that are submerged. Once roots are established this can be potted into fresh compost.”

“Peace Lilies are easily propagated by root division,” Hull and Cheshire explain. “Simply take the plant out of the pot and gently tease and untangle the plant into two separate parts that can be potted on separately. Please note that this is best attempted with mature peace lilies with large root systems.”

“Much like the Devil’s Ivy, String Of Hearts plants can be propagated in water, but this time you’ll want to cut a longer vine off,” the pair recommend. “Also consider cutting multiple vines so that you can pot them all together once roots have developed to give the plant a fuller appearance.”

To learn more about propagation and the different methods you can use, check out Patch’s propagation lesson.


Notes about Propagating Plants

Although you can propagate plants any time of year, you’ll have better luck in spring or summer, when the plant is actively growing and not dormant. Many plants can be propagated several different ways and there are no hard and fast rules. Just have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment.

Some plants can be propagated in water or you can just plant the cutting directly in a pot. Rooting hormone may help with rooting, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. Techniques for propagating outdoor plants is basically the same as propagating indoor plants.


How to Propagate Houseplants (It’s Easy!)

Houseplants are easy to trim, cut and divide to make more plants. Just ask the “Houseplant Guru” from the Detroit area. She grew her own collection of hundreds of houseplants through propagation—that’s botanist’s talk for making plant babies. Check out her techniques.

In her latest book, Houseplant Party, Lisa Eldred-Steinkopf of Detroit shares how to take cuttings from parent plants and multiply them to keep or share with friends.

Take this burrow's tail sedum, for example. It was due for a trim, so Eldred-Steinkopf saved all the cuttings and planted them in small pots. She not only gained more plants, but her original plant grew fuller from the trim.

"Propagating plants brings out the scientist in us," says Eldred-Steinkopf of The Houseplant Guru. "There is something to be said about growing plants from the start—cutting up plants and watching them grow roots."

Favorite plants to multiply

Eldred-Steinkopf favorite plants to propagate are African violets. "All that is needed is one leaf to make a whole new plant and often many more," she says. Her top choices for beginners also include succulents (above), pothos (below), spider plants and hoyas.

Propagation Tools: What tools do you need to multiply plants?

Plant propagating tools are pretty basic. Eldred-Steinkopf recommends a pair of clippers, a knife, potting mix, small pots, water and a skewer for making holes. A pair of long tweezers are also handy to pick up plant parts. Be sure to keep tools clean and sterile by wiping them with alcohol swabs.

Technique #1: Stem Cuttings

Take a 3-6" stem cutting from a plant, such as this variegated peperomia, a pothos vine, Chinese evergreen, or diffenbachia. Cut the stem approximately an inch below a node. That's the swollen part on the stem where leaves emerge. Cuttings can then be inserted in a moist potting mix. First make holes for the stems, so their ends aren't damaged when inserting them into the mix. A skewer works well for making the holes. Keep the potting mix moist but not too wet. In a few weeks, roots should emerge from the ends of the cuttings, and plants will begin to grow and send out new leaves.

Technique #2: Leaf Cuttings in Water

Many plants can be started with one leaf cutting as long as a piece of stem is attached. Try plants like 'Cracklin Rosy' begonia (above), monstera and pothos. Insert a cutting in a vase or jar of water. Once roots emerge, plant the rooted cutting in a pot of soil mix. Watch for new leaves to emerge, as the young plant gets established.

Technique #3: Leaf Cuttings on Soil

Succulents are easy to multiply with leaf or stem cuttings. Try copper spoons (above) or echeveria (below). Gently pull or cut leaves and place them directly on a tray of potting mix. The leaves will send out roots in a few weeks.


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