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Plant Care and Propagation

OCAD University Library resources to support plant care, propagation and the inclusion of plant life in creative practice.

Methods of Plant Propagation


Some plants produce separate offsets or "babies" that can be separated from the mother plant to grow into new plants. 

Some species that produce offsets: Chlorophytum comosum (Spider plants), Kalanchoe (Mother of Thousands), Haworthia, Pilea Peperomioides

Make sure to select offsets that appear healthy (not limp or pale in colour). Some offsets will have their own roots, such as the air roots on a kalanchoe offset. For spider plants, make sure the bottom of the offset has developed root nodes, small bumps from which roots will emerge when put into growing medium or water.

The images below demonstrate an offset that has developed root nodes and is ready to harvest, and a second example of an offset that is smooth on the bottom and should be left on the mother plant longer to establish root nodes. 

A hand holding spider plant offset with root nodes

A hand holding spider plant offset without root nodes


Some plants can be propagated from just one leaf of the established plant! 

Some species that can be propagated from leaf cutting: Crassula ovata (Jade), Sansevieria (Snake plant), many species of Succulents including Sedum morganianum (Burro's tail), Pepperomia, Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ plant)

Select a healthy leaf (not limp or pale) for best propagation success. Give time for the cut end of the leaf to dry out before placing into soil to avoid possible infection.

For Jade propagation, harvest the whole leaf from the stem and place into soil, either laying on top or with the bottom of the cutting in the soil.

For snake plant propagation, harvest a single leaf and cut it into sections, making sure to remember or mark which direction each cutting originally grew. Each cut piece of the leaf can be placed directly into soil once the cut side has dried. Make sure to put the plant in the soil in the original direction of growth - the part that grew down towards the roots needs to be potted into the soil as the top side will not produce roots. 

For plants that are more challenging to propagate, such as Pilea or ZZ plant, place the end of the cut leaf into a small container of water. Replace the water once a week and be ready to wait several weeks or months for roots to be well established before potting into growing medium. 

Growing new plants from leaf cuttings requires the greatest patience. The leaf will slowly develop roots and eventually new growth will grow from these roots.

In the image below, the small leaf cuttings of a snake plant are visible at soil level, with new growth coming out of the soil next to the cuttings. A white arrow shows the direction of growth, first down for the roots, then back up for the new growth. 
Snake plant with cutting and new growth


A faster way of propagating many plants is to take a cutting of the stem or vine of the plant rather than the leaf. Unlike with leaf cuttings, once roots have been established, the cutting will continue to grow and produce a larger plant in much less time. 

Some species that can be propagated from leaf cutting: Epipremnum aureum (Pothos), Hedera helix (English Ivy), Tradescantia zebrina (Wandering dude), Ficus elastica (Rubber plant), Crassula ovata (Jade), Aglaonema (Chinese evergreen), Pepperomia, and many more. 

Select a healthy section of the plant to make a cutting. Look for root nodes along the stem or vine. These small bumps along the stem or vine, often brown in colour, will produce new roots when planted. Instead of root nodes, some species produce air roots, short tender tendrils. Make a cut so that the bottom of your cutting has several root nodes or air roots. Make sure your cutting has enough length for the new plant to have several healthy leaves above the soil level and a section with multiple root nodes below soil level. Stem cuttings can be rooted in water first or can be planted directly into a growing medium. 

The image below shows a cutting of Pothos, with several root nodes present, including large tubular nodes and smaller nodes which present as small bumps on the stem. 

Pothos cutting with root nodes