One thing I’ve noticed over the years while puttering around the garden and trying my hand at making houseplants flourish…is this: Buying new plants is getting to be pretty pricey! It’s just not as economical as it used to be.
When first starting out you begin by purchasing soil, containers, hand tools and maybe a watering can or spray bottle. Most of that is one-and-done, you only need to lay out the cash one time since these things can be used over and over again (except for the soil of course).
But when you’re looking at building up a garden (whether that be with flowers or vegetables), you really can’t escape from having to purchase new plants every year at the beginning of the season. Some things you can harvest seeds from each year and that does help lower costs.
For indoor houseplants, you never really just stop at one. Once things start getting nice and lush, you notice how much the space benefits from a gorgeous fern or potted ivy, whatever it is you’re growing…and then you’re hooked! You want to fill your home with more.
Here’s a way to help reduce costs: Propagate new plants from ones you already have!
Plan on growing these new babies/pups yourself or start trading with folks who have different varieties to offer. I know some people who get them started nicely and sell bunches of them in their annual garage sale (makes a nice fund for buying more exotic varieties you’d like to try).
Here’s some tips for how to go about doing this, it’s based on an old article I found in my notes and is still very helpful today.
While division is a simple way to create one, two, or three new plants, cuttings allow the propagator to make an infinite number.
- Gather together a sharp knife, moist paper towels, a suitable work surface, a propagation sweatbox (either a miniature greenhouse or a homespun version — a small pot placed inside a plastic, zippered storage bag), rooting medium (a commercially prepared mix or a homemade one of half peat moss and half perlite), and a water-misting bottle.
- The best time to do this is in the morning of a mid-spring day. The ideal cutting is three to six inches long and contains at least three nodes (where leaves appear on a stem).
- Make a clean, angled cut an inch below a node, then detach all leaves from the lower half of the cutting. Remove any flowers or flower buds. To retain moisture, wrap it in paper towels.
- Next, dig a hole in the rooting medium to accommodate the width and height of the leafless node section. Use the knife to make a final, clean cut just below one of the lowest, leafless nodes, and place the cutting in the awaiting hole. It should be able to support itself; if it doesn’t, stick it in deeper.
- Mist gently with water and replace the greenhouse top or drop the container into the storage bag with the zipper (half-open) on top. Mist once a week and adjust the humidity accordingly: Dense condensation signifies that the plant needs more air; wilting implies the opposite.
Every week, check for roots by inserting a butter knife into the medium and tilting the cutting upward. When the roots are one inch long, consider it young and fragile but independent enough to graduate into a pot.