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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.

By Teresa Woodard
February 25, 2021
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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.

How to propagate houseplants
Burro's tail sedum
| Credit: Lisa Eldred-Steinkopf

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

How to propagate houseplants
Succulent propagation
| Credit: Lisa Eldred-Steinkopf

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.

How to propagate houseplants
Pothos
| Credit: Lisa Eldred-Steinkopf

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

How to propagate houseplants
Propagating tools
| Credit: Lisa Eldred-Steinkopf

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

How to propagate houseplants
Variegated peperomia
| Credit: Lisa Eldred-Steinkopf

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

How to propagate houseplants
Leaf cuttings in water
| Credit: Lisa Eldred-Steinkopf

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

How to propagate houseplants
Copper spoon succulents
| Credit: Lisa Eldred-Steinkopf

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.

How to propagate houseplants
Succulent propagation
| Credit: Lisa Eldred-Steinkopf

Technique #4: Decapitating a Succulent Rosette

How to propagate houseplants
Echeveria succulent propagation
| Credit: Lisa Eldred-Steinkopf

Indoors, echeveria succulents often grow leggy and lose their signature compact shape if they don't have enough sunlight. An easy fix is to cut off the main rosette and remove a few leaves from the rosette's base.  Allow the rosette and leaf ends to dry and callous over, then place them on moist potting mix. Watch them send out roots and continue to grow.

Technique #5: Division

Snake Plant Division
Snake Plant Division
| Credit: Bob Stefko

Plants such as snake plants (pictured here), pilea, aloe and peace lilies are examples of houseplants that sprout new plantlets or pups around the crown of the parent plant. These plantlets can easily be pulled or cut from the parent. A knife may be needed for plants with hefty root systems. After separating the plantlets, pot them up individually in appropriately sized pots.

Technique #6: Runners

How to propagate houseplants
Spider plant
| Credit: Lisa Eldred-Steinkopf

Spider plants are adored for the baby plants swinging beneath the parent plant.  These babies or "runners" can be cut from the mother plant and placed in a pot of moist soil.  Make a small hole and insert the runner's base in the hole. Runners can also be placed in water to grow longer roots before potting.

Spider plants
Spider plant propagation
| Credit: Bob Stefko

Read more

Find out more about propagating houseplants—as well as get other creative ideas and tips for your indoor plants—in Lisa Eldred-Steinkopf's Houseplant Party (Cool Springs Press, $19.99).

How to propagate houseplants
Houseplant Party
| Credit: Lisa Eldred-Steinkopf

Visit thehouseplantguru.com for more houseplant inspiration from Lisa Eldred-Steinkopf.

How to propagate houseplants
Lisa Steinkopf
| Credit: Lisa Eldred-Steinkopf