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Tips for successful houseplant propagation

Propagating houseplants is an activity the whole family can enjoy. Success depends on using the right potting medium, a clean container, and providing an adequate growing environment. 

There are several kinds of potting medium that can be used for cutting propagation as long as it provides moisture and oxygen in the proper balance, support for the developing plant, and is free of pathogens. Peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, sand, and various combinations of these materials have been used to successfully establish cuttings. Most of the materials are readily available individually or as a potting mix. Remember, all potting mixes are not created equal. Some contain a high proportion of soil and tend to become water logged due to poor internal drainage. It is in your best interest to avoid using these for cutting propagation.

There are a variety of containers suitable for cutting propagation as long as they have drain holes. Common household recyclables such as milk cartons, yogurt containers and salad trays work great. Just wash these before use and punch a few drain holes in the bottom. Containers can also be purchased from your local garden center.

After cuttings have been placed in the potting medium and thoroughly watered, cover them loosely with a sheet of plastic to help keep the humidity high while they are rooting.  Cuttings should be placed near a window where they will receive at least one to two hours of bright indirect light. Avoid placing cuttings in direct sunlight because they may burn under the plastic. If a suitable location is not available, set up a small light table using a four-foot shop light attached or suspended above the cuttings. Use cool florescent or grow bulbs and position the light so cuttings are four inches below the light. Keep the light on a minimum of 10 to 12 hours a day. Check cuttings periodically to make sure they have enough water. If any cuttings die or show symptoms of rot remove them immediately. After cuttings are rooted they can be carefully removed and transplanted into small containers. 

Propagating houseplants can be an easy and relatively inexpensive family project. Join me next week as I explain how to take cuttings from houseplants.



Randy Nelson
Extension Educator, Home Hort & Ag Production Systems
(218) 299-5020
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