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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Propagating House Plants - by David Robson

Posted by John Fulton -

Are your houseplants becoming overgrown, leggy, crowded? Do you wish you had more of your favorite varieties? Many kinds of houseplants are easily propagated using simple materials found around your home, states David Robson, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, Springfield Center.

A number of techniques can be used to propagate houseplants. Some plants can be increased in number by leaf or stem cuttings; some require division.

A cutting is that part of the plant that can produce roots and develop a new plant. Stem cuttings are made by using a sharp knife to remove 3 or 4 inches of the terminal or end growth just below a node. A node is the place where a leaf grew. Some common plants that can be started this way are the coleus, geranium, ivy, begonia and many of the philodendrons.

Plants that are commonly started using only a small part of a leaf are sansevaria and Rex begonia. Leaf petiole (leaf stem) cuttings are used to start African violets, gloxinias and peperomias. Besides these methods, sansevaria and African violets can be increased by dividing the plants.

A mixture of half sand and half brown peat moss is a good rooting medium for use at home. Some of the artificial soil mixes sold under a variety of trade names in garden centers will work nicely too. Vermiculite and perlite are the most common ones.

Large growing plants such as dumbcane, cut-leaf philodendron, rubber plant, croton and dracaena often lose their lower leaves. They become tall and ungainly. These plants can be restarted by a process called air layering.

Make a one-inch vertical cut through the stem 5 to 7 inches below the lowest leaf. 7 Keep this cut open by inserting a matchstick. Place a large handful of moist sphagnum moss around this portion of the stem, and tie it with string to hold it in place. Then wrap with polyethylene film to make it airtight. Make sure all the moss is under the plastic wrap. Otherwise, the moss will dry out and the plants will not root.

Within a few weeks, roots will begin in develop at the cut. When the roots are about an inch long, remove the plastic and cut the new plant off below the new root system. Then pot the plant in a good, light soil mixture.

Often the remaining lower stem of the parent plant can be kept and will sprout new leaves—sometimes developing into a branched plant rather than a single-stemmed tree.

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