Water Propagation
Propagation

Water Propagation

Water propagation is as easy as taking some scissors to your favorite plant and putting it in water in a warm and bright place until it roots, there just a few things you need to know, read on as we cover all you need to know…


Water propagation

Water Propagation is one of the easiest types of propagation – get some scissors and a glass of water and you’re away! This is one of the cheapest ways to get more plants. It is a really fun process as you can see how they’re doing – I always have a few jars, bottles and test-tubes around my flat with growing plants and roots on display. 

They also act as a backup in case your original plant dies back. And of course they can be gifted to your plant junkie (or plant-noob) friends. Or indeed traded for more plants.

We’ll run through how to water propagate your houseplants here with a few examples and some do’s and don’ts. Have fun, it is a really rewarding process…

See also: Philodendron White Knight, Spider Plant Care, Philodendron Black Cardinal, Lucky Bamboo Care, Syngonium Rayii, Philodendron Care, Plant Styling.

Christmas Cactus
The original Christmas Cactus plant which I’ll take a cutting from to water propagate

What you need for water propagation:

  1. Water. 
  2. A jar or glass to put them in. If you use a see-through container then root growth is really easy to monitor. 
  3. Scissors or sharp knife – make sure they are clean and sharp so the cut is nice and clean too. 
  4. Your plant.
Water Propagation
Our plant just after taking the cutting.

We’re going to use a Christmas Cactus as our example as it is so common, and is very easy to propagate. 

Water Propagation Step By Step Instructions:

Follow these steps for the best chance of success with propagating plants in water…

Step 1: Make The Cutting

You need to take a cutting under a node. What is a node I hear some of you say?! It is the part that separates each section of the plant.

It is really easy to see on a Christmas cactus for example, as its the part where the sections join. But on a different plant it can be a bit more difficult. Here is a picture (below) pic of a Monkey Mask Monstera cutting that has already rooted, so you can see the nodes. The nodes are like knuckles that separate sections of the plant – the roots grow from these as you can see. Obviously there will be no roots on the new cutting, but you can see that the nodes are like little joints. You want to cut below one of these so that the node is towards the bottom of your new cutting.  Roots grow out of the these nodes so you want to make sure they are included or the plant will not root.

Water Propagation - nodes
Here you can see a money mask monstera cutting – you can see that the roots come out of 3 places on the stem – the nodes. These are where leaves grow from too. You must make sure you have at least one node without leaves that will sit in the water, so make your cutting below one.

Step 2: Let the cutting callous over for half a day.

This is an important step, it helps the the open wounds heal, which will reduce the chance of rot considerably.

Step 3: Put the cutting in water.

Use filtered tap water that has been left to stand over night. I just use a jar with a thin neck that will keep the cutting upright.

Step 4: Put the cutting near a bright window sill but not in direct sunlight.

A bit of light will encourage growth, in the middle of a bright room or off to the side of window, out of direct sun, is a good spot.

Step 5: Wait for roots. 

Water propagations can take 2 weeks to start rooting and up to to 2 months to grow decent roots, depending on the plant and growing conditions. On average it can take about a month.

Step 6: Pot it up into soil and treat it as a juvenile plant.

Once decent roots have developed you can then pot it up into soil – use the same type of soil as the original plant used.

Good Luck!

On a side note you do actually have to put them in soil, I often leave the cuttings in jars and don’t pot them up. They might grow a bit slower, but they can look great in glass jars as decorations.

Pro tip: for vine-like plants like pothos and monkey mask monstera – cut the cuttings so they have two nodes under the water – this will mean they have more rooting points and a sturdier root system when you finally pot them in soil – as they’ll have two growth points and loads of roots. 

Be sure to top the water up regularly – you don’t want it to get really cloudy and the roots to rot.  I don’t fully change the water as the cuttings produce hormones that are in the water which I like to leave for the cutting. If it does go cloudy then I empty it out about halfway and refill it.  One way to avoid the cloudy-ness is to remove and leaves that are in the water as they rot and cloud the water.  

Water Propagation
The Christmas Cactus cutting for water propagation

How To Water Propagate Succulents

Water propagating succulent is relatively easy, take a stem cutting of a plant like a donkeys tail and make sure you remove the leaves from the bottom half of the stem, so that when you put it in water there is not foliage under the water, but there are leaves above the surface. Keep them bright and the water topped up and they should root well with in two months.

For more info see our guide: Propagating Succulents In Water.

Water Propagation To Soil

You want to move the plants to soil when they have decent sized root system. You do not want them to sit in water for months as the longer you leave them in water, the greater chance of shock once moved to water. So if they have plenty of roots you can pot them up, this is normally about month after taking the cuttings, but can change depending on the type or plant and temperature, light etc.


In the next section we’ll run down a few frequently asked questions and notes…

Water Propagation Root Rot

You can get rot and mold in water propagation, it is normally caused by vegetative matter growing the water, for example if a leaf falls in and rots, the water goes cloudy and the rot spreads. The best thing to do is keep leaves and the like out of the water, and then check the water regularly to see if it is going cloudy, and change the water if it is.

Can you propagate in tap water?

You can propagate plants in tap water. It is a good idea to use water from a water filter, and leave it overnight so it is at room temperature. Some people say it is good to leave tap water overnight as chlorine and fluoride will evaporate too (although the levels of these are very low in the tap water to begin with). In any case I fill up the jars the night before from my filter jug.

How long does it take to propagate in water?

Roots can start showing in a few days, depending on the type of plant. Within a month you should have roots and be able to pot it up. Some plants may take a little longer up to 2 months.

Fertilizer For Water Propagation

You can add a very semi-hydro diluted plant feed t water props to give them some nutrients, but it is not going to make a big difference to be honest, but at the same time it can cause the water to turn green if exposed to light. I would grow the plants in water without any extra rooting hormone or fertilizer.

Water Propagation
Our plant before taking the cutting

What plants can be propagated in water?

Plants like monsteras, pothos, philodendrons can be propagated in water and can be kept there almost indefinitely, most aroids with nodes basically. Succulents can also be rooted in water.

A few plants that can be propagated in water are Snake Plant, Monstera,  Christmas Cactus, Fiddle Leaf Fig, Pilea, ZZ Plant and more. For vine-type plants like Pothos, Ivy, Philodendron and Monkey Mask Monstera  – cut a section of the vine long enough for a few leaves out of the water and a long stem in the water, making sure to include a node. Many succulents too like jade plants or burro’s tail.

If you’re not sure if it can be water propagated – give it a go if your original plant is big enough it won’t miss a cutting.

What Are the Best Containers?

Propagation jars are the way forward… glass jars are great for water propagation as you can see root growth, and monitor the water to see if it is going cloudy. Jars with a thin neck are great as they keep the cutting upright.

Is Water Propagation Faster Than Soil?

Water propagation encourages faster rooting to begin with, but once the plant is rooted and starts to put out foliage, the plants will grow faster in soil which will give the plants more nutrients. I prefer to root cuttings in water then transfer to soil after month or so.

Does Water Propagation Need Sunlight?

You need to give the cuttings light or they will not grow but they will be fine back from the window in the middle of the room in medium indirect sunlight.

Water Propagation
Here´s some I made earlier – 2 cuttings that have been in water for a few weeks

Summary

Give water propagation a try – the cuttings look great in water jars and you get free plants, what do you have to lose?! By the way not all cuttings will work and some will die back – this is just part of it – don’t worry too much, you can always start again with a new cutting, this is especially true of succulent cuttings that often do not have a good success rate – but keep trying! 

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Water Propagation
The final cutting in water
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