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How to Propagate Plants as a College Student

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UFL chapter.

Create the low-cost plant sanctuary of your dreams 

When my roommate and I were brainstorming how we wanted to decorate our college apartment, there was one thing both our Pinterest boards had in common: plants. In addition to simply looking aesthetic, incorporating indoor plants into your living space has scientifically backed health benefits. As Healthline discusses, indoor plants can reduce stress, promote productivity, improve air quality and improve overall mental health, making indoor plants the perfect decoration for your apartment or dorm.

The only issue with owning indoor plants as a college student is the price. Home Depot lists most of the more common house plants at around $20 per plant, such as the golden pothos, which they list at $22.77. While this price may not seem outrageous on its own, it quickly adds up. Buy three, and suddenly, you’re out $60.

The solution is propagation.  

What is Propagation? 

By definition, plant propagation is simply the process of creating new plants. It can be split into two main categories. The first is sexual propagation, which involves using seeds to grow new plants from scratch. However, when people talk about plant propagation, they are usually referring to asexual propagation, which is the category this article will focus on. Asexual propagation involves taking part of one plant and using it to grow a clone.  Unlike growing plants from seeds, asexual propagation allows you to quickly produce many plants that are already semi-mature. It also eliminates the hassle of fertilization.  

How to Propagate New Plants from Cuttings 

I first started my plant propagation journey in August of this year. I was originally a little overwhelmed by all the different ways you can asexually propagate plants, such as division, layering, grafting and budding. After a combination of reading and experimenting, I learned the most beginner-friendly way is to use cuttings. Put simply, propagation from cuttings involves slicing off a small section of a plant and then using it to grow an entirely new plant.  Follow the steps below to learn how!

  1. Picking a plant: If you’re propagating for the first time, I recommend using a leafy indoor plant or vine, such as a pothos, philodendron or monstera. Those plants are hardy and the easiest to propagate. My roommate had a Devils Ivy, AKA Golden Pothos, which was the first plant I ever propagated.  
  2. Taking the cutting: Once you’ve found a good plant, it’s time to take the cutting. You’ll want to first identify a healthy four-to-six-inch section of the plant. Next, you’ll want to identify a node, which is the section of the plant where new growth occurs. It should look like a little bump with leaves growing from it.  Once you’ve found the node, slice through it at an angle. This angled slice will help your new plant take in nutrients and grow roots.
  3. Putting the cutting in water: The next stage of your cutting’s journey is to be placed in water so that it can grow roots.  I suggest finding a tall, skinny glass container and filling it up with water. One of my current favorites is this super cute planter from Five and Below, but any recycled glass container will work. Once your container is filled with water, add the cutting in and move it to a place where it will receive indirect sunlight. In the next couple of weeks roots should start to grow.
  4. Moving your plant to soil: Once the roots are around 4 inches, it’s time for you to transfer them into soil. You’ll want to first find a pot or other container with lots of room for your plant to grow. Next, fill it with indoor potting soil and carefully transfer your plant. You’ll want to water it frequently at first but start pacing it out until you reach the amount of watering that your mature plant requires (this varies from plant to plant so I would look up your specific one).

How to Propagate Succulents 

Succulents are known for being hard to kill and tend to be the go-to plant for people who don’t have the greenest thumbs. They also just look amazing sitting on a desk or bookshelf.  Just like leafy plants, succulents can be propagated too, although the steps are a little bit different.  So, for an added challenge, here’s one way to propagate succulents.  

  1. Wiggle off the leaves: Once you’ve found a healthy succulent to take leaves from, you’ll want to gently wiggle some of the bottom leaves side to side until they pop-off.  They should cleanly fall off without any tearing. I recommend taking four to eight leaves from the mother succulent so that it still has plenty left.
  2. Let them dry: After collecting the leaves, you’ll want to place them out to dry for about a week. This will allow their nodes to callous over, which helps them to grow new roots and leaves.  
  3. Place in soil: Once they’ve slightly dried out, it’s time to gently place them on top of a bed of soil.  Do not try to plant them in the soil, just lay them on top.  Next, you’ll want to use a spray bottle and lightly spritz them with water every few days.  After a week or so, pink roots will start to grow, and then an entirely new succulent will sprout up as the original leaf starts to wither away! 
  4. Planting the new succulent:  Once your new succulent has overtaken the original leaf, it’s time to plant it in soil. Find a small pot (recycled glass candle containers work great), fill it with soil and plant your new succulent!  

In addition to allowing you to turn your room into a low-cost plant sanctuary, propagating plants might just turn into your new favorite hobby.  During my plant propagation journey, I’ve found myself jumping up and down with excitement when I see the first sign of roots sprouting from one of my cuttings. There’s also a strong sense of satisfaction that comes with watching your new plant child grow and thrive. So go get started on your own plant propagation journey and soak up some of those benefits while you’re at it!