Propagating houseplants in water is a lot easier than you probably think, and growing houseplants in water is arguably easier than soil, so long as the houseplant is well-adapted to water as a growing medium. A handful of the most popular and easy-care houseplants are among those which take well to being grown in water. Plant care for these types of houseplants simply involves replacing the water and adding nutrient packs. With a lot of growth, you may also need to add physical support to the plant roots. But there’s no mess, fewer diseases and pests, and you don’t have to worry about underwatering or overwatering. Check out our guide to growing and propagating houseplants in water.
Propagating Houseplants in Water
Many types of houseplants can be easily propagated in water with a plant cutting just below the leaf node, usually as little as ¼ inch. This is a good rule of thumb for philodendron and pothos plants—the easiest and most popular houseplants to propagate in water. Even with best practices, the success rate is not 100%. If the parent plant is enjoying robust growth, we recommend creating 2-3 cuttings just to be sure. It’s always a good idea to check out the propagation guide for that specific type of houseplant. When propagating succulents in water, it’s important to let the cutting develop a callus before submerging the plant in water. Otherwise, root rot will kill the new plant before it has a chance to get started. Most other houseplant cuttings can be immediately transplanted to water.
Ideally, you can use the stems and leaves as support while leaving the nodes below the water line. You may need to introduce gravel or other additional support. Also, most plants will require, or at least benefit from, adding fertilizer to the water to encourage new root growth. At this point, all you need to do at this point is put the cutting in a container with water with the node submerged and the leaves out of the water.
Some plants can be trimmed at different points depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. Lucky bamboo plants, for example, can be cut at the bottom of the sprout to propagate a new plant and promote growth in the parent. They can also be cut farther down on the stalk to reduce the height of the plant and propagate a larger section of the plant. A mature coleus plant will develop shoots with both primary and secondary (apical) stems. Both types of stems can root in water, increasing the odds of successful propagation.
Growing Houseplants in Water
One of the common mistakes when propagating houseplants in water is to wait too long to transfer them to soil. For many types of plants, you need to make a decision within a couple weeks or a month about whether the plant is going to planted in soil or continue to live in water. If the root grows longer an inch or two, it may become brittle and permanently adapted to living in a water environment. The root will disintegrate, and the plant connected to those roots will die.
Some popular houseplants are great to propagate in water but should be planted in soil before this happens. English ivy and spider plants are two popular examples of plants that are easy to propagate in water but aren’t the best for mature plants. Philodendrons, lucky bamboo, pothos, wandering Jew, and coleus plants are our most common recommendations for houseplants that grow in water indefinitely.
One long-term obstacle to growing houseplants in water is algae growth. If you’re having trouble or had trouble with algae growth in the past, add some activated charcoal to the water. Glass jars are great for propagation as you monitor the plant for new root growth. They are also a great way to display the plant roots for visual appeal. However, an opaque container is often best to reduce algae growth in mature houseplants. With lots of new growth it may also become necessary to make sure the plant is securely supported in its container.