Top 5: Easiest Tropical Plants to Propagate!

Seeds are the result of sexual propagation and while rewarding, it will take a long time to see the results of your efforts. Asexual propagation is usually quicker and can be in the form of taking cuttings, layering, division, budding and grafting.

If you are discovering the joy of growing tropical plants for the first time, you will no doubt eventually be interested in plant propagation. Propagation is to ‘make more of’ or ‘to multiply’. Seeds are the result of sexual propagation and while rewarding, it will take a long time to see the results of your efforts.  Asexual propagation is usually quicker and can be in the form of taking cuttings, layering, division, budding and grafting.  I like to think of it as a type of cloning.  Depending on the plant, I think taking cuttings is the easiest.

You will need the following tools and supplies.  A very sharp clean knife or scissors, #1 rooting hormone, a pencil (for making holes in the soil), a small watering can (do not use softened water), a few small pots with drainage holes (4 in. or 6 in. diameter), drainage trays, succulent soil and tropical plant soil mixed with some perlite added for aeration and drainage.  A 4 in. pot is ideal for starting up to three cuttings while a 6 in. pot can handle 5-6.

Just a few things to remember….

Be sure to clean your knife or scissors periodically with a mild bleach water solution.  Wash and rinse all your pots and trays before you start. 

When dipping cuttings in rooting hormone, always gently shake off the excess before planting.

If you choose to root some of your cuttings in water just know that the longer cuttings are left in the water to root the harder it will be for them to eventually adapt to the soil.  Roots should be 2-3 in. long in water before moving to a pot of soil.

There are many tropical plants that are easy to propagate!   Out of them all I think the following are the top five.

Pothos  (Epipremnum aureum)

Pothos root extremely well in water. Do not let the leaves sit in the water as they will rot and the cutting will die.   Change the water weekly. 

You can also dip the ends in rooting hormone, shake off the excess and slide them into the holes you have made in the tropical soil with your pencil.  Gently firm the soil around the stem but not too much.  Plant roots need good air flow through the soil.  A compact soil can smother tender new roots. 

When you have filled your pot with cuttings, water with warm water and set in a well- lit room (but not too bright) to rest and start to root.  Keep the soil moist but not soggy. 


English Ivy (Hedera helix)

English Ivy is another easy care tropical vine that is usually sold in a hanging basket.  It can also be grown in a standing pot and when the plant gets too long or bushy its time to take some cuttings!  Like the pothos English Ivy roots very well in water.  Remove the bottom two to three leaves on your cuttings and make sure the remaining leaves do not sit in the water.  A long stem will give you multiple cuttings.  You may want to pot some up for friends and family!  Make each cut directly above a leaf and below a leaf about 1-2 inches.

To root the cuttings in tropical soil, follow the same directions as per Pothos above.

Once the new shoots are well rooted and growing place in a bright light location.  Give your ivy a shower every month to dust off leaves and discourage plant pests.  In fact give all your tropical plants a shower every month! 


Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Spider Plants are another very common houseplant that is tough and provides you with lots of babies or pups for potting. 

A spider plant can root very easily in a shallow bowl of water.  Remove the pup from the mother stem, leaving about an inch of stem attached to the pup.  You can now cut the stem back at the base of the plant.  This will encourage new stems to shoot out and make more pups.   You will notice there is a bump or node on the bottom of each pup and this should be in shallow water to root.  Check the water level frequently.  Tiny glass vases are just perfect for rooting spider plants as the plant will sit in the small opening above the water.

You can also root the pups in tropical soil.  Lightly dip the bottom of the pup’s node in rooting hormone and sit the plant on top of the soil.  Gently push the pup a tiny bit into the soil for stability.  Water the soil and keep it moist but not wet as the pups root and begin to grow.

In the spring and summer you can also use spider plants outdoors in mixed planters or pots on their own.


Wandering Dude (Tradescantia zebrina)

Another tropical you can grow outside in the summer is the Wandering Dude.   It’s colorful, striped foliage does well in mixed planters as a trailing plant.  Keep in mind that their stems are somewhat fragile, but this also lends itself to easy propagation. 

New cuttings should be about 5-6 inches long.  Remove the bottom 2-4 leaves and dip the ends in rooting hormone.  Gently shake off any excess hormone.    Pot in a fast- draining tropical soil as per Pothos and English Ivy.   Again keep the soil moist but not soggy and the plants out of direct sun.   

And, of course, like most easy care tropical, plants you can root the cuttings in water!


Snake Plant (Sansevieria)

Last but not least, is the tough and tall Snake Plant (Sansevieria).  This is one of my favorite houseplants as it is so easy care and forgiving.  If you are lucky, your snake plant will eventually flower.  The scent is wonderful and not overpowering.

Cut one tall leaf near the soil with a very sharp knife.  Cut the leaf into multiple 2-3 inch sections.  Keep all the leaf cuttings in the same direction they were on the plant.  To identify the base of each piece, cut a small v-notch on the bottom of the cutting.   This end will go into the water or the soil.  To prevent rot, leave the cuttings out in the air to callous over for two days. 

After the cuttings are calloused over, you can put the callous end in shallow water or push the end into a succulent soil mix.  If ‘sticking’ your cuttings in soil, dust the calloused ends with rooting hormone first.  A six inch pot with drainage will be needed as one long leaf can produce multiple cuttings!  Place the pots in bright light and keep the soil damp but do not overwater. 

Now is the time to exercise patience!  Snake plant cuttings can take up to two months to root – in water or soil!  The cutting itself will not grow but eventually you will see a new leaf coming up alongside the cutting.  When the new shoots are roughly three inches long, divide the soil clump into individual plants and repot into 4 inch (2-3 cuttings)or six inch pots (4-6 cuttings) with drainage. 

Above all, have a good time learning a new skill!  Get the kids involved – they will love to help out and get their hands dirty in the process!

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