We Tried 3 of the Most Popular Propagation Methods and Water Was the Best

Plus, expert instructions for a fourth method

plant cuttings rooting in water

Gulsina / Getty Images

Propagating plants is the cheapest and best way to expand your plant collection. The vast majority of my huge plant collection has come from propagation. Somehow it’s more fun than purchasing them; maybe it's the ability to share my love for plants with others by giving them a part of my favorites—a go-to birthday present these days that people absolutely love. 

If I can turn one more person into a plant lover than I’ve done my job, and, well, propagating is key. If you’re new to propagating, you may be wondering how exactly to do it. We put three of the most popular ways of propagating plants to the test—and got step-by-step instructions from experts on a fourth method. Read on to find out what to expect with each as you grow your collection and share plants with others.

What Is Plant Propagation?

Propagating is the process of creating new plants that are identical to their parent plant. You can do it in four ways: the most common way is by growing roots from a cutting in water. You can also split or divide plants, propagate from a leaf, and propagate succulents just by placing them on soil.

Method 1: Water Propagation

Propagating plants in water

Taylor Fuller

This is by far the most common and simplest way to propagate a plant. All you need to do is take a cutting of a plant that has a node. Plants that do well with water propagating are Pothos, some Philodendron, and Monstera just to name a few.

How to Do It

  1. Make your cut: You need to make your cut (using clean scissors or shears) so that the node will be on the piece of vine that you’ll put in water.

  2. Place in water and wait: Once you make the cut from your mother plant, take your cutting and place it in water. Then you’ll wait a few weeks for roots to begin growing.

  3. Repot: Once the roots are about two inches long, you can transplant to soil. Remember to keep the soil moist for the first few weeks as your plant will be used to sitting in water at that point.

In my experience, this method is the best as it requires the least amount of effort and skill and still results in a plant with the right care and patience.

Method 2: Division Propagation

Pass It On Plant with pups

Taylor Fuller

You can use the division method for a large variety of plants. The best plants for this method are plants that grow “pups” or offshoots. One of the most popular plants to propagate with this method is the Chinese Money Plant (aka the Pass It on Plant). It is commonly divided up once a pup is big enough and has roots of its own.

How to Do It

  1. Remove the pups: Take the plant out of its pot, loosen the root ball (and gently untangle roots to separate the plant, if needed). Remove the pups. It's unnecessary to cut anything with this method.

  2. Repot the pups: Add the pups to a new pot with fresh, dampened soil and care for it as usual.

Method 3: Leaf Propagation

Peperomia leaf cutting for propagation

Taylor Fuller

You can regrow some plants from a piece of the leaf. For instance, you can cut a bit of a snake plant leaf off, pop it in water, and roots will grow out of the bottom. You can also take a leaf from a Peperomia plant and stick it into moist soil or moss. The leaf will start to grow tiny leaves out of it after some time. Patience is key. 

Peperomia plant grown from a leaf cutting

Taylor Fuller

If you’re going to use this method of propagation, a quick Google search will tell you if the plant can be propagated with just its leaf. All you do is snip the leaf and stick it in either water or soil.

Method 4: Succulent Propagation

Tawni and Krista from NeedlesandLeaves.net shared their process of propagating succulents.

  1. Remove lower leaves: When succulents get leggy (they look stretched out as they are reaching for the sun) remove the lower leaves, making sure the base of the leaf remains intact. “After you have successfully removed the lower leaves you will be left with a small rosette on a long bare stem," Tawni said.

  2. Remove the top of the succulent: "I like to call the next step decapitation propagation. Not sure if that’s the technical term, but it rhymes and we’re going to cut its head off."

  3. Wait and let them dry out: "After you cut the top off, you need to let the leaves and stems callous over so they don’t rot in the soil. Then once they’re dry, you lay them on top of soil."

"I’ve had the best results when keeping my leaves indoors in a window with lots of indirect sunlight. After a few weeks you will see little pink roots sprouting from the ends of the leaves and then teeny tiny baby plants will begin to grow,” they said. 

Not all methods work for all types of plants, but with some careful attention and planning, you can grow lots of new plants for free.