Propagating Houseplants from Leaf Cuttings

Houseplants can be propagated by several different methods.  Indoor plants are most commonly propagated from stem cuttings.  (Stem cuttings are shoots with several attached leaves.)  However, some plants can be propagated from a single leaf. 

Leaf-Petiole Cuttings 

African violets (Saintpaulia ionantha) are easily propagated by leaf-petiole cuttings.  A leaf-petiole cutting consists of a leaf and its leaf stalk or petiole.  Select a firm, healthy leaf and cut it off with a sharp knife.  Leave 1 to 1½ inches of the petiole attached to the leaf blade.  Dip the end of the petiole in a rooting hormone.  Fill a pot with coarse sand, vermiculite, or a 50:50 mix of perlite and sphagnum peat moss.  Moisten the rooting medium.  Insert the petiole of each leaf cutting into the rooting medium at a 45-degree angle.  Firm the rooting medium around the petiole of each leaf cutting.  After all cuttings are inserted, water the rooting medium and allow it to drain for a few minutes.  Next, cover the cuttings with a clear plastic bag.  Secure the plastic bag to the pot with tape or a rubber band.  (The enclosed environment drastically reduces the loss of water from the leaf cuttings and prevents them from wilting and dying before they have a chance to root.)  Set the pot in a brightly lit location.  Roots usually form in three to four weeks.  The leaves of new plants usually appear in six to eight weeks.  Several plants usually form at the base of each petiole.  Separate the plants by carefully pulling or cutting them apart.  Pot up plants individually into containers using a well-drained potting mix. 

Leaf Blade Cuttings  New roots on a snake plant cutting.

The thick, fleshy leaves of the jade plant (and several other succulents) do not have petioles.  The leaves are directly attached to the stem.  The jade plant and similar plants can be propagated by breaking off a leaf, dipping the broken end in a rooting hormone, and inserting the leaf (about one-third of its length) into perlite or coarse sand.  Do not enclose the pot in a plastic bag.  Periodically moisten the rooting medium.  Roots and shoots will develop at the base of the leaf. 

The Rex begonia (Begonia rex-cultorum) may be propagated by cutting the major veins on the underside of a leaf, laying the leaf (lower side down) on the rooting medium, and pinning the leaf firmly to the rooting medium with hairpins or paper clips.  Enclose the container in a plastic bag.  Small plantlets and roots will develop where the major veins have been cut. 

Leaf Section Cuttings 

The snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) is commonly propagated by leaf section cuttings.  Remove a leaf and cut it into 3- to 4-inch-tall sections.  For each section, the area closest to the base of the parent plant is Leaf sections cut up and ready to plant with rooting hormone. the bottom and the farthest away is the top.  (No roots will develop if the sections are inserted upside down.  As the leaf is cut into sections, a small notch can be made in the top of each section to insure that the sections are inserted correctly.)  Dip the bottom end of each section in a rooting hormone and then insert it one to two inches deep into a moistened rooting medium (perlite, coarse sand, or vermiculite).  Keep the rooting medium moist with periodic watering.  New shoots should appear in two months. 

The Rex begonia can also be propagated by cutting a leaf into wedge shaped sections.  Each section should contain a major vein.  Insert the section closest to the parent plant into the rooting medium.  Enclose the pot in a plastic bag.  Roots and new leaves will form at the base of each section. 

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