Nancy Brachey

Make new houseplants out of the old

I think many of you are keen to break out of the bad-winter malaise and do some real gardening. Even such a small task as propagating a houseplant may give you relief.

While you may not need more houseplants, ones that you propagate make nice gifts for others to enjoy.

It is also a way to have a backup should your fern or peperomia or pothos drop dead all of a sudden.

More likely, your plants don’t look as good as they did last fall. That is likely due to the low natural light of winter and the low level of humidity common in heated homes.

Propagation can be done in many ways. The basic form is sowing seeds to germinate and produce new plants.

Houseplants are different. You can take a small portion of your plant, anything from a fern to an African violet, and use that little part to make a new plant.

In most cases, you simply dig out these young plants with a knife or trowel, taking care to keep their roots attached, and replant them in small pots with fresh soil. This is instant propagation, with little waiting required to have a new and presentable plant to keep or give.

But you must take the plant out of the pot, shake it and wash off the soil to get a clear view of the crown. You must get portions of both the top and the roots, but often this is quite obvious and the sections can be removed from the mother plant by gently pulling or cutting. Then replant.

Simply take a cutting about 4 inches long, remove any leaves from the bottom half and plant it in good soil. The cutting will also produce roots in a clear vase of water, which gives you the chance to watch propagation in action.