Rooting Cuttings in Water

Select a plant

Select a houseplant that roots easily, such as, a begonia that has become tall and leggy. Because there are already some small shoots at the base of this plant, it is also an excellent candidate for cutting back to get the plant bushy again.

Many indoor houseplants, such as, begonias, coleus, polka-dot-plant, ivies and philodendrons root easily in water. Other plants, including many woody plants such as hibiscus and citrus will not root well in water. They usual rot before rooting.

Take cuttings from the plant

Take cuttings from the plant. For most plants, cuttings should be between 4 and 6 inches long. Don’t make your cuttings too large; they will not root well or, if rooted, will become a tall, lanky plant instead of a compact one.

Cut stems just below a bud

Using a sharp knife (or pruners) cut just below where a leaf attaches to the stem (the node). Roots grow easiest from this location. If you leave a section of stem below the node, it often rots.

Remove the lower leaves

Remove the lower leaves but leave the top two or three. Any part of the cutting that will be below the surface of the water should be free of leaves.

Remove any flowers that are present

Flowers are not helpful for the rooting process. If left on the cutting, the flowers will try to develop into seed and use the food reserved in the cutting that could be better used for rooting. Dying flowers will also mold and rot in the moist rooting environment. So, hard as it is, remove any flowers or buds from the cuttings.

Ready for rooting

After cutting back to a node and stripping off the lower leaves and flowers, the cutting is now ready for rooting in water.

Place cutting in water

Several cuttings may be placed together in one container. Be sure to add fresh water as needed until the cuttings are fully rooted.

Check for rooting

Rooting will generally occur in 3-4 weeks but some plants will take longer. When the roots are 1-2 inches long or longer the cutting is ready to be potted up.

Remove from water when rooted

This plant has heavy rooting and is ready to be moved to a pot with potting soil. In most cases when the roots are 1-2 inches long they can be moved to individual pots but many rooted cuttings will survive in water for extended periods of time.

Pre-moisten some potting soil

Add water sparingly to the potting soil, mixing thoroughly until the potting soil is moist but not soggy.

Select a proper size pot and place soil in the bottom

Choose a pot with just enough space for the root system. Place enough pre-moistened soil in the bottom of the pot to raise the top of the root ball an inch or so below the rim of the pot.

Fill pot with soil

Fill in the spaces around the roots with pre-moistened potting soil. Gently press the medium around the plant to provide good contact between the roots and the soil.

Prune off any excess foliage

This cutting grew substantially in the water after it was rooted and before it was potted. The tall growth is best pruned off to force new growth at the base of the plant and produce a bushier young plant. The removed section could become a new cutting that could be placed in water to root.

Water

Water the soil well until all the soil is moist and water runs out the bottom of the pot. This will help settle the soil around the roots and remove air pockets.

Place in a location with good light

Once the extra water has drained from the pot, place the pot in a saucer. Do not let the plant stand in water. Place it in an appropriate growing location. Plants have different light, humidity and temperature requirements. Know your plant. For information on how to grow fibrous rooted begonias, click here.

A happy mother plant

Even the mother plant that provided the cuttings is happier after the "haircut". In 3 weeks the young shoots at the base of the mother plant have grown to produce a bushy, attractive plant, which before long could provide even more cuttings to root.