get dirty

Make Babies! (Plants, That Is…)

try your hand at the easiest propagation method around

By Kate Bryant July 22, 2011

My new favorite coleus this year is called Electric Lime. I just can’t have enough of it! That’s where this method comes in handy… I can root the plant in a week, pot it up, boost it with some fish and cottonseed meal, and have a big, bouffy plant in about three weeks. Not too shabby!

Want to make babies? No, this isn’t a proposition: this is an invitation to propagate plants using nothing fancier than a knife and a jar of water. Oh, and a plant, of course!

There are rafts of interesting plants – annuals, perennials and shrubs – that are exceptionally easy to root in water. Simply cut off a piece of the mother plant just below a leaf node, snip off those lower leaves, and stick the cutting in water.

It’s incredibly gratifying, fun and – best of all – a totally free way to make more plants for your garden. Got kids around? They’ll love it.

Here are some of my favorite, fool-proof plants that can be propagated in jars of water:

  • — Mint-family plants including mint (a hardy perennial), coleus (tender), Plectranthus (tender), and basil (tender).
  • — Fuchsia (tender or hardy perennial shrub, depending on variety)
  • — Cape fuchsia (Phygelius) (hardy perennial shrub)
  • — Willow (Salix) (hardy perennial shrub or tree)
  • — Impatiens (tender)
  • Tradescantia (tender trailing plant)
  • — Ivy and zonal geranium (Pelargonium) (half-hardy to tender)
  • — Pothos (tender houseplant)
  • — Peperomia (tender houseplant)


  • Place a jar of water in a warm, bright location, preferably near a sink (to remind you to top up the water regularly).
  • Use a clean, sharp blade to cut healthy cuttings about 4-6" in length, directly below a leaf node. Choose stems with a short distance between leaf nodes and remove the lower pair of leaves.
  • Keep the first node or two at the base submerged in water.
  • Rooting can begin within a week or in several weeks. Plant as soon as roots are an inch or so long – longer roots grown in water can have trouble rooting in soil.
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