Leaf cuttings are one of the most interesting ways of making more house plants. Growing a new plant, or even several plants, from a single leaf is easy if you choose the right plants and follow a few simple guidelines.
Not all plants are suitable, but many popular ones are, including African Violets and large-leaved rhizomatous Begonias. One mature plant can provide as many new plants as you are likely to want, but taking leaf cuttings is so enjoyable that you may want to grow some extra for friends.
The basic idea is to cut a healthy newly mature leaf from a parent plant, then partially insert it in in compost. Supplied with moisture, high humidity and a temperature of 16°-21°C (61°-70°F), roots and new plants grow from the leaf base.
As the plants grow, the original leaf withers. Eventually, the young plants can be potted up and treated as adults. The exact method varies, according to the type of plant.
you can use pots or trays placed inside a polythene bag. Support the bag on canes or a wire frame, so the polythene doesn’t touch the leaf.Use cutting compost, or an equal mixture, by volume, of peat and sharp sand. For detaching leaves, use a sharp knife or razor blade.
Cut African Violets, Peperomias and Begonias with their stalks attached. Shorten long stems to 5cm (2 inches). Dip the cut end into hormone rooting powder. Using a pencil or dibber, make a hole in the compost at a 45° angle, to help support the leaf. Insert the entire stalk in the hole, then firm the compost. Several leaves can go in one pot, providing they don’t touch one another.
Cut off a newly mature leaf, with 2.5cm (1 inch) of stalk attached. Turn the leaf upside down, them make several 10mm (1/2 inches) slits just below where the main veins branch.
Place the leaf, right-way up, on damp cutting compost. Use the stem as an anchor, and use pebbles to keep the leaf in contact with the compost. New plants will grow from each slit.
With stemless succulent leaves, such as Crassula, Echeveria and Sedum, rotting is the main risk.
After cutting mature leaves from the parent plant, leave them to dry a few days, then insert them shallowly and vertically into the compost. Covering the compost with a thin layer of sharp sand also helps prevent rotting.
Care of young plants
These usually take 1-2 months to appear. Gradually reduce the temperature and humidity of those growing in a heated propagator.
As soon as plants are large enough to handle, pot into 8cm (3 inches) pots using the correct compost.
Long, narrow leaves, such as Gloxinia, Cape Primrose and Mother-in Law’s Tongue, are usually cut crossways into several sections, about 5cm (2 inches) wide.
Alternatively, cut the leaf into sections, roughly 2.5cm (1 inch) across. Each section must have a large vein. Gently insert each piece at an angle, so the vein touches the compost.
Plants to try
- African Violet
- Cape Primrose
- Blue Echeveria
- Donkey’s Tail Sedum morganiammi
- Eyelash Begonia
- Golden Sedum Sedum aclolphii
- Iron Cross Begonia
- Jade Tree Crassida argentea
- Jelly Bean Plant
- Mexican Snowball
- Mother-in-Law’s Tongue Senseviera triptscrata
- Painted Lady Echeveria clerenhergia
- Painted-Leaf Begonia B
- Rat-Tail Plant
- String of Buttons Crassula perforata