Crafty: Green-thumb guidance for overwintering and propagating houseplants

The easiest way to go about growing new plants is by removing a leaf from the parent plant.
Photos by Frankie Schneckloth

Over the last few years I’ve collected quite a few houseplants, even though I am by no means a master gardener. I have the strange ability to bring my houseplants to the brink of death and then slowly start to pull them back from the darkside for a full and healthy life. All my houseplants spent their summer vacation outdoors on my front stoop. In case you’re wondering—they had a great time! They enjoyed the sunshine and stretched out a bit.

My plants have all come inside now and I am realizing I really am running out of room for these plants to live. Unfortunately, the space issue hasn’t stopped me from eyeing my strong, healthy plants and deciding which one to propagate from first. During colder months I have, with varied success, overwintered annuals and bulbs in my house, propagated succulents from little leaves and rooted new baby plants from snippets and cuttings off a parent plant. In the short time my plants have spent indoors this fall, I have pots scattered all over my house with tiny succulent leaves wedged in the dirt. There are already numerous jars with cuttings taking root in water. I’m prepared to add a whole new crop of plants to my home even as I run out of real estate. Why? Because who doesn’t want to live in a jungle during winter? And because its so damn easy!


Propagating Succulents

Some succulents I’ve had luck propagating are echeveria varieties, jade, zygocactus and strand of pearls. The easiest way to go about growing new plants is by removing a leaf from the parent plant. You can wiggle a bottom leaf from left to right until it comes loose. You want as clean of a break as possible, so be patient and move slowly and carefully. I always take a few leaves at a time in case one doesn’t end up taking off. When you’ve removed your leaves, you’ll want to set them on the top layer of a pot of soil in indirect light where they will “cure” for a while. This could take one to three weeks. During this time, the cut end will callous over, helping to prevent rotting. When you notice the callous has formed you can begin to water sparingly to encourage growth. New roots will start to shoot out eventually. You can gently tuck the cut end of the leaf into the soil along with the roots to send it in the right direction.


When it comes to annuals and bulbs, I don’t really follow the rules. I dig up my trailing vinca vines from my summer window boxes and bring them inside for the winter. I also have a giant elephant ear plant that’s now three years old that I have overwintered inside. Instead of digging up the bulbs or letting the plant die away, I try bringing it in the house. If it doesn’t work, it’s no big deal—I can always buy fresh annuals the next year.


My mom has a few interesting houseplants, and I frequently take a stem or cutting to see if I can grow my own. It’s best to carefully cut a stem or branch off the parent plant and place directly into a clean jar with fresh water. Change the water every few days until you start to see the roots develop. Let the roots develop a little more and then transfer from the water to a pot with soil. I have had success with spider plants (so easy!), ZZ plants and begonias, among others.


Soon there will be nowhere to sleep. Frankie Schneckloth has too many plants.

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