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Root division, stolons and leaf plantlets

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Anthurium is easily propagated by root division
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Josée Bouthot)

Most indoor plants are tropical perennial, herbaceous or woody plants. In their native habitat, they reproduce by means of seed or vegetatively (asexually) by means of specialized organs including stolons, suckers and offsets.

Various methods may be used to rejuvenate or propagate these plants at home. Two of these methods are root division and separating specialized organs.

All these vegetative methods are possible because the vegetative tissues of many plants are able to regenerate themselves.

The plants produced in this way will have the same characteristics as the parent plant. This section covers root division and propagation by stolons and leaf plantlets for herbaceous indoor plants.

Root division

Many plant species grow by producing new stems or leaves from their underground parts.

In some cases, these are rhizomes or modified, underground or surface stems that produce roots and buds that will become new stems. Davallia ferns, and Sansevieria, or mother-in-law’s tongues, are two such examples.

All these plants, with or without rhizomes, spread and form a more or less compact clump of stems and leaves.

Many ferns and Chlorophytum, Spathiphyllum, Aspidistra and Saintpaulia are other such plants that eventually become too bushy or unattractive.

Root division is a way to reduce the size of the plant and produce a few new specimens.

Start by removing the plant from its pot and divide it into several sections. You may need to cut the roots apart with a very sharp knife if they are very compact (ornamental asparagus, for instance), or use your thumbs to gently pry the root ball apart after first removing most of the soil clinging to it (African violets and Anthurium, for instance).

In both cases, remove any damaged or unhealthy-looking roots.

Then place each part, along with its leaves and roots, in a separate pot slightly larger than the root ball.

It is best to do this in early spring.

Root division

Step 1

You may need to use a knife to separate the root ball. Each section must have both roots and leaves. 

Root division

Step 2

Then, repot in a container filled with a light mixture.

The following plants are easily propagated by root division:

Stolons

Some plants produce stolons. A stolon is a specialized stem that produces plantlets on one or more nodes.

Spider plants, Boston ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis') and saxifrage produce such stolons.

To obtain a new plant from a stolon, all you have to do is cut off the stem bearing the well-developed plantlet and pot it in a rooting mix made of peat moss and perlite or vermiculite.

Stolon illustration

To propagate plants that produce stolons

Remove the plantlets and repot them. You can also report them and detach them from the parent plant only once the plantlets have roots.

The following species produce stolons :

 

Leaf plantlets

Some plants, such as Kalanchoe daigremontiana and Tolmiea menziesii, produce plantlets on leaf margins.

All you have to do is remove the leaf or part of the leaf bearing the plantlets and lay it on a rooting mix.

You may wish to cover the plantlets with a clear plastic bag to keep them moist while they are rooting.

Leaf plantlets

Steps to follow

Carefully detach the plantlets from the parent plant.
Gather several plantlets into one pot and cover them up with clear plastic wrap.
Repot them individually once they have sufficient roots.

 

The following species produce leaf plantlets:

  • Asplenium bulbiferum
  • Asplenium daucifolium
  • Begonia hispida var. cucullifera
  • Kalanchoe
  • Tolmiea menziesii

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