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Rare Plant Propagation: The Top 3 Methods You Should Use for Aroids

Updated: Mar 11, 2023

One of the best things about keeping aroids as rare plants is that they are really easy to chop up and propagate! Propagating your rare plants is essential if you're a small shop owner propagating to sell for profit. However, private collectors can also propagate their rare plants to make the pot fuller or just to have multiples of the same plant!

In this blog, I will be discussing three of the most common methods for propagating climbing aroids along with their pros and cons.

I’ve found that propagation and finding a preferred technique often comes from a lot of experimentation and trial and error to find what works best for you. There is no right method for everyone and so have a bit of fun and see what you prefer!

What is a rare aroid?

Aroid is a term commonly used for rare plants from the Araceae or Arum family in horticulture. This family includes 125 different genera of plants which includes many of the common genera of rare plants found in the UK such as Monstera, Philodendron, Epipremnum (pothos), Rhaphidophora, Scindapsus, Dieffenbachia, Alcoasia and Spathiphyllum (peace lily).

Why Are Aroids Good to Propagate?

In addition to making fantastic rare plants, aroids are very easy and fun to propagate due to their form. This is commonly done through cuttings, where the stem of the plant is cut into sections which can be rooted to create a new plant.

As many aroids are climbing plants, they have a long stem with nodes (or ‘joints’) where each leaf is attached to. Each of these nodes has the ability to grow roots and so to propagate your plant, you want to ensure that your cutting contains at least one node and one leaf.

You can also propagate your rare plant from leafless stem cuttings with a node (known as wet sticks), although these take far longer to grow roots and a new shoot and will have an overall lower propagation success rate.

A Stem of a Rhaphidophora decursiva showing three nodes.
A Stem of a Rhaphidophora decursiva showing three nodes.

On the other hand, upright-growing aroids like Spathiphyllum and Alocasia cannot be propagated through cuttings. Instead, these plants can be divided by separating the plant pups from the mother plant if you have any, if not you will have to wait for your mother plant to grow some when it is mature enough.

1. water propagation

Firstly, water propagation is probably the most common and easiest method to begin with as it is the most simple to set up and easy to monitor as you can see the roots.

To water propagate your rare plants, you only really need one thing…water! Simply cut up your rare plant and leave the cutting out to dry for a minimum of 3 hours or so to allow the freshly cutting’s stem to callous over. You can leave them out for up to 12 hours (depending on the plant and how thick the stem is) but I wouldn't recommend longer than this as you don't want the cutting to wilt. Allowing the end to callous over will help it to dry out and harden up which will create a ‘seal’ and help to prevent the end rotting in the water.

Monstera cuttings propagating in water
My Monstera cuttings rooting in water

After the end has been calloused over a little, you are all ready to pop your cutting in water. Fill up any glass or container with tap or rainwater and pop your cutting in, making sure that the node is submerged until the water level.

Depending on the cutting, you should have roots appear in around 1 week but it can sometimes take up to a month so do not stress if your plant is slow to root. Place your cutting in a light spot as it will need lots of light for photosynthesis in order to support its new growth.

Monstera Siltepecana rooted cutting
A Monstera siltepecana cutting well rooted after 3 weeks.

An important tip to helping to prevent your cutting from rotting in water is to frequently change the water every 3 days. In general, the longer you leave the water between changing it the dirtier it will become from decomposing plant debris which can encourage the cutting to rot. You may also notice that the water level may rapidly decrease during hot weather as the water evaporates. Make sure to not let any new roots become exposed to the air as they will shrivel up and die and you will have to re-root the cutting from scratch again.

If you would like to speed up the rooting time for your cutting I would recommend investing in a heat mat to place your cuttings on. This is particularly great for the winter as the more warmth that your cutting has, generally the faster it will root and grow. If the cutting takes too long to root, it will start to rot and so adding heat will help to increase the success of your propagations (although isn’t essential).

Water propagation set up with heat mat
My water propagation station including my my heat mat.

Overall, water propagation is perfect for beginners as you are able to see your cutting and the roots grow as opposed to when it is in a substrate like moss or perlite. This can be useful for learning about rooting speeds and the types of roots that each genus of aroid grows as they’re all a little different in shape and thickness!

It’s perfect for fast-rooting rare plants such as Syngonium, Rhaphidophora and Scindapsus. However, due to having to change the water frequently, I would say that this is actually the most high maintenance method out of all three and may not be the most practical for those with busy schedules, in hot weather due to the rate of evaporation, or frequent travellers.

2. Sphagnum Moss propagation

Secondly, moss makes an amazing substrate for propagating aroids due to its great water-retentive abilities. Although water propagation works great for fast-growing rare plants, larger plants that can be slow to root or those that rot easily can be far more successful to propagate in moss. For example, Monstera deliciosa albo variegata is renowned for easily rotting in water due to how slow it can be to root and it’s much more common for it to be rooted in moss due to the lower risk.

For moss propagation, you can use either fresh live sphagnum moss or dried sphagnum moss which you rehydrate, both work fine! The trick is to make sure that your moss is not too wet, as this is almost certainly to spell disaster and your cutting will rot. You want to give your moss a really good squeeze to remove as much water as possible before placing your cutting in. Make sure to allow your cutting to callous over and have your node around 1cm deep in the moss.

Sphagnum moss propagation with epipremnum and philodendron cuttings
My moss propagation box including a mix of Epipremnum and Philodendron cuttings.

I find that cuttings can sometimes take a little longer to root in moss, however once the roots start to grow they can really grow surprisingly quickly!

For watering, wait until the moss is nearly completely dry and either pour a tiny amount of water in over the moss to rehydrate it carefully (tipping away any that pools at the bottom of the container), or remove the moss and plant, rehydrate the moss with water, squeeze it and replace the plant back in the moss in the container. I particularly love using moss for wet stick propagation as you can lie them on a bed of moss to root without them rotting.

wet stick propagation box filled with Amydrium medium nodes.
My moss wet stick propagation box filled with Amydrium medium nodes.

If you want to make the method even lower maintenance, you can place a lid over the top of your propagation container which helps to keep the moss moist for far longer (a bit like a terrarium). Make sure you leave the lid open a crack or make holes in the lid though to allow for air circulation.

Sphagnum moss propagation box
Figure 7: My full moss propagation box (purchased as a gardening seedling germination box).

Moss propagation is a great second method to try once you've got the hang of water propagation. It can sometimes be slower and a little more risky as the moss really needs to be the right level of ‘wet’ which can take a little bit of experimentation to get the hang of it. I personally love using moss for a lot of my Philodendron and Monstera, particularly those that can be stubborn to root (such as Monstera siltepecana) or have very small inter-nodal spacing and so rot easily (such as Philodendron hederaceum ‘Cream Splash’).

3. perlite propagation

Lastly, we have perlite propagation which is great for propagation due to its aerated composition. For a long time I was very content with using water and moss and did not see the need for using perlite. However, after struggling with propagating a few more tricky plants such as Piper sylvaticum and seeking advice, I was pointed towards perlite as the go-to propagation technique for stubborn plants and have now converted mainly to perlite for my plants which can be slower to root (eg. Philodendron 'White Knight').

An Epipremnum Pinnatum Cebu Blue rooting in perlite.
Figure 8: An Epipremnum Pinnatum Cebu Blue rooting in perlite.

As with the previous two methods, you want to make sure that you allow the end of your cutting to be callous over well to help to prevent it rotting. Then take your perlite and soak it in water for around an hour and drain well to remove all excess water.

Just like with moss, fill a container with your damp perlite and place your cutting in, making sure that the node is around 1cm deep, and place it in a bright place. I also like to place a bag or lid over the container with perlite as with moss for lower maintenance and to create a more humid environment for the plant although this is not essential.

My perlite propagation box
My perlite propagation box.

Once your perlite is nearly dry, rehydrate it by pouring a tiny amount of water gently over the perlite and drain away any excess water that pools up at the bottom of the container. You want to make sure that any of your cutting stems are never sitting in water at the bottom as this seems to lead to rotting very easily.

Which propagation method should I use for my rare plants?

I would probably recommend starting off with water propagation and then give either (or both) moss and perlite a go to see how you find using them!

I would say that perlite is one of the less common propagation methods currently used compared to water or moss, possibly due to it being less known or perlite being less accessible. However, it is definitely growing in popularity within the plant community and I predict it could become more widely used in the upcoming year due to a number of advantages that it has.

Due to the composition of perlite, it can be used time and time again with breaking down like sphagnum moss eventually does which makes it fairly sustainable and cheap to use in the long run. It is also easier to separate off of the roots in comparison to moss (which also can look identical to the roots) which helps to avoid potential root breakages.

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