If you have to self-isolate… then why not self-propagate, too

James Wong
Photograph: Manfred Ruckszio/Alamy

For those of us who have to self-isolate in the coming months, gardening can be a great escape. A growing body of research suggests that being around plants can reduce stress and anxiety, thus gardening can provide not only a welcome distraction from the headlines, but much-needed signs of growth, new life and positivity.

The best news is, you don’t even need a garden to get these benefits. The beauty of houseplants is that even people like me, who might otherwise be looking at four walls and Netflix for weeks on end, can benefit from horticultural therapy. So, in that spirit, here are a range of houseplants you can propagate at home right now to lift your spirits. Home propagation is also an excellent way to get new plants for free.

The three easy ways to clone your existing houseplants with little more than some compost and a few pots are cuttings, runners and division. The particular method you choose depends mainly on the species you are dealing with.

For most trailing plants, from aroids to ivy, cuttings are by far the easiest way forward. Cuttings can be made by simply snipping off 20cm sections of the plants’ growing tips and placing them in a glass of water in a bright spot away from direct sunlight. Other examples of easy-rooters include African violets and begonias, which can be started off from single leaf cuttings in either pots of gritty compost or (perhaps counterintuitively for plants prone to waterlogging when mature) you can also put the leaf cuttings in a jar of water.

Easy rooters: African violets. Photograph: lcrms/Alamy Stock Photo

Some plants naturally produce “babies” on the ends of runners in an effort to clone themselves. This includes a broad range of species from the spider plant Chlorophytum, to strawberry saxifrage Saxifraga stolonifera and Episcia, whose cascading runners, each with a small plant at the tip, are highlighted by growers selling them in hanging pots.

To get propagating, just wait for the plants to produce five or more leaves on mini plants, the size of a 50p coin, and they can then be planted up in their own pots of gritty compost. Not enough pots at home? No need to go to the garden centre, any old yogurt pot or other plastic food container will work perfectly. Just poke a few holes in the base.

Finally, the easiest and most instant technique of all – division. Most growers will sell multiple small plants crammed into the same pot to give the illusion of one lush, stocky, medium-sized specimen in far less time. This means that for all sorts of species, from ferns and begonias to fittonias and ficus, you already have many more plants than you realise.

Knocking the plant out of its pot and gently teasing the individual specimens apart at their base, before potting them up separately, will give each of them far more space to breath, resulting in healthier plants and loads more of them.

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