Growing Plants From Leaf Cuttings

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.


An electric propagator is best, but 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. Hormone rooting powder is sometimes used to speed up roofing.

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 plant-growing-from-leaf-cuttingkeep the leaf in contact with the compost. New plants will grow from each slit.

Preventing rotting

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.

Cut-up leaves

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.


Is there any way I can tell, just by looking at a house plant, whether I can successfully grow it fromcuttings?

There are no hard and fast rules that apply to all suitable plants, but many have thick succulent leaves, often in rosettes. Some suitable plants have no stems, but produce leaves directly from the base of the plant. If it is a well established plant, with a leaf or two to spare, why not try? Follow the methods for similar plants that you know are suitable, and be prepared to wait.

I took leaf cuttings from my yellow-striped Mother-inLaw’s Tongue. New plants grew, but the yellow stripes were missing! What did I do wrong?

You didn’t do anything wrong. This particular Mofher-inLaw’s Tongue, Sanseviera trifasciata ‘Laurentii’, is a periclinal chimera. This means that new plants grown from leaf cuttings will revert to all green. The only way to keep the yellow stripes is to divide your plant. Take a large plant out of its pot. Cut off a good-sized cluster of leaves, with plenty of roots attached, and pot it up separately. Repot the parent plant in fresh compost.

Is there a right and wrong time of year to take leaf cuttings fromhouseplants?

Generally, spring and summer are the best times for taking leaf cuttings, becaue the plants are growing strongly then. However, if you can provide warmth, you can take leaf cuttings at any time of the year, although it may take longer for new plants to form in autumn and winter.

Specific Plants

Cut Cape Cowslip leaves crossways into 3 or 4 sections. Insert them, right way up, into cutting compost, burying a quarter of each cutting. Each separate piece can then be rooted to form a new plant. Use a razor blade or scalpel to cut off a suitable leaf and to make sharp, clean cuts across it. Insert each section, right-way up and vertically, into the compost, burying it by about a quarter to a half.

Some Begonias can also be cut up into small squares or triangles, to produce several new plants, while leaving the parent plant almost intact. Cut the leaves so that each contains a section of main vein. The pieces of leaf can be inserted into the compost, or simply rested on it;face up, in rows. Each piece grows a plant.

Leaf cuttings in water

African Violet leaves will send out roots and new plants if their stalks are placed in water. Stretch clingfilm over a water-filled jar, keep it taut with an elastic band. Punch a couple of holes in the clingfilm, then insert the stalks. Make sure the leaves themselves are kept dry.

African Violet leaves will root in a clingfilm-covered jar of water. Make holes in the clingfilm, then insert healthy, mature leaves.

Plants to try

  • African Violet
  • Begonia
  • Cape Primrose
  • Blue Echeveria
  • Donkey’s Tail Sedum morganiammi
  • Eyelash Begonia
  • Gloxinia
  • 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
  • Peperomia
  • Rat-Tail Plant
  • String of Buttons Crassula perforata

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