By Cassidy Cabrera
PHS Garden Resource Specialist
Propagating Plants with Kids
Hi, everyone! It's Cassidy Cabrera, PHS Garden Resource Specialist. Today we'll be learning a bit about propagating houseplants, and how to turn it into an easy science lesson for school kiddos at home.
I used to keep houseplants just for the aesthetics, and on some level I still do. But Miss Ruth, a super volunteer at PHS — she's a Green City Teacher, a PHS Garden Tender, and a PHS Tree Tender — taught me that indoor houseplants are also great for purifying the air and boosting your energy and mood at home.
By propagating plants — or growing new plants from seeds, cuttings, or other plants parts — we're adding to our plant collections in a way that's easy and free. It just requires a little patience, and materials including a cup, some water, and a starter plant! One of my houseplants will make a good starter plant:
You’ll want to snip off a couple of inches of the healthy stem right before a node; the node is where the new growth will come from. I'll place the cutting, cut-side down, into a jar with water. If you leave it somewhere sunny, you'll have some plant growth in a few weeks.
I'm one of those people that can't keep these things alive, even though they're supposed to be fool-proof plants. For these, you'll dry out your leaf cuttings on a paper towel. Once they are dried, you transfer the leaves to rest on top of some potting soil and mist them every few days. Soon, roots will pop out and take hold in the soil.
The yucca plant is a little different. Instead of making a clipping, we can propagate it by dividing new offshoots. Some plant offshoots, like a snake plant for example, are called pups — which is kind of cute!
It’s a Process
Plant propagation is a process, and it's not always successful on the first few tries ... but that's what makes it a great science experiment for students. NextGen Science curriculum, which is used in our region, focuses on plant parts and observational learning for K-5th graders. A lot of teachers have their students keep science journals for recording experiments, and you can keep up that practice at home too.
I'm tracking my pothos plant's progress by sketching how it first appeared when I made my clipping, and again at the two-week mark. I’m also keeping notes on my prediction that by week three I’ll have some roots wiggling out the cut end.
Make a few cuttings from the same starter plant and place each clipping in different spots in your home. Notice how different conditions (like sun exposure or varying amounts of water) affect each of your cuttings. You can also measure root length each week and record that information in your science journal, too.