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not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
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site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.
Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
Care of Plants
in the Home
Robert J. Black and Richard W. Henley
Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville
John T. Woeste, Dean for Extension
Care of Plants in the Home
Robert J. Black and Richard W. Henley
Department of Ornamental Horticulture
University of Florida, Gainesville
Growing plants in the home has become very popular in recent years. Plants
create an atmosphere of warmth and life that cannot be equaled by any other home
Unfortunately, the environment in many homes is not conducive to growing
plants. Many homes have inadequate light, temperature fluctuations, and low
humidity. These adverse growing conditions offer a real challenge to the home-
owner and point out the necessity for selecting plants to fit the growing conditions
in the home.
Factors Affecting Plant Growth
The environment in our homes will dictate which plants will grow lavishly or
which ones will suffer. No other environmental factor is more important in growing
good plants indoors than adequate light (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Areas near windows generally offer good light for plant growth.
Plants differ greatly in their light intensity requirements. Plants with highly
colored leaves, such as coleus and croton, and flowering plants and succulents grow
best when placed in an area where they receive full sunlight. Others like ferns,
philodendrons and many other foliage plants grow well with indirect light. The
light intensity requirements for many foliage plants commonly grown in the home
are given in the following table. The light intensity can be determined with a light
meter held at the level of the plants' foliage.
Light Requirements for Some Common Foliage Plants*
Foliage Plants for Low Light Areas
50 to 100 fc
(Location usually more than six feet from
windows, no indirect light dull hallways)
Botanical Name Common Name
Aglaonema commutatum elegans Silver evergreen
Aglaonema crispum Pewter evergreen
Aglaonema modestum Chinese evergreen
Aspidistra elatior Cast-iron plant
Chamaedorea elegans Parlor palm
Chamaedorea erumpens Bamboo palm
Crassula argentea Jade plant
Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig' Janet Craig dracaena
Dracaena deremensis 'Warneckii' Warneckii dracaena
Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana' Corn plant
Neoregelia carolinae 'Tricolor' Tricolo, bromeliad
Sansevieria trifasciata Snake plant
Sansevieria trifasciata 'Hahnii' Birdsnest sansevieria
Foliage Plants for Medium Light Areas
100 to 200 fc
(Location usually three to six feet from
windows average, well lighted areas)
Botanical Name Common Name
Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri' Asparagus fern
Asparagus setaceus Fern asparagus
Begonis x rex cultorum Rex begonia
Brassaia actinophylla Schefflera
Calathea makoyana Peacock plant
Caryota mitis Fishtail palm
Chrysalidocarpus lutescens Areca palm
Cissus rhombifolia Grape ivy
Clusea rosea Clusea
Dieffenbachia amoena Giant dumbcane
Dieffenbachia x 'Exotic Perfection' Exotic perfection dumbcane
Dizygotheca elegantissima False aralia
Dracaena marginata Red edge dracaena
Dracaena sanderana Sander's dracaena
Dracaena surculosa Gold dust plant
*Note: Botanical plant names are listed according to Hortus Third, a concise
dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada, revised and ex-
panded by the Staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium, New York State
University at Cornell University. MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1976.
Dracaena thalioides Lance dracaena
Episcia cupreata Episcia
Foliage Plants for Medium Light Areas (Continued)
Epipremnum aureum 'Marble Queen'
Ficus benjamin nitida
Ficus elastica 'Decora'
Maranta leuconeura 'Kerchoviana'
Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis'
Philodendron scandens oxycardium
Pteris ensiformis 'Victoriae'
Spathiphyllum x Clevelandii
Syngonium podophyllum 'Emerald Gem'
Syngonium podophyllum 'Green Gold'
Victoria table fern
Marble queen pothos
Fiddle leaf fig
Chinese fan palm
Screw pine, Sword plant
Pigmy date palm
Victoria table fern
Foliage Plants for High Light Areas
Over 200 fc
(Location usually brightly lighted offices areas
within three feet of large south, east, or west facing windows)
Philodendron scandens subsp. scandens
Pony tail palm
Foliage Plants for High Light Areas (Continued)
ana 'Marginata' Aralia balfouriana
Artificial lighting can be used to supplement or replace natural light. Standard
cool white and warm white fluorescent lamps are good sources of artificial light.
Most plants grow well and are attractive in appearance when placed under a combi-
nation of cool white and warm white fluorescent lamps or cool white and grow-
fluorescent lamps. There are a variety of grow-fluorescent lamps available from
Fluorescent lamps are available in various sizes, shapes and wattages (Figure 2).
In addition to the standard lamp sizes (15, 20, 30, and 40 watts), higher wattage
lamps may also be obtained in 48 inch tube lengths and longer--up to 96 inches.
These higher wattage lamps are called high output (HO), very high output (VHO),
power groove, power tubes, or super-hi output lamps. Cool white, one foot square
panel fluorescent lamps can be obtained in two sizes, 55 and 80 watts.
4o-Watt High Very High
Figure 2. Some fluorescent lamps.
Standard industrial fixtures with white enamel or white porcelain reflectors are
widely used by hobbyists (Figure 3). Fixtures that accommodate two 48 inch long
fluorescent lamps are the most commonly used and inexpensive to buy. Strip or
channel fixtures may be used with reflectorized fluorescent lamps.
2 LAMP REFLECTOR
Figure 3. Fluorescent lamp fixtures.
It is important to order fixtures for the specific lamps that are to be used in
them. Only lamps of the same wattage are interchangeable in fluorescent fixtures.
A day temperature of 65 to 750F. (18 to 240C) and approximately 100F.
lower at night, is satisfactory for most'plants (Figure 4). The 10 degree drop at
night enables plants to build new tissues. Plants grown in continuously high tem-
peratures often become spindly and less resistant to disease and insect attack.
A sudden temperature drop can
injure plants, and temperatures
below 50F. (100C) for extended
/ periods may cause permanent dam-
/age to many plants. Wilting often
/5 results, followed by yellowing of
leaves, and then leaf drop.
Avoid placing plants in hot or
S--- cold spots. Few plants do well on
/ p\top of a television set and almost
none will survive the blast from a
Seating or air conditioning vent.
Figure 4. Temperatures of most in-
terior areas are compatible
with the requirements of
Most plants grow best at a relative humidity of 40 to 60 percent. Unfortunately
the average humidity in most homes is well below 40 percent, especially during
winter months when heating systems are operating. When the surrounding air is dry,
plants will often lose water from leaf tissues at a faster rate than can be absorbed
through the root system. When this occurs, leaf tips become brown and flowering
plants may lose flower buds.
Humidity levels in the home can be increased by installing an inexpensive
humidifier. Humidity in the vicinity of plants can be improved by placing potted
plants on a two or three inch bed of wet gravel (Figure 5). Water evaporating from
the gravel increases the humidity around plants. The bottom of the plant pot
should never be in or under the water, since this will cause a waterlogged soil which
may result in root damage. Plants will furnish their own humidity when many are
placed close together.
Figure 5. Water evaporating from a gravel bed will increase the relative humidity around
Good air circulation is necessary to the well being of pants. However, plants
should be placed in draft-free locations. Areas where cross currents of air occur
are not considered good for plants.
Clean, gas-free air is desirable for growing plants. Escaping gas from stoves and
furnaces is sufficient to kill plants.
One common cause of indoor plant death is improper watering. When the soil
remains saturated, root systems are unable to function properly because of lack
of oxygen in the soil.
The amount and frequency of watering depend on the following variables:
Potting Mixtures Organic mixes retain more water than sandy mixes.
Pot Plants in porous (clay) pots require more frequent watering than those
in nonporous (glazed or plastic) pots. Plants in small pots will require water
more frequently than those in large pots.
Plants There is a wide range of water requirements for different species of
plants. Some plants should be watered when the potting mix becomes dry to
the touch while other plants need to be watered before the soil becomes
Plant Size Plants with a lot of leaves will need more frequent watering than
those with a few leaves.
Humidity The lower the humidity, the more often a plant will need to be
Stage of Growth When a plant is dormant (not actively growing) it will need
The rule to follow when watering is to water when necessary. The following
methods may be used to determine when to water:
Touch The most accurate gauge to follow is to water when the potting
mixture becomes dry to the touch. Stick your finger into the mix up to the
first joint; if it is dry at the finger tip, you need to water (Figure 6).
Tapping the pot When the potting mix in a clay pot begins to dry, it shrinks
away from the sides of the pot. Rap the side of the pot with the knuckles or
a stick: if the sound is dull, the soil is moist; if hollow, water is needed.
Estimating Weight As potting mixtures become dry, a definite loss in weight
can be observed.
Judging Soil Color Potting mixtures will change from a dark to light color as
]L-*- w- -f.'!Aj64Vl-'dL -eE$.S;';r'lBI
Figure 6. Most plants need water when the potting mixture feels dry to the touch.
When watering is required, water thoroughly. Apply enough lukewarm (room
temperature) water until it runs out of the bottom of the pot. This type of watering
will accomplish two purposes. First, it washes excess salts out of the pot. Second, it
guarantees that the bottom 2/3 of the pot is properly watered. Do not allow
the pot to stand in water too long. Empty the drip saucer.
Application of water to the top of the soil mix is the most common method
of watering container plants (Figure 7). However, watering from the bottom of the
container with the use of a saucer or tray is a method used by many homeowners
(Figure 8). Watering constantly from below brings nutrient salts to the soil surface.
An excess of these salts may accumulate in the upper soil layer in four to six
weeks and this can result in burning of the upper roots and/or stem. It is a good
practice, therefore, to water thoroughly from the top once a month to leach excess
salts out of the pot.
n-, r nl lA
Figure 7. Watering from the top is easy and fast.
IMINIM~r *--,- --
Figure 8. Watering from the bottom takes more time than top watering and may result in an
accumulation of salts in upper soil layer.
The success or failure of growing plants in containers depends to a large extent
upon the potting mixture. There is no one potting mix which is infinitely better
than any other. General requirements of a good container mix are: (1) potting mix
should be dense enough to support the plant, (2) mix should have good nutrient
holding capacity, (3) texture of the mix should allow both water and air to pass
through readily and yet retain some moisture, and (4) mix should be free of path-
ogens and weed seed.
Generally, native soils are not ideal media for plants grown in containers. These
soils need to be amended with peat, bark, perlite or sand to improve their physical
structure and water and nutrient retention capacities (Figure 9).
Figure 9. Potting mixture components (from left to right), peat, perlite, vermiculite and sand.
Native soil should be sterilized to kill disease organisms and weed seed. Spread
moist soil in a tray or pan and bake at 2G00F. for 20 minutes, stirring every five
Foliage plants grow best in potting mixes containing high levels of organic
matter, such as peat. The following mixes are suggested for growing foliage plants:
1. Two parts peat, one part perlite, one part coarse sand
2. Two parts peat, one part coarse sand
3. One part peat, one part coarse sand, one part pine bark
4. One part peat, one part pine bark, one part perlite
Cacti and other succulents, on the other hand, grow best in sandy soils. An
example of a good succulent mix is two parts soil, one part peat moss, one part
perlite, and one part coarse sand.
Packaged potting mixes can be bought at local nurseries and garden supply
dealers. These materials are convenient and often have been sterilized to kill disease
organisms and weed seed. Some packaged soils are premixed with organic matter,
perlite or vermiculite and are ready for immediate use. Other packaged media are
primarily sterile soils which may need amending to make them more desirable soil
mixes for indoor plants.
Soilless mixes consisting of various combinations of peat moss, perlite, and
vermiculite are available at most garden supply dealers. These soilless media are
lightweight, easy to handle, sterile and most contain fertilizers.
The foliage of most plants grown indoors should be cleaned weekly. Plants with
hairy leaves, such as African Violets, gloxinias, and tuberous-rooted begonias,
should not be wet, while the foliage of most others may be cleaned with a moist
soft cloth (Figure 10). Clean foliage is favorable to healthy growth, to help control
insects, and to keep plants looking attractive.
Figure 10. A moist soft cloth can be used to clean plants.
The growth rate of most plants indoors is much less than that of plants grown in
a greenhouse. As a result, indoor plants do not need as much fertilizer as green-
house plants. Also, rapid new growth is often undesirable as plants may outgrow
Many problems associated with growing house plants are erroneously attributed
to insufficient fertilizer. Poor growth is usually due to some other factor, such as
Interior plants under active growing conditions should be fertilized every two to
three months. During winter months, or under conditions of low light, the fre-
quency of fertilization should be reduced.
There are many special commercial materials available for fertilizing indoor
plants. Most are effective and safe if used as directed. A complete fertilizer, one
which contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, should be used. Manufac-
turers are required by law to indicate the fertilizer analysis on the container label.
This analysis is given in a series of numbers such as 10-15-10, 20-20-20 or 14-14-14.
The first number of the series indicates the amount of nitrogen; the second, the
amount of phosphorus; and the third, the amount of potassium.
Fertilizers are available in many forms: water soluble powders and pellets,
liquids, tablets, sticks, and time release pellets. The liquid and water soluble pow-
ders and pellets are diluted in water as directed and poured on the growing medium.
The tablets, sticks, and time release pellets are designed to release nutrients grad-
ually and evenly over a given period of time. The length of time during which these
fertilizers are active will depend upon the formulation of the material, indoor
temperature and watering practices.
When choosing a container for an indoor plant, several factors should be consid-
ered. The selection will depend upon the size of the plant and where it will be
placed in the home. Containers too large or too small present an awkward appear-
ance. The container must be large enough to provide space for root growth for at
least one year. If the container is too large, the nutrients are leached from the
soil before new roots can reach them, and the soil mix may remain too wet.
Clay pots are porous and allow water to evaporate through the sides and, there-
fore, require more frequent watering than plastic, glass, metal, wood or glazed pots
(Figure 11). For that reason, most amateurs who have a tendency to overwater are
usually more successful with clay pots.
Figure 11. Containers are made from many kinds of materials. From left to right are glazed
clay, plastic, clay, metal and wood.
Containers without drainage holes should have a layer of coarse gravel placed in
the bottom to allow a space for excess water (Figure 12). Another method of using
containers without drainage is the "double-potting" technique (Figure 13). Pot the
plant in a container that has a drainage hole and is one inch less in diameter and
shorter than the container without drainage (decorative pot). Place several inches of
gravel in the bottom of the decorative pot and place the potted plant on the gravel
Figure 12. Place a layer of gravel in the bottom of containers without drainage holes to allow
space for excess water.
Figure 13. Double-potting technique. Plant in pot with a drainage hole is placed on gravel in a
decorative container without drainage.
As the upper portion of a plant grows, the root system gets larger, eventually
filling the available space in the container and becoming pot bound. When this
happens plant growth will be restricted unless more room for root growth is pro-
vided by repotting.
The frequency of repotting depends upon the rate of growth of a particular
plant. Slow-growing plants may require repotting every two to three years, while
fast-growing plants should be repotted annually.
Water the plant thoroughly several hours before removing it from the container.
Then invert the pot and place your hand on the potting mix so the base of the plant
is between the index and middle fingers (Figure 14). Next, tap the rim of the pot
on the edge of a table until the root ball slides out of the container. Remove an
inch or two of potting mix from the top of the root ball. If the roots are matted
around the root ball (pot bound), force the roots apart and cut the entangled roots.
Select a pot with a diameter equal to 1/3 to 1/2 the height of the plant. Usually,
transplant to one size larger than the pot in which the plant was previously grown.
Place a small piece of broken clay pot over the drainage hole to keep soil from
draining through the hole. Do not include other aggregates in the bottom, since the
aggregate actually slows water movement through the pot.
Cover the bottom of the pot with a layer of potting mix and firm with fingers.
This layer of mix should bring the top of the root ball within one inch of the
container top. Fill around the root ball with mix and firm gently. Water thoroughly
and do not repeat until the potting mixture surface become slightly dry.
Figure 14-A. Water plant in pot and allow it to set for several hours. With base of plant be-
tween index and middle finger, tap rim of pot on edge of a table until the root
ball slides out of pot.
Figure 14-B. Pull matted roots apart
and cut away entangled
Figure 14-C. Select a container which
is one size larger than
the pot in which the
plant was previously
grown and place a small
piece of broken clay
pot over the drainage
Figure 14-D. Cover the bottom of
the pot with enough
potting mix to bring
the top of the root ball
within 1 inch of the
Figure 14-E. Place potting mix around
'. the soil ball and firm
,. .. gently.
Figure 14-F. Water thoroughly imme-
diately after repotting. -
Improper culture may result in unattractive plants. Some of the common symp-
toms and conditions which may cause these are:
1. Brown leaf tips or burned margins ---may be caused by too much fertilizer
or soil allowed to dry excessively.
2. Yellowing and dropping of leaves ---are caused by air pollution, low light
intensity, chilling, over-watering or poor soil drainage and aeration, or root
decay from soil-borne diseases or insect pests.
3. Weak growth or light green or yellow foliage ---is caused by too intense light,
lack of fertilizer, root-rot or poor root system.
4. Small leaves and long internodes ---indicate too little light.
5. Small leaves and short internodes ---may be caused by lack of fertilizer or
being grown too dry.
6. Small new leaves and leaves curl under ---may indicate too much light.
Mealybugs are soft-bodied insects covered with a white, powdery material
(Figure 15). When mature, they vary from 1/5 to 1/3 inch in length and some
species have long wax filaments extending from the rear of the body. They damage
plants by sucking plant juices.
SPIDER MITE APHID
5I to 1
to i "
Figure 15. Common pests of plants grown indoors.
Spider mites are about 1/50 inch long when mature and may be greenish, yel-
lowish, reddish or virtually colorless. They are commonly found on the under-
sides of the leaves. When plants are heavily infested, fine webbing will be noticed.
Mites suck juices from plants through their needle-like mouthparts. A 10 or 15
power magnifying glass is very helpful in detecting infestations before severe
Aphids may be green, pink, black, brown, yellow or blue in color. They vary
from 1/25 to 1/8 inch in length and may or may not have wings. They are pear-
shaped, have long antennae and two short cornicles or tubes extending from the
rear end of the body. Aphids suck plant juices and cause new growth to curl and
Scales can be almost any color depending on the species. They are 1/8 to 1/3
inch long when mature and are surrounded with a waxy covering that may be
circular, oval, oblong or pear-shaped. Scales are found on both sides of the leaves as
well as on twigs and branches. They may be almost hidden in the crevices of stems
or axils of leaves. Scales cause damage by sucking plant juices.
*Note: This information was taken from "Insects and Related Pests of House
Plants and Their Control," Ornamental Horticulture Department mimeo by D.B.
McConnell and D.E. Short.
Whitefly adults are about 1/16 inch long, white in color and resemble tiny
moths. When disturbed they will swarm about the plant. The nymphs are 1/16 inch
in length, pale green in color, and flat and oval in shape. They are found on the
undersides of the leaves and cause damage by sucking plant juices.
Fungus gnat maggots, Springtails and Psocids are soil pests that may damage
the root systems of house plants. Fungus gnat maggots are white, worm-like in
shape and about 1/4 inch long when mature. Springtails range in size from micro-
scopic to about 1/5 inch long, are usually white in color and jump when disturbed.
Psocids range in size from about 1/32 to 1/16 inch in length, are usually white to
gray colored and may or may not have wings.
Figure 16. Examine newly purchased plants for pests before placing the new plants with others.
Carefully examine any purchased plants to be sure they are free of pests (Figure
16). After bringing a plant home, isolate it for at least a month before placing it
with other plants.
Always use sterilized soil for potting to help prevent infestations of soil pests
such as nematodes, springtails, psocids and fungus gnats.
Spraying plants with a forceful stream of room temperature water every two
weeks will remove many insects before they have a chance to become established.
This procedure is best done outdoors or in a laundry sink. Spray the lower surfaces
of the leaves where most plant pests are found. Spraying also keeps the foliage
dust-free and the plants looking attractive.
Washing with soapy water and a soft cloth may be all that is needed to remove
aphids, mealybugs and scale insects from broadleaved plants. Use two teaspoons of
a mild detergent to one gallon of water.
If one or a few plants are involved, you may be able to control aphids and
mealybugs by removing them with a toothpick or tweezers. Caterpillars may be
picked off plants by hand and destroyed. Cutworms, slugs and snails may be found
in their hiding places during the daytime and destroyed or picked from the plants
at night when they come out to feed.
An easy way to control a light infestation of mealybugs or aphids is to wet or
remove the insects with a swab that has been dipped in alcohol (Figure 17). Swabs
recommended for babies are excellent. Be careful not to over apply, as alcohol may
burn the foliage.
For severe infestations or where large numbers of plants are involved, chemical
control may be needed. For recommendations on selection and application of
insecticides and miticides, contact the Agriculture Extension Agent in your county.
Figure 17. A cotton swab dipped in alcohol can be used to control light infestations of mealy-
bugs or aphids.
Plants grown indoors are troubled with very few plant diseases. This can be
attributed in part to the low humidity within the home. Most plants diseases spread
by spores which require moisture for growth.
Many problems commonly attributed to diseases are the result of unfavorable
growing conditions. Overwatering is the primary cause of root and stem rot. Exces-
sive watering causes an oxygen deficiency in the soil resulting in root death and
subsequent rot. Often soil-borne fungi and bacteria will invade root systems which
are weakened by an oxygen deficiency. Root rots can be prevented by using sterile,
porous potting media, containers with adequate drainage holes, and proper wa-
tering. When root rot occurs, the top portion of the plant may be saved by air
layering or by taking cuttings.
The most common and satisfactory method of propagating most house plants
is by cuttings. A cutting is a portion of a plant taken from a parent plant. There are
many types of cuttings, but the most important ones in propagating house plants
are stem and leaf cuttings.
The rooting medium for cuttings should have good drainage yet hold moisture
and be sterile. A suggested medium would be 1/2 peat and 1/2 perlite or coarse
Root-inducing hormones can be used on plants which are difficult to root. When
conditions for rooting are ideal, growth substances may reduce rooting time and
permit a higher percentage of cuttings to root. Root hormones are available from
garden supply stores. Follow directions on the container label when using rooting
Plants such as African violets, begonias, gloxinias, sansevierias, and most succu-
lents are easily propagated from leaf cuttings. Leaf cuttings are of two types--
those where new plants arise from the leaf tissue, such as the Bryophyllum, rex
begonia, and sansevieria (snake plant); and those where the roots and shoots arise
from the base of the petiole, such as African violet and gloxinia.
Sansevieria leaves may be cut into sections about 3 to 4 inches long and stuck
about one inch down into the medium (Figure 18). It is important that the section
remain right side up. Roots and shoots will form from the section and should be
removed from the leaf section when the new shoot is 3 to 4 inches long. The
variegated sansevieria will not reproduce true to type using this method. To retain
its characteristics, it must be propagated by division of the original plant.
Figure 18-A. Cut an entire leaf blade from a plant.
Figure 18-B. Cut the leaf blade into
sections 3 to 4 inches
long. The leaf sections
must remain right side
up since they will form
roots only on the bot-
Figure 18-C. Optional but desirable:
dip the bottom end of
the leaf sections into a
Figure 18-D. Stick the leaf sections
right side up three-
fourths their length in-
to the rooting medium.
Figure 18-E. Water the rooting medium thoroughly.
.-. i4 ,1 ..-04
Figure 18-F. Place a plastic bag over the container and seal it with a rubber band.
Leaves of Rex begonia and other fibrous begonias develop young plants from
their primary veins. Make small cuts across the larger veins on the undersurface of
the leaf (Figure 19). Then lay the leaf right side up on a moist medium. Use tooth-
picks or wire to hold the leaf in contact with the medium. New shoots should
appear in about two weeks. When the new shoots are 2 to 3 inches high they can be
figure I 1-A. ividme small cUL5 daross tie larger veins on ine unuersurrace or T e leaT.
Figure 19-B. Using toothpicks, hair pins or wire, pin the leaf right side up on a moist medium.
New shoots should appear in about 2 weeks.
African violets and gloxinias can be propagated using entire leaf (leaf blade plus
petiole) cuttings. Cut the leaf from the plant leaving 1 1/2 inches of petiole at-
tached to the leaf. The leaf cutting should be stuck into the rooting medium only
deep enough to keep the cutting upright, and at an angle.
Most house plants root easily from stem cuttings. Terminal cuttings of 3 to
6 inches in length should be taken from healthy, vigorously growing plants (Figure
20). Make a clean cut about 1/4 to 1/2 inch below a node (joint) with a sharp knife.
Avoid crushing the stem. Remove a few lower leaves from the cutting to prevent
wilting, but the cutting should not be heavily defoliated. Stick the cutting one inch
into the medium and firm gently so that it remains upright.
Figure 20-A. Cut a 3 to 6 inch terminal section from a healthy, vigorously growing plant. Re-
move leaves from 1 to 2 inches above the severed end of the cutting.
Figure 20-B. Optional but desirable: dip the bottom end of the cutting into a rooting hormone.
Figure 20-C. Stick the cutting one inch into the medium and firm gently.
Figure 20-D. Cover the pot with a plastic bag and seal it with a rubber band.
Stem cuttings can be rooted in plastic bags or in containers covered with plastic
bags. The plastic cover keeps the humidity high but does not prevent oxygen and
carbon dioxide movement in and out of the container. Set the container where it is
exposed to daylight, but never in direct sunlight. Heat from direct sunlight will be
trapped in the plastic bag and kill the cuttings.
Division is simply separating a large plant into two or more plants. Plant division
is often used for African violets, sansevierias (Figure 21) and many other plants that
produce several shoots from a central growing point.
Division can be done by hand or a knife can be used to split the plant apart.
Be very gentle and try to obtain as many roots with each plant part as possible.
Figure 21-A. Remove the multicrown plant from the container and divide the plant into two or
more sections with a sharp knife.
Figure 21-B. Pot the individual plant sections into 2 to 3-inch pots.
Air layering is a method of plant propagation used to induce plant stems to root
while they are still attached to the mother plant. It is an effective and fascinating
means of propagation for large plants that have heavy stems. Many old, tall, spindly
plants can be reclaimed by this method.
Select a healthy, vigorously growing main stem or lateral branch. At a point
12 to 15 inches below the tip, completely girdle the stem by removing a strip of
bark 1/2 to 1 inch wide from around the stem. Another procedure is to make a
long, slanting cut upward about 1/4 to 1/2 way through the stem. On large thick
.b~ .i4~ r~-
-A. Make slanting cuts on opposite sides of the stem. Extend the cuts 1 inch upward
and one-third way through the stem.
Figure 22-B. Place a toothpick or match stem into these cuts.
stems, make slanting cuts on opposite sides of the stems (Figure 22). Place a tooth-
pick or matchstick into these cuts so the stem does not grow back together. Dust
rooting hormone on the cut surface. Place a moist ball of sphagnum moss about the
size of a baseball around the stem and over the girdle. Wrap a piece of plastic film, 8
to 10 inches square, carefully about the branch so that the moss is completely
covered. Tie the ends of the plastic to form a moisture-proof package. Aluminum
foil can be used instead of plastic film to cover the sphagnum moss.
-C. Dust rooting hormone on the cut surfaces.
Figure 22-D. Thoroughly wet a handful of sphagnum moss.
After roots have penetrated the moss ball and are visible on all sides, the layer
can be severed from the parent plant just below the moss ball. Remove the wrap-
ping without disturbing the roots or removing the ball of moss and plant the layer
in a container using a good potting mixture.
Figure 22-E. Place the sphagnum moss around the stem and over the girdle.
Figure 22-F. Wrap a piece of plastic film 8 to 10 inch square about the branch and tie the ends
of the plastic.
Figure 22-G. Aluminum foil can be used instead of plastic film to cover the sphagnum moss.
Figure 22-H. Roots are visible through plastic 4 weeks after layering.
Illustrations by: Catherine Connelly
To simplify information in this publication, some trade names of products were
used. No endorsement of these specific products is intended nor is criticism implied
of similar products which were not mentioned.
This publication was printed at a cost of
$3843.00, or 0.1281 cents per copy, to inform
Florida residents on the care of plants in the
Single copies are free to residents of Florida and may be ob-
tained from the County Extension Office. Bulk rates are
available upon request. Please submit details of the request to
C. M. Hinton, Publication Distribution Center, IFAS Building
664, University of Florida, Gainesvllle, Florida 32611.
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS, University of Florida
and United States Department of Agriculture. Cooperating
K. R. Tefertiller, Director