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Dividing house plants and offsets

David Hurrion takes you through the process of propagating plants from plantlets, and demonstrates how to divide clump-forming plants like Calathea.
Once you’ve had your houseplants for a little while, you probably find that some of them will have either grown big enough to be able to split them into a number of different plants, or they might even be really obliging and make little baby plantlets. Things like spider plants, they produce little baby plants on the end of these long runner stems. This one, if you look carefully, has got flowers on it as well. So these flowers, you need to wait until the flowers have finished and then the plantlets will continue to develop and then you can detach them or use a peg to peg them onto the surface of the compost. And I’ll show you that in a moment.
Here’s another type of spider plant that’s finished flowering. And you can see that the plantlets have got quite large. And these, if you look at the base of them, have got little baby roots starting to form down here at the base. Those are the first little signs of the root initials beginning to form. And what we can do is we can split all of those little individual plantlets off. So you’ve got a little base with the rootlets attached and the little plant with the leaves attached. Pot those up singly and they’ll grow into new plants. So that’s a really good way of propagating. But this one in particular, this is one of my favourites. This one’s called mother of thousands.
And this produces lots of these stringy growths, stems really, stringy stem growths from the plant. And at the end, very often they will produce these little baby plants. And you can see there’s a perfectly formed little baby mother of thousands plant there at the end of that stem, a perfect miniature of the parent plant. And what you can do is you can fill a pot with some compost
and then sit that little baby plantlet on the surface of the compost and use a clothes peg to peg it in place, while it’s still attached to the parent plant. And that will hold it in contact with the compost, keep that compost watered, keep it moist, and that will root into that compost and you’ll get a new plant. So really easy ways to make new plants. And of course, you can do that with the spider plant as well. You could peg it down to the surface. But one of the best things to do is to divide your house plants. Now, this one is one that I’ve just bought from a garden centre. This is a Calathea.
And if you look in here, if I split this apart. You can see that it’s already in two pieces, if not three. So we can take advantage of that. And what might start out as quite an expensive plant if we divide it, as soon as we buy it, we can make more than one plant out of that original. So if you look here and carefully tease that compost away from the top surface of the plant, you can see the roots have done really well. But we’ll put our fingers between there and this baby offset plant there, split it apart, work our way down, do a bit of a wiggle, rotating the roots and the whole root ball apart.
And you can see that this is starting to split and just gently tug it try not to damage too much of the root and you’ll find that you can detach a complete new division already with its roots attached that you could pot up singly. So you’ve got one plant there. We could probably divide off another plant here, on this parent plant. So from our original investment of one plant, we’ve got three plants immediately. So that divides the purchase cost by three. So you’ve got three plants instead of one.
Pot them up individually, plant them at the same depth that they were growing around about here with the roots on the ground and the leaves up above into small pots of compost and they’ll grow away really quickly. But you can also look at your existing house plants like this is one of my plants I have in my kitchen window sill. This is a mother-in-law’s tongue. And you can see here quite distinctly that there are two plants here that if we knock this out of the pot, we could make a couple of plants as well. Not every plant will divide itself in this way, but most will. Many will, rather. Particularly things like this aloe vera.
So if you look at the bottom of this original plant here, here’s the parent plant. Look at the base here. There are loads of offsets of aloe vera. And of course, this is one of the reasons why this is such a popular house plant because it propagates itself so easily, so not that out of the pot, and you can see that they’re not even attached to the parent plant, they’ve actually started growing from the roots over there. So we can carefully tease this compost apart and detach one.
And then quite a lot of little ones here, all of these have grown from the roots rather than growing from the parent plant itself. So from that one initial plant, which we’ve still got, here’s the parent plant still, it’s debateable whether that’s worth keeping, to be honest, because it’s such a top-heavy thing. But if you planted it a little bit deeper, say, about there, it would carry on growing and grow away. But we’ve got, in addition to our one plant, we’ve got two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine baby plants from there. So it goes without saying that that’s such an easy plant to propagate.
So simply take your plant, your little baby plant and put it into a small pot to start with. So a pot that’s big enough to accommodate the roots, but not so big that the plant will wobble, feed those roots into check that they’ll all fit in nice and carefully, put a little bit of compost into the bottom of the pot to start with, just a small amount, then feed those roots in place and then fill up with more compost around so that the plant is sitting with the roots below the compost, the stem growth just above, tap the sides of the pot just to settle that compost in position, firm it nicely.
And there’s the first of our little aloe vera plantlets, potted up and ready to go.
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