Hydroponic Hacks: Boosting Your Propagation Game

Hydroponic Hacks: Boosting Your Propagation Game

Are you tired of failed plant propagations? Do you want to achieve lush, thriving new houseplants from your cuttings? If you're wondering how to propagate a plant, look no further, because I'm about to share with you my hydroponic hacks. That's right, water cuttings are more successful than cuttings in soil. 

There are 5 key steps to getting your plant cuttings to root fast in water. But first, let's uncover why it can be challenging to propagate plants:

What Can Make Plant Propagation Challenging?

Let's face it, plant propagation isn't always a walk in the park. There are a few things that can make it tricky:

  1. Genetics. Some plants are not propagable and others are just plain finicky and require specific conditions to propagate successfully. The Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree is one of these lovely ladies.
  2. Environmental factors play a role too. Temperature, humidity, light, soil composition - all can make a difference. 
  3. Disease and pests can also be a bummer. Nobody likes a sickly plant, and plants I this situation can be more susceptible to these downfalls.
  4. And let's not forget human error. Using the wrong nutrient solution, water, or overall environment will cause your plant to take an L (that stands for "Loss").
  5. Lastly, patience. Propagation takes time. Sometimes a lot of it. It can be a test of patience and dedication, and often times we just get tired of waiting or lose interest.

In this article, we'll discuss the best method for how to propagate a fiddle leaf fig tree, snake plant, or just about any houseplant in water.

how to propagate plants

Increasing Plant Propagation Success Rate

1. Choosing the right part of the plant to propagate

When attempting to propagate plants, it's essential to research the specific requirements of the species you're working with. Some plants root from the leaf, and others from the branch. For example, zz plant leaf cuttings, hoya, and snake plant cuttings taken from the top part of the leaf are generally more reliable than lower leaf cuttings, and fiddle leaf figs propagate best from a 3-6 inch cutting from the tip of a branch or trunk. Understanding the unique needs of each plant can greatly increase your chances of success. By doing a bit of homework on your plant's specific propagation needs and working with the natural capabilities of the plant, you can propagate new plants successfully without the need for additional supplements.

As a side note, always use sterilized pruning shears when cutting your plant. This will prevent diseases from ruining your efforts.

2. Choosing to wound or heal your cutting

When propagating plants, you face the choice to either wound or heal your cutting. Wounding involves intentionally damaging the cutting to stimulate growth hormones and encourage rooting. This technique is often used for tougher stems or plants that are slow to root, such as ficus or fig plants. On the other hand, healing refers to allowing the cut end of the stem to callus over, creating a protective barrier that helps prevent rot and infection. This method is ideal for succulents and plants prone to moisture retention, such as hoya, snake plants, and ZZ plants. Knowing when to apply each method is crucial for successful propagation, ensuring your new plants have the best start possible.

wounding and healing plant cuttings before propagating

3. Choosing the right nutrient solution

When trying to make new plant babies you don't necessarily need a rooting hormone. You can use easily use water, but adding nutrients can be really helpful. It's tempting to use plain tap water to propagate your plants (and it sometimes works), but for reliability, you will need something more crafted to help maintain an ideal pH for the hydroponic setting.

how to propagate a plant

Here's the recipe:

  1. 1 gallon of distilled water
  2. 1/2 teaspoon Grow Goodies®
  3. Air stone (optional)

This nutrient solution is like gold for anything you want to boost and I use it for all my propagations. I like to use an air stone in my hydroponic solution as it helps with oxygen flow and reduces the amounts of time I need to swap out the water to about every 7-10 days.

PRO TIP: The air stone is a great idea as it will ensure that the roots have a good flow of oxygen. Plus, you won't have to replace the water solution as often.

Use an air stone to increase oxygen for plant propagations

Once the plant has established sufficient roots, I transfer into some sort of potting soil or soilless media, such as LECA.

4. Keep it bright

In addition to the nutrient solution, you'll want to make sure your propagation, mainly the leaf part, is in a bright spot. After all, what good is all that nutrition if your cutting isn't getting enough light? That said, make sure that your aspiring plant is in indirect light, not glaring direct sunlight.

P.S. You can prevent algae developing in the propagation jar/glass by using an opaque vessel.

fiddle leaf fig propagation help

5. Keep it warm

Proper temperature is crucial for the health and growth of your plant, especially during the propagation stage. However, finding the right balance can be a bit tricky. You want to avoid exposing your plant to extreme temperatures that could cause it to wilt or even die, but you also don't want it to be too cold, which could stunt its growth. So, aim for a warm spot in your house that provides a stable temperature without direct sunlight (sometimes a simple grow light can do the job). Not only will a warm environment help activate growth, but it will also keep your plant happy and healthy. So, snuggle up with your plant and keep it cozy!

Two Experiments in Plant Propagation

Snake Plant Experiment

Two snake plant cuttings were taken at the same time. Typically, it's best to use a cutting as close to the tip of the leaf as possible, but for the sake of this experiment, I cut the leaves a bit longer. 


One cutting was placed in tap water and one in my special recipe of Grow Goodies® and distilled water. No air stone was used for these. As a control group, I put 4 other cuttings in plain tap water (kudos to me for implementing the scientific method).


All but one of my tap water cuttings started to grow some roots, while the "special recipe" cutting bursted with roots as well as pushed out new leaf pups within a month (see image below).  

snake plant propagations

The Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree Propagation Experiment

4 Fiddle Leaf Fig tree cuttings were taken off the same tree for propagating at the same time. Two branches were from the top of the branch, and two from the trunk.


I wounded the bottom of the branches and allowed them to heal for about a day. Next, I placed one trunk piece and a branch tip piece in a jar of plain tap water with an air stone, replacing the water every three days (we'll call this Set "A"). The other two pieces were placed in a jar of distilled water with Grow Goodies® and an air stone, with the water solution being replaced every ten days (Set "B").


Only one piece from Set "A" grew roots—the piece cut from the branch tip, which took about six weeks. The bare trunk piece eventually rotted away. Set "B," however, grew roots rapidly on both pieces within a few weeks. In fact, not only did Set "B" develop roots quickly, but they also started pushing out new leaves right away. See the images below. I transferred the branch piece to LECA for further root development. Also, have a look at the trunk piece, living its best life in a planter with a little help from Bless Your Soil.

propagating fiddle leaf fig

This is the branch tip propagation that was later transfered to a LECA substrate.

propagation from fiddle leaf fig trunk

By all accounts, this bare piece of ficus trunk should not have developed roots or leaves, but as you can see here, it's now living it's best life thanks to a little help from Bless Your Soil®.

The recipe for successful plant propagations

Now that you know how to propagate your houseplants, why not give it a try for yourself? Grab a gallon of distilled water, some Grow Goodies®, and an air stone, and get to chopping that houseplant! Propagations make awesome personal gifts and save you money buying new plants.

Cheers to becoming a new plant parent!

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