Aroid is a term commonly used in reference to a plant from the Araceae or Arum family in horticulture. This family includes many of the common houseplants found in the UK such as Monstera, Philodendron, Epipremnum (pothos) Rhaphidophora, Scindapsus, Dieffenbachia, Alcoasia and Spathiphyllum (peace lily).
In addition to making fantastic houseplants, aroids are very easy and fun to propagate due to their structure. This is commonly done through cuttings where the stem of the plant is cut into sections which can be rooted to create a new plant. As many aroids are climbing plants, they have a long stem with nodes (or ‘joints’) which is where each leaf is attached to. Each of these nodes has the ability to grow roots and so to propagate your plant, you will want to ensure that your cutting contains at least one node and one leaf. You can also propagate your plant from leafless stem cuttings with a node (known as wet sticks) although these take far longer to grow roots and a new shoot and will have an overall lower propagation success rate.
On the other hand, upright growing aroids like Spathiphyllum and Alocasia cannot be propagated through cuttings. Instead, these plants can be divided by separating the plant pups from the mother plant if you have any, if not you will have to wait for your mother plant to grow some when it is mature enough.
We will be discussing three of the most common methods for propagating climbing aroids along with their pros and cons. We’ve found that propagation and finding a preferred technique often comes from a lot of experimentation and trial and error to find what works best for you. There is no right method for everyone and so have a bit of fun and see what you prefer!
Method no. 1 - Water
Firstly, water propagation is probably the most common and easiest method to begin with as it is the most simple to set up and easy to monitor as you can see the roots.
To water propagate your plants, you only really need one thing…water! Simply cut up your plant and leave the cutting out to dry for a minimum of 3 hours or so to allow the freshly cutting’s stem to callous over. You can leave them out for up to 12 hours (depending on the plant and how thick the stem is) but I wouldn't recommend longer than this as you do not want the cutting to wilt. Allowing the end to callous over will help it to dry out and harden up which will create a ‘seal’ and help to prevent the end rotting in the water.
After the end has been calloused over a little, you are all ready to pop your cutting in water. Fill up any glass or container with tap or rainwater and pop your cutting in, making sure that the node is submerged until the water level. Depending on the cutting, you should have roots appear from around 1 week but it can sometimes take up to a month so do not stress if your plant is slow to root. Place your cutting in a light spot as it will need lots of light to photosynthesis in order to support its new growth.
An important tip to helping to prevent your cutting from rotting in water is to frequently change the water every 3 days. In general, the longer you leave the water between changing it the dirtier it will become from decomposing plant debris which can encourage the cutting to rot. You may also notice that the water level may rapidly decrease during hot weather as the water evaporates. Make sure to not let any new roots become exposed to the air as they will shrivel up and die and you will have to re-root the cutting from scratch again.
If you would like to speed up the rooting time for your cutting I would recommend investing in a heat mat to place your cuttings on. This is particularly great for the winter as the more warmth that your cutting has, generally the faster it will root and grow. If the cutting takes too long to root, it will start to rot and so adding heat will help to increase the success of your propagations (although isn’t essential).
Overall, water propagation is perfect for beginners as you are able to see your cutting and the roots grow as opposed to when it is in a substrate like moss or perlite. This can be useful for learning about rooting speeds and the types of roots that each genus of aroid grows as they’re all a little different in shape and thickness! It’s perfect for fast rooting plants such as Syngonium, Rhaphidophora and Scindapsus. However, due to having to change the water frequently, I would say that this is actually the most high maintenance method out of all three and may not be the most practical for those with busy schedules or those who travel a lot.
Method no. 2 - Moss
Secondly, moss makes an amazing substrate for propagating aroids due to its great water retentive abilities. Although water propagation works great for fast growing plants, larger plants that can be slow to root or those that rot easily can be far more successful to propagate in moss. For example, Monstera deliciosa albo variegata is renowned for easily rotting in water due to how slow it can be to root and it’s much more common for it to be rooted in moss due to the lower risk.
For moss propagation, you can use either fresh live sphagnum moss or dried sphagnum moss which you rehydrate, both work fine! The trick is to make sure that your moss is not too wet, as this is almost certainly to spell disaster and your cutting will rot. You want to give your moss a really good squeeze to remove as much water as possible before placing your cutting in. Make sure to allow your cutting to callous over and have your node around 1cm deep in the moss.
I find that cuttings can sometimes take a little longer to root in moss, however once the roots start to grow they can really grow surprisingly quickly! For watering, wait until the moss is nearly completely dry and either pour a tiny amount of water in over the moss to rehydrate is carefully (tipping away any that pools at the bottom of the container), or remove the moss and plant, rehydrate the moss with water, squeeze it and replace the plant back in the moss in the container.
If you want to make the method even lower maintenance, place a lid over the top of your propagation container which helps to keep the moss moist for far longer (a bit like a terrarium). Make sure you leave the lid open a crack or make holes in the lid though to allow for air circulation.
Overall, moss propagation is a great second method to try once you've got the hang of water propagation. It can sometimes be slower and a little more risky as the moss really needs to be the right level of ‘wet’ which can take a little bit of experimentation to get the hang of. I personally love using moss for a lot of my Philodendron and Monstera, particularly those that can be stubborn to root (such as Monstera siltepecana) or have very small internodal spacing and so rot easily (such as Philodendron ‘Cream Splash’).
Method no. 3 - Perlite
Lastly, we have perlite propagation which is great for propagation due to its aerated composition. For a long time I was very content with using water and moss and did not see the need for using perlite. However, after struggling with propagating a few more tricky plants such as Piper sylvaticum and seeking advice, I was pointed towards perlite as the go-to propagation technique for stubborn plants.
As with the previous two methods, you want to make sure that you allow the end of your cutting to be callous over well to help to prevent it rotting. Then take your perlite and soak it in water for around an hour and drain well to remove all excess water. Just like with moss, fill a container with your damp perlite and place your cutting in, making sure that the node is around 1cm deep, and place it in a bright place. I also like to place a bag or lid over the container with perlite as with moss for lower maintenance and to create a more humid environment for the plant although this is not essential.
Once your perlite is nearly dry, rehydrate it by pouring a tiny amount of water gently over the perlite and drain away any excess water that pools up at the bottom of the container. You want to make sure that any of your cutting stems are never sitting in water at the bottom as this seems to lead to rotting very easily.
Overall, We would say that perlite is one of the less common propagation methods used compared to water or moss, possibly due to it being less known or perlite being less accessible. Due to its composition, it can be used time and time again with breaking down like sphagnum moss eventually does which makes it fairly sustainable and cheap to use in the long run. It is also easier to separate off of the roots in comparison to moss (which also can look identical to the roots) which helps to avoid potential root breakages.
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