Grow Your Indoor Garden with This Easy Guide to Propagating Plants

Plus, make this stylish, DIY shelf display.

Hanifah Pandu Winata/Shutterstock | Graphic design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

With houseplant projects on the rise lately (there’s a tutorial available for everything from creating homemade planters to building greenery walls to mixing your own potting soil), it only makes sense to expand your plant collection with this straightforward weekend project. Grow new buds using cuttings from your thriving plants and upcycled glass bottles, then display them in a stylish shelf.

While you could continue to multiply your own indoor garden with rooted propagates, a plant grown from a cutting makes a thoughtful, personal gift, too. Better yet, gift an entire propagation shelf to someone considering gardening as a new hobby—it’s a great way to help instill confidence in plant care. No matter how you plan to use your propagation shelf, take a weekend to create one soon. 

Materials

– Houseplant suitable for propagation
– Sharp craft knife or pair of sharp pruning shears
– Plant rooting hormone (optional)
– 3-5 glass bottles
– Wooden shelf
– Screwdriver or power drill
– Screws
– Shelf brackets
– Pencil
– Tape measure or ruler
– Level
– Stud finder (traditional or app version)​​​​​​ 

Steps:

1. Select a suitable houseplant for cuttings
This project uses water as the growing medium for your propagate plants, so do your research and choose a species that will root well in plain water. Make sure whichever plant you choose has reached full maturity, is in good health, and has lots of new, fresh growth for the most promising propagation. Ideally, your selected plant should also be well-adjusted to your home environment, so don’t attempt this with a new addition to your (indoor or outdoor) garden.  

Illustration by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

2. Clip the plant to create cuttings
Sterilize a sharp craft knife or good pair of shears with rubbing alcohol before cutting your buds. Aim for a clipping that’s three to six inches in length, and snip just below a node (the place where the stem and the leaf meet). Beware of making a cutting that is too long; this may result in a sparse, taller plant as opposed to a fuller, lush product. Remove any leaves that would fall below the water line in your propagation vessel, leaving only the top two to three leaves. If there are any flowers in bloom, clip those away as well. 

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3. Prepare the cuttings for a new vessel
Trim the bottom stem of your cutting to just below the node. At this point, you could use your sharp shears or a sterile craft knife to make a slice through the node—this might help your propagate sprout roots easier. Whether you opt to slice or not, it’s best to dip the node into a bit of rooting hormone (covering about a half-inch of stem) to encourage good growth. 

4. Upcycle a set of glass bottles
Choose a matching set of three to five glass bottles, and measure for a snug fit within your planned shelf. Consider empty mineral water bottles, glass milk jugs, or even mason jars. Run your empties through a dishwasher cycle or wash with mild soap and rinse with warm water before inserting your plants. 

Illustration by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

5. Add your plant cuttings to their bottles
Fill each clean glass bottle 90% of the way up with room temperature water, and gently place in one cutting per bottle. While some species of plants might root in a few weeks, others could take longer than a month, so be patient with your propagates. Change the water every week, and gently rub any visible roots with your fingertips to rid them of slimy residue.   

Illustration by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

6. Install your propagation shelf
Consider the location of your shelf carefully—you’ll want a space that receives a ton of direct sunlight each day, so a wall just opposite a south-facing window or glass door might be ideal. Locate a set of usable studs, then mark those with a pencil. Measure the length of your shelf, and aim to install your brackets at the stud locations (shoot for two thirds of the way in from the ends of the shelf). Install the brackets using sturdy screws; you may need to drill starter holes into the wall to guide your screws first, but a bit of elbow grease and a good screwdriver will work if you’re without power tools. Hang the shelf, check it with the level, and make necessary adjustments. Then, add your new propagates. 

7. Plant the rooted cuttings
Transfer any rooted propagates to a planter with potting soil, and water as necessary. Wash the glass bottle thoroughly before repeating the process with a new cutting. 

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