Container math: Divide your roots to multiply your plants

By the month of November gardeners and gardening goals have moved indoors. Make this the winter you improve your air quality and mindset by growing more houseplants. Frugal gift givers can even take cuttings of favorite houseplants to pot up as gift plants or to use to create dish gardens or terrariums.

Here are the steps to horticultural math: divide to multiply or get snippy to make more babies.

Dividing houseplants

Not all houseplants have the type of root system that lends itself to easy division. Look at the base of your plant for younger-looking sidekicks or new growth spreading out from the stem of the plant. Many ferns, philodendrons, pepperomia, sanseveria or snake plants, spider plants, sedums and succulents and philodendrons are easy to divide. Fiddle leaf figs and ficus plants are not candidates for division.

Timing is not everything: Yes, you may hear that the best time to divide houseplants is in early spring when they start new growth. But here in Western Washington you can divide the houseplants listed above any time of year. You will know when a houseplant really wants to undergo a transplant surgery or division when you see roots splitting the pot or growing out from the bottom or top of the container, when the plant tips over from being so top heavy or when you notice pups or side shoots at the base of a mother plant.

Step One: Water well, then turn your pot upside down, tap the rim of the pot on a table and pull out the entire houseplant, roots and all. This will make a bit of mess. Spread newspaper on your countertop first then just dig in.

Step Two: Take a moment to study the roots. You may be able to disentangle or gently pull apart new young plants from the base of the mother. Most likely you will need a sharp knife to separate and divide the roots. At this point you can also decide to cut the top half from any leggy plant and repot the bottom half in fresh soil and a slightly larger pot. Then you can try to root the stem of the decapitated plant. This works best with philodendrons and sedums that have grown leggy.

Step Three: Get a grip (on the knife and your nerves) and cut into the thick root ball dividing the plant in half if you cannot see any separate root system. You may need a serrated knife or small saw to cut into thick roots.

Step Four: One half of the plant can now go back into the original pot with fresh potting soil surrounding the roots. Firm the soil with your hands a bit and water well. Tall plants may need staking for a few months while new roots grow. The other half of a divided plant or the young pups you have removed from the mother plant can go into other containers, again using fresh potting soil, not soil from your own garden. Make sure all pots have drainage holes. Recycling plastic pots from nursery plants is fine once you wash them. You can also recycle the plastic six-packs from summer annuals. Use these to root stem cuttings. Fill each section with potting soil and poke small side shoots or cut stems (remove any leaves from the bottom third of a stem cutting) from sedums and succulents. You can also try rooting single leaves from African violets or baby ferns into the individual cells. If the new cuttings start to wilt or have no roots you can cover the young plants with a tent of vented plastic wrap to seal in some humidity.

Step Five: Who gets your gifts? In four to six weeks new roots will make your new plants sturdy enough for adoption. Slip the plastic pots into baskets or group some young plants together in a dish garden, pop a tiny fern start into an old fishbowl or check out the novelty containers sold at local nurseries. Just make sure you add a tag explaining that the plant you are giving was started by your very own green thumb – a gift impossible to order from the internet.

• • •

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@rentonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.rentonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Back to the wild — a whole new outdoor recreation world | Guest editorial

When enjoying the great outdoors, continue to socially distance and be aware of how else COVID-19 has changed our world.

KCLS is stepping up its commitment to patrons

KCLS has expanding its online resources so patrons can continue to learn, build skills, stay entertained and remain mentally and physically active amid the pandemic.

Ardra Arwin.
‘Let’s not go out and play!’

A poem by Renton resident Ardra Arwin, age 8

How using a face mask to cover my Asian face could put me in danger

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, Asians and Asian Americans have been targeted.

Opinion: Public deserves honest information on sex education

The Washington comprehensive sex education bill passed in the Senate on March 7.

Grocery store staff are working hard to keep the shelves stocked during the COVID-19 pandemic. File photo
Thank you grocery store clerks

Recognizing the sacrifices of our unsung essential workforce.

Catch each other during this fall

How we can use the quarantine to reflect on necessary social changes

To our elected officials: Be bold, be consistent, be honest, be helpful

By Patrick Grubb, Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Governor Jay Inslee has been… Continue reading

Letters to the editor for the week of March 13

Reader worries about the county’s reach Dear editor, The article regarding King… Continue reading

As the deadline nears, state lawmakers face a few challenges

There are four major decisions lawmakers are tackling before the end of this legislative session.

A tax break for working families

As rents continue to climb in our communities, as food prices continue… Continue reading

Accelerating equity in STEM education in the Puget Sound

At the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), headquartered in Seattle’s South Lake… Continue reading