Rooting in Water

Gardening can be a costly affair, and yet it doesn’t need to be. There are many ways to get your plants for free, and rooting in water is just one of them.  I keep a row of jars on my kitchen windowsill, and they always have something in the rooting process.  Whenever you are out, take a small cutting of plants you like (except in garden centres, they won’t be happy about it!).  It can becomeRose rooting addictive. You may find you have so many plants you have start giving them away.

This really is the easiest method of propagation – all you need is the plant material and a glass of water. Most plants will grow with this method, some more successfully than others, but as it is free, you can try everything you can find.




willow treeThe willow tree contains Indolebutyric acid (IBA), which is a hormone that stimulates rooting.  They can be found wherever there is water or damp soil.  If you can get a branch it will speed up rooting immensely.  Remove the leaves and cut it into 30cm pieces.  Add one to each pot of water.  It will root quickly, so watch that the willow roots do not get tangled with the other plants roots.  Break the willow roots off if they become too large, new ones will grow.  Don’t be tempted to plant the willow branch.  The tree is an invader in South Africa and the roots will break your pipes and swimming pool as it seeks out water.



Stem cutting. Propagation, Barefoot LifeStem cuttings:  take a piece of stem roughly 30cm long.  Pinch out the top two leaves and remove the leaves from the bottom of the stem.  Leaves in water will rot and smell. Place the stem in a glass with roughly 10cm water. Add the willow stem if using. You can put more than one piece per glass. I usually use 3 or 4. Top up the water as it evaporates.  You do not need to change the water unless it becomes murky. Depending on the plant, it will take 1 – 4 weeks for the first roots to show.  Leave them in the water until they look strong enough to plant – see the photos in this article.  Some plants that root easily are mints, thyme, fuchsias, pelargoniums, roses, rue, lemon balm, most ground covers, hoya.



Leaf cuttings: Cut a leaf with the stalk attached and put the stalk into the African violet water.  It is often easier to wrap the top of the glass with clingfilm or foil, punch a hole and push the leaf stem into it.  This will support the leaf and keep it wet.  This is the best method to propagate African violets.





Avocado and Chou chou: Push a toothpick into 4 sides of the avocado seed, or the whole chou chou. With the help of the toothpicks, balance the seed, or fruit, over a glass, and fill until the water is just touching the bottom of the seed.  The roots will form into the water, and a stem will form from the top.






Vegetable roots: Keep the base of vegetables that you use in the kitchen and grow them again. Spring onions, celery, lettuce and leeks are some of the plants that will quickly produce new roots and leaves and can be replanted in the garden.  Place the vegetable into 5-10cm of water.  These root within a few days.





Rooting in water Baretoot LifeBulbs and rhizomes: Hyacinths, daffodils and other bulbs are often sold growing in water and always look beautifully simple in their glass containers or balanced on stones.  You can do the same with garlic, ginger, turmeric and other bulb or rhizome plants.  They only need a small amount of water, about 1cm is enough, and you will need to top it up regularly.  Alternatively, you can make a tray to balance the bulbs or rhizomes on and the roots will grow down into the water.  Punch holes in a piece of cardboard or recycle a plastic or Styrofoam food container.  Balance a garlic clove on each hole and place the tray over a bowl of water.  I don’t use this method often as I find the roots grow wider than the holes and I end up cutting them out of the plastic, which is fiddly and time consuming.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Basil roots barefoot LiffePlanting out:  When the roots look well developed it is time to plant either into a pot or garden.   Make the hole wide enough to place the root area in without breaking the fragile roots, and then, very gently, add potting soil.  Even if you are planting straight into the garden, use potting soil as it is finer than your garden soil.

Care:  As with any young plant, give it extra attention until it has settled.  Protect it from extreme heat or cold, and ensure it has enough water.

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