Propagation 101: Should plants be propagated in soil or water?

Propagation 101 Should Plants Be Propagated In Soil Or Water

When it comes to propagating plants, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether plants should be propagated in soil or water. Both methods can be effective, but each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Is it better to propagate plants in water or soil?

Although some plants will root in water and some soil, cuttings will develop a more robust root system when embedded in a soilless potting mix. Providing a sterile, well-draining environment, soilless potting combinations can help ensure the resulting plant has a robust, healthy root system that will support its growth for years.

A soilless potting mix may resemble soil, but it is simply a blend of organic matter such as peat, wood chips, coco coir, perlite, or vermiculite, and sometimes a slow-release fertilizer. Because there is no inorganic matter present, such as sand, silt, or clay, the mixture is not technically soil.

Water propagation involves placing a plant cutting in a water container and waiting for roots to develop before transplanting the cutting into the soil. This method is best suited for plants that are easy to root, such as pothos, philodendrons, and spider plants. Water propagation allows you to see the roots as they develop, which can be satisfying and informative. It’s also easy to keep the cutting hydrated, which can be helpful if the cutting is fragile or if the climate is dry. However, some plants may be susceptible to root rot if left in water for too long, and water propagation may not work well for plants that prefer a drier soil.

Propagation Plants by soil
Propagation of Plants by soil

Soil propagation involves planting a cutting directly into the soil and keeping the ground moist until roots develop. This method best suits plants that prefer drier soil, such as succulents and cacti. Soil propagation provides a stable environment for the cutting, which can help it establish roots more quickly. Earth also provides nutrients that can help the cutting grow more vigorously.

It’s important to note that not all plants can be propagated through either method. Some plants may prefer propagating through other techniques, such as air layering or division. It’s always a good idea to research the specific plant you want to propagate to determine the best method for that particular species.

If a cutting is rooted in water, the resulting roots are best suited to absorb nutrients from water rather than soil. When the plant is transferred directly from water to soil, it may experience stress. Mixing a small amount of soil into the water used for rooting the cutting is recommended to prevent this. This will help the plant adjust to the transition from water to soil and reduce the risk of stress.

Which type of plant propagation is right for you?

Now, you may be asking yourself which type of plant propagation is right for you. The answer to this question depends on the plants you’re trying to propagate. 

Soil propagation is a better option for plants that are more delicate or susceptible to mold and rot. For example, when propagating plants like roses, it’s best to start them out in pots on your deck or balcony and transplant them once they have developed a good network of roots and grown out multiple sets of new leaves. On the other hand, water propagation is a better option for plants that require high humidity levels. This includes tropical plants like palms and bananas and succulent species like cacti and air plants prone to drying out in their pots. You can make these types of specimens happier by rooting them in water.

Propagation Plants by Water
Propagation Plants by Water

Which plant propagation method is more effective?

Your plant’s lifestyle determines the most effective way of propagating plants. If you want to get a head start on propagating your plant, then use soil. This is because soil allows the roots to grow into the soil and find nutrients. When using water, the roots will only be able to grow down. Soil also provides a better home for the roots, strengthening them and allowing them to take up nutrients faster than water.

Why shouldn’t you excessively stress your plants when propagating them?

Taking care of your plants once they are rooted is also essential; you want them to grow back strong and healthy so you can continue your garden endeavors. If a plant propagated in water has been stressed too much during its life cycle, it may not grow back properly and could even die off completely if it was already weakened before being rooted.

Other things to consider before deciding which plant propagation method to use

For several reasons, some people may want to propagate seedlings in soil and others may want to put them in water. If you’re growing plants in water, their roots can actually grow down into the water rather than just sitting on the surface like they would with soil. This allows for better aeration of the roots and nutrients to be absorbed more easily by the plant. -Soil is more organic and tends to be easier on your plants because it encourages bacterial growth that helps prevent disease. The risk of diseases when planting in the soil is much less than when planting in water. Soil tends to make plants stronger. It also protects from other fungal diseases like powdery mildew, which affect wet and dry plants. 

Ultimately, the best method for propagating a plant will depend on the plant species, the conditions in which it will be grown, and the gardener’s preferences. Some plants may root more successfully in water, while others prefer soil. It’s also worth noting that some plants can be propagated through both methods, so it may be worth experimenting to see which method works best for a particular plant.


Hey, My name is Liat and I am addicted to house plants! I have at home more than 50 different types of plants of all kinds - succulents, cactus, tropical plants, orchids and more! Feel free to share the blog with friends on social networks.

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