To many gardeners, the practice of dormant winter pruning can seem wasteful (albeit necessary). You might often find yourself thinking: “all the trimmings that end up filling my trashcan or compost bin could make for a gorgeous new plant; if only the weather were nicer!”. Well, the good news is that you might not have to wait until spring to propagate your houseplants after all.
You can propagate houseplants in the winter. However, you should make sure that the external conditions are still within an acceptable range to allow for normal growth. The type of houseplant you choose to propagate also matters, as some varieties might not handle winter conditions well.
In the following sections, I’ll delve into some of the best houseplant varieties to propagate during winter, along with some of my tried-and-true tips and tricks on how to make sure that the propagation process succeeds even if the weather conditions are less than ideal. Therefore, if you’re looking to make the most out of your dormant winter pruning and expand your houseplant collection, keep reading.
Which Houseplants Can You Propagate in the Winter?
Although propagating houseplants in the winter is possible, the practice’s success highly depends on the plant variety you’re trying to breed. Not all species are equipped to withstand winter’s harsh weather conditions; therefore, I highly recommend going through this section beforehand to figure out whether your plant is a viable candidate to take through propagation in the winter.
Some houseplants you can propagate in the winter include woody plants like peaches, nectarines, apricots, blueberries, kiwis, and blackberries. You can also propagate daisies, maples, hydrangeas, jasmines, roses, and most evergreen varieties (bay trees, Camellias, climbing jasmine, etc.).
As you can see, there’s no shortage of strong, gorgeous-looking plants you can grow out of your wintery trimmings and shavings. Not to mention that these are just a few of the virtually endless array of varieties you can take through this process.
However, your success rate with different houseplants will heavily depend on your circumstances. For example, peaches can not only handle colder temperatures of 45°F (7.2°C) or lower, but they actually thrive in these conditions.
Lemons, on the other hand, are a trickier plant to propagate during winter. Even in its very first growth phases, the plant requires significantly warmer temperatures to thrive. Therefore, if your geographical location tends to go through harsher winters, there’s not much point in trying to propagate lemons at all.
However, at the end of the day, no amount of generalized advice will help you quite as much as your existing knowledge regarding your location’s qualities and your plants’ preferences.
Even though the species I mentioned above are a relatively safe bet when it comes to winter propagation, if you’re looking to expand your collection with another type of plant, I suggest researching to ensure you’ll be able to provide the trimmings with the conditions they require to thrive.
Throughout this process, it’s essential to keep your expectations realistic. While winter propagation can yield gorgeous, healthy houseplants, you’ll still have to accept that the growth trajectory won’t be as quick or linear as if you were to propagate during warmer months.
In short, expect the best, but be prepared for the worst. Even during warmer winters, there’s still a chance that the trimmings you’re trying to propagate won’t be able to store enough energy to grow before root rot sets in from the excessive humidity. For example, it might take anywhere from two to four months for the plants’ roots to grow, regardless of their species.
Some home gardeners try to speed up the process using bottom heat; however, it isn’t always necessary (unless there’s no chance the plant can grow given the temperature conditions in your area). Most species are more resilient than you’d think, which is why allowing them to develop naturally is usually still an excellent choice.
Propagating your plants in the winter months may take slightly longer than in the warmer months. However, it’s an excellent and affordable option to get free plants from your existing ones.
Giving your plants bottom heat will speed the process along but you don’t have to do it. You should allow the plants to develop naturally, and then when the weather warms up, the root system will develop naturally.
The growth process is bound to be slower and more challenging, which is why you’ll want to show some extra care and attention to your home’s wintery additions.
How To Propagate Houseplants in the Winter
Due to the somewhat tricky nature of the process, when propagating houseplants in the winter, there are some essential considerations you should keep in mind to optimize your chances of success. Here’s how to best propagate houseplants in the winter:
- Protect the cuttings
- Choose the right soil
- Use bottom heat (if possible)
- Use the right trimmings
- Follow a strict watering schedule
Keep reading through the following sections to learn more about each of these tips and how they can help your trimmings grow into strong, healthy plants of their own.
Protect the Cuttings
Even though you can’t control the harsh winter conditions that might cause your newest plant to struggle, you can still take some measures to cover and protect it from the elements, especially when it comes to extreme humidity.
In this context, protection can take many forms. An excellent way to keep your plants semi-protected while still letting them breathe is to place them in a windowsill, enclosed porch, polytunnel, or cold frame.
Another convenient, although less-than-ideal way to go about protecting the cuttings is to wrap them in plastic wrap. However, while doing so does an excellent job at providing protection from the elements, it also increases the risk of fungal infections exponentially; therefore, it’s best to proceed with caution.
If the weather conditions aren’t too extreme, the cuttings might do well even if there isn’t any protection at all; however, a strategic placement certainly helps.
Choose the Right Soil
Even though you can theoretically set the trimmings in almost any type of soil (potting, regular, etc.), by choosing a mixture of peat moss and perlite, you’ll be providing them with the best chance of survival.
Luckily, both peat moss and perlite are affordable and relatively easy to find, meaning this isn’t a tip you’ll want (or have) to skip. Simply combine the components following the ratio recommended in the linked article above, and pour the mixture into the pot or seedling tray of your choice.
Use Bottom Heat (If Possible)
As mentioned, using bottom heat is an excellent way to stimulate quicker root growth when propagating houseplants in the winter. If you live in a perpetually cold area, bottom heating is a must if you want to give your trimmings the best chance of survival.
Investing in an affordable heat mat is an excellent way to go about bottom heating as an amateur gardener. The increased soil temperature creates a much better-suited environment for the trimmings to grow and thrive.
Use the Right Trimmings
When winter pruning, there’ll be a lot of trimmings and residue from your woody species; however, not all will do when it comes to propagating. To make sure your plants have the best chance of survival, you’ll want to pick only the sturdiest, healthiest-looking ones of the bunch.
For example, it’s best to discard any cuttings that seem mushy, spotted, or discolored. Any of these signs could indicate some type of disease. After finding the healthiest trimmings, you’ll want to bundle them and keep them in a cool location until you’re ready to set them into the soil mixture. The average shed or garage would make for an ideal storing space in this case.
Each trimming should contain around 4-6 nodes, the length of each individual piece isn’t as important.
Follow a Strict Watering Schedule
Finding the right watering schedule for your plant and following it to a T is crucial in any scenario; however, it’s even more important to get the process right when trying to propagate in the winter.
Since there’ll be a wide range of environmental factors working against you that you can’t control, you want to at least keep the variables you have a hand in as optimal as possible. Therefore, make sure to keep a calendar and several alarms at your disposal to ensure your trimmings never go thirsty or get overwatered.
While you can propagate houseplants in the winter, the process can be a bit difficult to navigate. However, by choosing the right plant variety and following a few simple tips and tricks, you’ll be able to give your trimmings an excellent chance of survival, regardless of how harsh the weather conditions might be.