Can You Propagate a Stem Without a Leaf?

Propagation is one of the most rewarding aspects of plant care, as you can take a beloved plant and make more from stem cuttings. However, is it possible to propagate a stem that doesn’t have a leaf?

You can propagate a stem without a leaf. However, the stem must have at least one node, which is where buds are located and where leaves or stems will develop. Additionally, propagating plant stems without leaves is more likely to take longer to root.

The rest of this article will discuss the different ways to propagate a stem without a leaf and which plants this type of propagation works best on. I’ll also go over if it’s better to propagate stems with or without leaves and which type of cutting is easiest to root.

Plants That You Can Propagate From Leafless Stems

Unfortunately, you can’t propagate every plant stem without a leaf, as some plants won’t be able to develop the roots necessary to propagate successfully.

A few examples of plants you can propagate from leafless stems are:

  • Pothos
  • Philodendron
  • Monstera adansonii
  • Chinese evergreen
  • Bamboo

It’s essential to remember that trying to propagate a leafless stem that also doesn’t have any nodes won’t result in a rooted stem. Branches have to have nodes to form roots.

How to Propagate a Stem Without a Leaf

If you have a plant that’s particularly vine-y, such as a pothos, you might wonder if you can use the vine portions of the plant without leaves to create more pothos plants. Luckily, this is possible! Pothos is one of the most popular plants to propagate without leaves.

Let’s go over a few common methods:

The Bag Method

Here’s how to propagate a pothos stem cutting without a leaf using the bag method:

Find the Nodes on the Stem

The nodes are essential. Without them, the plant stem won’t grow any other stems or leaves. To locate nodes, look for areas on the stem where there’s a scar on the branch or buds are formed.

Cut the Node

Cut one to two inches (2.5 – 5 cm) on either side of the nodes. You can do this, or you can cut just below a node. However, I recommend leaving some room to be safe.

Fill a Bag With Moss or Perlite

While this step is mostly optional, it can help the stems propagate quicker. Using sphagnum moss is the ideal option.

Place Cuttings in a Bag

Next, you’ll want to place the stem cutting or cuttings in the bag. The humidity of the bag will assist the plant in propagation.

Find an Area With Bright Light

Place the bag in an area with bright light and warmth. Bright sunlight is essential, as it will create humidity in the bag and encourage new stems and leaves to form.

Wait a Month

You’ll then need to wait about one month before going any further. After about a month, you’ll notice roots forming from the nodes.

Place the Roots Into the Soil

After the roots have grown, you can place them into the soil to grow into a plant.

If you’re more of a visual learner, I suggest checking out Techplant’s YouTube video:

Of course, this is only one of the ways to propagate a leafless stem, and this specific way works wonderfully for pothos plants but may not for other types of plants.

If you don’t want to use a bag, you can place the stem in water or soil. However, you may not get the same results (or at least not as quickly) without the humidity.

The Water Method

The water method is very similar to using a bag, except you place the cut stems in water.

Here are the steps to propagating a stem without a leaf in water:

Find a Node

The first thing you need to do is find the nodes on the stem. Having a few nodes on the same stem is ideal, as this will give you the best chance at new stem growth.

Cut the Stem

Next, you’ll cut the stem from the plant. You can cut just below the nodes or leave a couple of inches (5+ cm) of space.

Use a Rooting Hormone

Using a rooting hormone is optional, but it can be the aspect that makes your plant root. A rooting hormone can be something natural like cinnamon powder or something you buy in a store. Put the powder on the cut end of the stem.

Place the Stem in a Container With Water

Then, you’ll put the stem in a water-filled container. Don’t let the water completely cover the stem, as some of it should be above the water. Also, ensure at least one or two nodes are submerged in the water.

Be sure to give the plant bright light, as this is essential for root growth.

Be Patient

Trying to propagate a stem without a leaf is possible, but it may take a lot longer than usual. Be sure to watch the cutting closely and change the water now and then.

The water method is one of the quickest ways to see root formation in most cuttings. Wandering jew plants propagate in the water incredibly quickly and can even live in water for a very long time.

The Soil Method

Lastly, you can propagate a stem without a leaf in the soil. However, this type of propagation is only ideal for plants with thick stems, also referred to as using “cane cuttings.”

Some thick-stemmed plants this method works with include:

  • Dumb cane
  • Bamboo
  • Ribbon plant
  • Corn plant
  • Chinese evergreen

To use this method, follow these steps:

Cut the Stem From the Plant

First, you’ll need to cut the stem off the plant (as you would with the previous methods). Cut at the base of the stem where it meets the main stem.

Locate the Nodes on the Stem

With the specific plants this method works for, nodes are typically naturally divided. Therefore, ensure the cuttings include at least two nodes per section.

Use a Rooting Hormone

As mentioned in some of the previous sections, this step is largely optional but may speed up the propagation process.

Choose a Potting Mixture

Using a potting medium of peat, sand, perlite, or sphagnum moss is best. These potting mediums contain the nutrients necessary for rooting to take place.

Place the Cutting in the Potting Mix

You can place the cutting into the mix vertically or horizontally, but either way, ensure the end is buried in the potting mix. Ensure around one inch (2.5 cm) of the stem is sticking out of the soil.

Water Your Stem

It’s best to water the stem every other day or when the soil completely dries. Be careful, though, as watering too much can lead to rot.

Place the Cutting in the Sun

The amount of sun your cutting needs depends on the type of plant, so it’s essential to research your plant’s needs beforehand.

Practice Patience

Propagating this way can take a long time to see results, so be patient – it can take several months!

If you’re unsure if this method will work with your specific plant, it’s best to try one of the other methods mentioned above.

Is It Better To Propagate a Stem With a Leaf or Without?

It’s better to propagate a stem with a leaf. Leaves are essential for generating energy through photosynthesis, which is crucial to root formation. Without leaves, the stem has to use energy stored in the stem, which isn’t as ideal. Additionally, not all plants can be propagated without a leaf.

Therefore, while you can propagate with and without leaves (depending on the plant), it’s usually ideal to propagate a plant with a leaf.

Why Your Cuttings Aren’t Rooting

If you’re trying to propagate a plant, but your cuttings aren’t rooting, don’t worry! There could be several reasons your cuttings aren’t rooting, depending on many factors. I’ll go over some of these reasons in the sections below.

Your Cuttings Are Too Long

Cuttings that are too long can make it difficult for roots to form because the cutting has to work extra hard to provide energy to the long stem and the forming roots. Therefore, it’s best to have cuttings that are on the shorter side so you’ll see quicker results.

The Cutting Is Wrong for the Plant

As I’ve covered in the article, certain plants don’t propagate well to specific cuttings. While several plants can propagate from only a stem and no leaves, others won’t be able to. Therefore, it’s vital to research your specific plant to determine which propagation technique is best.

You Haven’t Waited Long Enough

Propagating cuttings can take a long time, depending on the plant and method used. For example, you’ll be disappointed if you expect results within a week of propagating a leafless stem. This type of propagation can take months before you see roots form. Therefore, it’s essential to be patient.

You Used the Wrong Propagation Method

Whether you use a bag, water, or soil will determine your results when propagating. If you want faster results, putting your cutting in water is ideal. However, it’s ideal to know which type of propagation is best for your specific type of plant, as this will likely give you the fastest root growth and development.

Final Thoughts

You can propagate a stem without a leaf in many plants. However, this isn’t the ideal way to propagate plants, as it usually takes longer for roots to form due to the absence of leaves. 

Leaves are essential to propagation because they supply the cutting with energy through photosynthesis. Without it, the cutting must rely on the stem’s energy, which isn’t ideal. 

Despite this, many plants allow leafless propagation, whether through the bag, water, or soil method. As long as you follow the steps, you should have roots forming in no time!

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the founder of and its lead content writer. He created the website in 2022 as a resource for horticulture lovers and beginners alike, compiling all the gardening tips he discovered over the years. Alex has a passion for caring for plants, turning backyards into feel-good places, and sharing his knowledge with the rest of the world.

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