The Q&A Archives: soil and water

Question: If I get a cutting from a plant; why is it better to put the cut in soil than water?

Answer: Plant roots need both moisture and oxygen. While some plants can adapt to lower oxygen levels such as you'd find in water, most plants will root more readily in soil than in water. If you have a choice, use potting soil for your cuttings. Or, you can try making a propagation pot. Here's how: you'll need one 6" plastic pot with drainage holes in the bottom and one small (3") terra cotta pot, plus some perlite (available in the houseplant section of a garden center). Take a paper towel and line the bottom of the plastic pot; moisten the perlite and put it into the pot. Use a piece of florist's clay to plug the hole in the bottom of the terra cotta pot and set the pot into the perlite (squishing it down so only the rim is above the perlite). Fill the terra cotta pot with water. Keep the water level in the terra cotta pot consistent by adding more as necessary. The water will seep out through pores in the terra cotta pot and will keep the perlite perfectly moist. Then take your plant cuttings and set them into the perlite (make "planting" holes with a pencil). Your houseplants should root in just a few short weeks. Be sure to put a saucer beneath the plastic pot, just in case some moisture seeps out.

Good luck with your plant propagation!

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