Buying a houseplant and caring for it takes time and effort. The rewards are a lovely addition to the home that adds a bit of life to the decoration scheme. But there are additional rewards to be had by growing your own plants from seeds or cuttings.
The first step is to select quality seed. There’s no sure fire way to guarantee that, unless you’ve gathered seed from your own first-rate plants. But using a reputable source for seeds is a good beginning too.
For houseplants grown from seeds, proper soil preparation is paramount. Start with sterile earth, not just dirt from outside the house. The soil around your home may have weed seeds, insect larvae, unhelpful soil bacteria or any of a number of other problems waiting to spring up. Maximize your odds by starting with known, good soil.
A seed starting tray is a good idea for most new plants. They provide a capillary mat that soaks up water from below to feed the seeds and keep the surrounding soil moist. They are a good size for new plants that will serve for those critical first few months. Keep the soil fairly warm (at least 72F/22C) during the day. Ensure it doesn’t drop below 65F/18C at night. Use a warming lamp if necessary.
Providing ample light is essential for these newly developing plants. If the location and/or climate don’t provide enough sunlight, supplement with artificial lighting. Suspend the light a few inches above the tray or pot. The heat will penetrate the soil, provided the seeds are not planted too deeply. When they sprout above the surface, the light will provide the needed energy for photosynthesis, vital to every plant’s existence.
Once the new plant has grown to the point of developing leaves, you can add a dilute fertilizer, 1/4-1/2 strength, then transplant the new arrival into a pot.
Many of the same principles apply to growing from cuttings. Selecting a good cutting is the first step. Make sure you use green stems that haven’t hardened or become ‘woody’. Use a stem that contains a node (the point where the leaf attaches to the stem). That node will develop into the new plant, by sprouting roots.
Remove all but one or two leaves with their nodes, through which the new roots will eventually emerge. Until those roots develop, the plant will acquire its needed nutrition from the leaves. Prepare the soil as you would for seeds, then insert the cutting gently into the earth.
Keep the soil moist during this critical first growth phase, but not excessively wet. Rot from excessive watering is the most common way new plants are destroyed. Just as with seeds, give them plenty of light, at least 12 hours per day. If natural sunlight doesn’t supply the needed amount, supplement with artificial lights.
Once the plant has sprouted roots and had a few months to develop, you can re-plant into a longer-term pot.