The Permacultivator - Journal of Cool Climate Permaculture
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Just Add Water

Anne Pidcock relates her experiences at the cutting edge of modern plant technology.

Due to a leg injury, I have not been as active as usual in propagating new plants in the glasshouse and shadehouse. With spring fast approaching and my green finger itching to take cuttings, I thought I would investigate other methods for propagating plants and have discovered the ancient art of water rooting.

Most keen gardeners have had some success with growing plants stuck in a glass of water and left on a window sill for a week or so but the range of plants that can be propagated in this manner has surprised me. Here is a list, from various sources, of plants that have been successfully propagated by water rooting.
NB. Not all these plants have a permaculture function but propagation is a useful skill that benefits from practice. Put it to the test and discover how many of your favourite plants take to the water

Six steps to successful water rooting
1. For most plants, take cuttings at least a pencil width in size
2. Place in a clear glass container (jar, cup etc) on a windowsill in bright light but not direct sun (afternoon winter sun is okay)
3. Add rainwater
4. Change water at least every second day (to avoid growth of bacteria). Clean the glass if necessary.
5. Wait at least three weeks till cutting has calloused or grown roots.
6. Pot up plants in a light potting mix and keep well watered.

Some propagators claim that houseplants root better in dark brown or green glass bottles.
If you only have a single cutting to work with, add some rooting powder to the water to increase the likelihood of propagation.

Plants successfully propagated using the water rooting method

Aloe vera
Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis )
Busy lizzie/Balsam (Impatiens)
Butterfly bush (Buddleia)
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Cat's whiskers (Orthosiphon stamineus)
Curry plant (Helichrysum angustifolium)
English ivy (Hedera helix)
Ficus tree
Fig (Ficus carica)
Deadnettle (Lamium album )
Golden bells (Forsythia)
Grapevine (Vitus Vinifera)
Japanese pagoda tree (Sophora japonica)
Ladies' eardrops (Fuchsia)
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
Mexican petunia (Acanthaceae ruellia)
Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha)
Mint (Mentha)
Night flowering jassamine (Cestrum nocturnum)
Pigeonberry/Golden dewdrop (Duranta repens)
Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) (Roots better in cool weather)
Plantain lily (Hosta)
Purple heart (Tradescantia pallida)
Pussy willow (Salix sp.)
Ribbon plant/Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Roses (some) Rosa
Stonecrop (Sedum sp.) (Leave in water for up to 6 weeks)
Summer snapdragon (Angelonia)
Southernwood (Artemisia)
Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)
Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
Virgin's bower (Clematis)
Wandering jew/Spider lily (Tradescantia sp.),
Wax plant (Hoy sp.)
Willow (Salix)
Woolly thyme (Thymus sp.)
Wormwood (Artemesia sp.)

J39 Spring 2002