Tips from an Amateur Plant Mom


The columnist and Jane, the plant.

Annette Ritzko, Web Editor

I could not take my eyes off of an immense Jade plant, or Crassula ovata, while waiting for class in Passan Hall last year.  It was so large its branches laid sluggishly around the central pot, giving it the appearance of a short, overgrown tree.

I desperately wanted cuttings but was too shy to approach the owner, whose office was directly to the right of it. However, Jan. 30 – a day when  I felt especially brave – proved to be lucky. The generous owner not only allowed me to take a few cuttings; she gave me a cup of cuttings she had gotten earlier.

Propagating jade plants is fairly easy: All you need is a stem or leaf cutting. To get a leaf cutting, you just have to gently pluck off a leaf.

The best leaf cuttings will look clean for the most part, with a little curve at the end to show where the stem was. Stem cuttings are best when snipped or broken off right above a node, an area where one or more leaves are growing.

It is recommended to allow cuttings to dry long enough for cut ends to become callous to avoid rotting when you place it in soil. Since I’m impatient I never did do this. I just put them in soil.

For the best results, cuttings should be placed in well-draining soil with sand or perlite in its mix. For those of you who would like more in-depth step-by-step instructions, I’ve found this site – – easy to understand and chock full of helpful pictures.

During summer 2017, I had been fortunate enough to get ahold of spider plant cuttings. The wonderful ladies who work at our library maintain a sizable assortment of lovely plants, and one is their impressively large spider plant. You may be able to still see it on the first floor underneath the steps. I’m a big fan of “dangly” plants and had been wanting to add a spider plant to my collection for quite some time.

The spider plant, or Chlorophytum comosum, has offshoots, commonly known as spiderettes, which makes propagation pretty easy. These offshoots will look like mini spider plants hanging from a long stem. You can put these offshoots in water until you see new roots forming and then into soil. It’s as simple as that! The site ––  has some extra tips and suggestions if things do not go as planned.

My most recent propagation venture took place in my dorm when I asked my roommate, Daniella Amendola, if I could take a few cuttings from her rather tall campfire crassula, or Crassula capitella, a succulent with distinctive red-rimmed leaves. I just plucked a few buds and put them in some shallow dirt until they were big enough to pot. Since it’s a succulent, the soil should be on the drier side. One of the buds, “Jane,” really took to the soil and is growing wonderfully. Interestingly, neither I nor my roommate knew the name of the plant until I researched it for this article.

I’ve been lucky when it comes to acquiring plant cuttings; however, one should remember that good manners apply to the plant world as well. You should not assume you can take cuttings from a plant because it’s in a public place. Not all plants are the same, and improperly ripping off leaves and stems can cause damage. Make sure to ask permission from the owner before taking cuttings and always be considerate of the owner’s decision to decline your request.

Remember to share later, too, and help spread the plant wealth.