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Easy Plant Propagation Tips for Beginners

June 3, 2022

Gardening Tips & Tricks


Easy Plant Propagation Tips for Beginners

Want some new plants without buying any? Propagation is a delightful part of being a plant parent and can fill your house (and your friends’ houses) with endlessly multiplying plants.

If you’ve grown succulents from cut leaves, helped a pothos sprout new roots in water, or divided the roots of a too-crowded potted plant, then you’re already experienced in plant propagation.


Basics of Plant Propagation

So what exactly is plant propagation? A simple way of putting it: Propagating is the process of making more plants without seeds. The scientific explanation: Propagation is asexual plant reproduction.

In real-world terms, plant propagation means you’re getting more new plants just from one single plant parent. Yes, plant propagation is cloning!

For the most success, follow a few basic tips when multiplying your plants:

  • Propagate during a plant’s typical growing season (typically spring and summer).
  • Always use clean, sterilized tools for cutting and separating.
  • Gather all your equipment before you start.
  • Avoid exposing bare roots and fresh cuttings for too long; get your new plants in soil or water immediately!
  • Care for your newly propagated plants carefully and with kind attention. They’re brand new babies!


Plant Propagation Methods

There are a wide variety of methods for plant propagation. Which process you’ll use is up to the kind of plant you’re working with and what equipment you have available. Let’s go over the most common techniques to help you get the best results every time.


Root Division

Division is the process of separating one plant into two or more at the roots. It takes patience, attentiveness, and dexterity, so it’s best to choose this method once you already have a bit of experience with plant propagation, repotting, and caring for new plants.

Lay out all the equipment you need beforehand. You don’t want your plant’s exposed roots drying out while you find your container, soil, and tools!

Start by gently removing the parent from its pot and placing it on a clean surface or towel. If the root ball is very densely packed, delicately shake or “tickle” the roots to help them get a bit looser.

Examine the root mass for places that are healthy and can be separated relatively easily. You may need to cut the plant’s roots to separate them. If you do, be sure you use a very sharp, very clean tool. Be gentle! Make sure that the roots stay intact.

It’s important to replant the divided plants as soon as possible in new potting soil.



Best plants for root division:

  • Pilea peperomioides
  • Many types of ferns
  • ZZ plant
  • Snake plant


Green leaves with water in transparent plastic jar on white shelf isolated on white wall background with copy space.

Stem Cuttings

Propagating a new plant from a cutting is probably the most popular method of multiplying houseplants. And it’s pretty simple if you follow a few rules:

  • Take cuttings from healthy stems and plants only!
  • Don’t cut from stems when they’re flowering.
  • Cut below leaf nodes.
  • Cut with a very sharp, clean tool.

To get the best cutting, first clean (and perhaps sharpen) your cutting tool. Garden shears, knives, or kitchen scissors work best.

Find a new leaf node, the bumpy joint along a stem. Locate a healthy, sturdy stem with rich color and happy, springy leaves.

Try to find a node that is at least 3 inches away from the top leaf. Cut just below the node (closer to the plant’s roots). Your new plant’s roots will start to grow from this node.

You can either root your new cutting in water or directly in soil! If you place the cutting directly into soil, plant it in a very small hole that’s snug for the stem. We like to use a pencil or crochet hook!

Best plants for growing from stem cuttings:

  • Pothos
  • Tradescantia
  • Umbrella plant
  • Philodendron


Leaf Cuttings

There are a few plants, including most succulents and cacti, where plant propagation can happen just from a leaf.

This process is tricky, and success rates can be lower than other methods, so don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work out on your first try (or second, third, and so on…).

Just like cutting from a stem, locate a leaf that is very healthy, sturdy, and “springy.” If you’re working with succulents, leaves may simply fall off — you can propagate those!

Cut the leaf off the stem and let the leaf dry out for 2-3 days, just enough so to slightly scab over. This will prevent the leaf from soaking up too much water and rotting.

Place the leaf into fresh potting soil, with at least one-third of the leaf in the soil. Gently press your fingers all around the inserted leaf to firmly ground it in the soil.

Best plants for growing from leaf cuttings:

  • Aloe vera
  • Jade plant
  • Most types of cacti
  • Most types of succulents



Spider plant on a wooden shelf


Also called pups or offsets, pups are itty bitty baby plants that naturally sprout from the mother plant. Pups are “ready-to-go” miniature plants that naturally form at the ends of branches or vines.

Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is likely the most commonly pup-growing plant. Have you seen the tiny, spiky orbs dangling from a big spider plant? Those are its pups!

Plant propagation from a pup is similar to growing from a cutting. Below the soil, remove the pup’s connecting roots from the mother plant with a sharp, clean blade and plant it in nutrient-rich potting soil.

Just like stem cuttings, you can root plantlets in soil or in water. All of the other rules for propagating apply: clean your tools, plant in rich soil, and choose healthy plants and pups only.

Best plants for growing from pups:

  • Spider plant
  • Bromeliad
  • Tillandsia (air plants)
  • Aloe



Caring for New Baby Plants

Now you’ve got some new pants to care for!

Remember: Plant propagation is major surgery. Give your plant lots of love and attention: place it in bright light, away from cold drafts, and make sure to water it immediately. Soil should be kept moist but not damp. Be mindful not to overwater your new plant because that waterlogs the roots and doesn’t allow them to breathe fully.

If you’re rooting new plants in water, give them fresh water every couple of weeks to avoid unwanted bacterial or fungal growth. After roots are a few inches long, you may want to pot the fledgling plant in soil. But you don’t have to — some hardy houseplants can grow in water indefinitely (and now you’re cultivating with an aquaponics operation!).

The post-plant propagation period can be a slow-growth time for your new plants, so be patient. You may not see new growth or super-springy stems right away.

Pro tip: Give your new green babies a small dose of our Liquid All-Purpose Plant Food during their first or second water after planting in soil to help them stay healthy.

The best part of plant propagation? Gifting your newly rooted plants! They make perfect housewarming presents or work-from-home officemates.

Happy growing!



- True Organic - TrueOrganic.com

Garden Journaling: Your Key Spring Planning Tool

March 31, 2022

Gardening Tips & Tricks


Garden Journaling: Your Key Spring Planning Tool

A garden journal is just what it sounds like: a record of information about your garden. These might be lessons you’ve gleaned from past seasons, a layout of your crops, a record of your plant food applications and waterings, or any combination of tidbits that you want to remember.

Thinking about creating a record-keeping system for your gardening season but don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place!


Create Your Own Garden Journal

If you find it stressful to start from a blank page, you can find numerous templates for your garden journal online.

Search for your favorite free printable garden journal template here, or find a prepared journal in a local garden store, bookstore, or online.

There are a plethora of garden-tracking apps for your smartphone and online templates, too. But just like we like to get our hands in the soil, we prefer the feel of a pen and paper.

If you’re motivated to start a garden journal from scratch, all you need is a simple notebook to get started! Make sure the pages are big enough to record what you need and that your notebook is sturdy enough to withstand lots of use — and some outdoor time.

Some gardeners prefer a three-ring binder with loose-leaf paper, which allows you to keep growing your journal as long as you want — and allows you to add other elements like printed pages, seed packets, and more.

What you choose to create is up to you. One thing’s for sure: your garden journal can become a place that brings you joy and inspiration, just like your garden.



What Should I Record In My Garden Journal?

Keep in mind that your garden journal is as unique as your garden. What you choose to record is up to you, and might change over time.

There are a few must-haves for garden journal info:

  • Garden layout
  • Planting/sowing dates and techniques
  • Fertilizing schedules and results
  • Watering schedules
  • Plant health
  • Pest problems
  • Rainfall
  • Other weather changes
  • Harvest yield
  • Successful or unsuccessful plants and varieties

If you’re ready to look at more advanced garden information you might add:

  • Bloom and harvest info and dates
  • Pruning and deadheading timelines
  • Netting, staking, and other garden infrastructure
  • Crop rotations
  • First dates (first and last)
  • Sun exposure
  • Favorite (and not-so-favorite) products
  • Expenses
  • Soil health info (Check out our guide to soil testing for a deep look at what it can tell you about your garden.)


Make your garden journal a creative space by adding:

  • Photos
  • Sketches
  • Seed packets and tags
  • Inspirational clippings from magazines to envision your dream garden!



Why Keep A Garden Journal?

Of course, there is an obvious answer: to keep a record of what worked and what needs adaptation to grow the most vibrant, prolific garden you can get. As with any hobby, habit, or practice, keeping track of our experiments and experience in the garden helps us keep improving. It makes us more efficient as we learn to see patterns, making changes with each new season.

Plus, there’s something about tracking your daily life with the plants, soil, water, and sun that just feels good.

What do you most want to get out of your garden journal?

Are you looking to increase your harvest? Improve soil health? Simply learn about your property, climate, and plants? Start there to figure out what you want to record and how to lay out your journal.

You might already know that routine improves your life — perhaps you have a bedtime routine that helps soothe your nervous system and lets you really feel like your day is winding down or, conversely, a morning routine that kicks you into gear.

Keeping a garden journal can be just like that: a daily or weekly routine that gets us in touch with changing seasons, our connection to the land, and the reciprocal relationship between humans and soil.




- True Organic - TrueOrganic.com

Soil Testing To Prepare Your Spring Garden

March 31, 2022

Gardening Tips & Tricks


Soil Testing To Prepare Your Spring Garden

‍Soil testing might sound intimidating, but the better you know your soil, the better you can grow your garden! Ready to break down the basics of soil testing and how it can help you achieve your garden goals?

We sat down with True Organic’s awesome R&D Agronomist, Margaret McCoy, PhD, for the inside scoop (or should we say—shovel) on soil testing and why it’s a vital step for a vibrant home garden.

TRUE: So what is soil testing? What does it tell us?

Margaret McCoy: “Soil testing will give you a baseline idea of what’s going on in your soil and how it relates to what you want to grow. You’ll take a composite sample of your soil — whether that’s a field, a raised bed, your yard — and test it for physical and chemical properties, like pH and nutrient makeup.”

Margaret told us some good things to look for in your soil test results:

  • A healthy profile of macronutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K)
  • Good calcium levels (which helps with cell structure and integrity)
  • And pH. “pH is really important but a ‘good’ pH is dependent on what you’re growing,” Margaret reminds us!

And some not-so-great things:

  • Heavy metals
  • High sodium levels
  • Other general chemicals that may have leached into soil from industrial areas, lawn care, former agriculture on that land, etc.

TRUE: Why is soil testing important for a home gardener?

MM: “For a homeowner, you want to understand the properties of the soil you have, because you can’t really change your piece of land.

Getting a picture of what’s in your soil will give you a better understanding of how and where to grow the plants you want to grow. If it’s been a yard for 25 years, it might have an excess or deficiency of certain nutrients that you’ll need for the plants you want to grow. Maybe you’re bringing topsoil in, and you want to know exactly what’s in that — because whatever is in your soil will transfer to your plants!

It’s especially important to know what’s in the soil if you live in a subdivisions or developed lot, where there could be little to no topsoil — so your nutrients may be really low, because it’s a subsoil.

Beyond the basics, it’s also important if you think it’s a safety concern. Maybe at some point in the past, there was agricultural activity on that land and now there are chemicals in the soil that you don’t want in your garden.


How To Do A Soil Test

The simplest way to get a comprehensive soil test is to find a kit online or at your local garden and home improvement store, which will have instructions and a special package in which you’ll send your soil to a lab. You’ll take some samples with a trowel from around your growing space, mix those together, and send it off to be tested.

“A home gardener is probably only interested in the top six inches of soil,” Margaret recommends. “Take a few samples from the various spaces that you want to grow in.”

And what about those results?

“You’ll likely just see a bunch of numbers and not know what it means!” says Margaret.

Find a local Master Gardener, Margaret suggests, to help you understand the results of your soil test and how to address them for your needs. Both NC State and Penn State Extension have great resources on this.

What’s In A Soil Test?

We asked Margaret for some more notes about soil test discoveries and what they mean.

Soil Profile

A soil texture test will show you how much sand, silt, and clay are in your soil. These inorganic particles are a highly influential aspect (along with organic matter) of the soil texture and structure.

Margaret gave us a less scientific but fun and kid-friendly test to do at home: “You can even do a jar test to see the different parts of your soil. Put some soil in a jar and shake it up so it becomes suspended (the particles will disperse throughout the water). You’ll see the particles fall out of suspension over time, biggest first. The really small clay particles could take days to settle out from the solution.”

“Even if you have a nice loamy soil on top, but underneath there’s clay, water will pool on top of the clay layer. With water sitting there, you’ll get water-logged plants.”

Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do about your piece of land’s soil texture. “In that instance,” Margaret says, “you may decide to grow in raised beds instead. That way, you can mitigate that overall heartbreak at the end when you realize none of your plants are surviving, which might not be your fault!”


Soil pH

Any gardener knows how important soil pH is to growing veggies. Margaret’s first word of advice for dealing with low pH soil? Go with it! If you already have low pH soil, lean toward growing plants that like it.

Many lovely landscaping plants grow very well in low pH soil, including rhododendron and azaleas, holly, and flowering trees like magnolia and dogwood. Most vegetables thrive in neutral pH soil, but you can try potatoes, radishes, peppers, and pumpkin in more acidic soil.

The next step to addressing your garden’s soil pH is to use supplements. “Something like prilled sulfur is a fast-acting option to lower pH,” Margaret says. “You can also spread some lime on your soil to raise it, which takes a bit more time.”

As always, research your plant’s needs before planting, ask questions at your local nursery, or consult an almanac.


Organic Matter & Nutrients In Soil

Increasing the organic matter and good-for-plants nutrients in soil is something we at True Organic take seriously. The organic movement in the United States was founded with the vision of increasing the carbon in our agricultural lands!

Organic matter content is an invaluable aspect of soil’s overall health, especially when it comes to water retention and supporting the essential microorganisms that live in soil and help plants thrive.

“Organic matter is so important when it comes to drainage, “Margaret says. “Having good water-holding capacity in soil is equivalent to pore space — how much space there is between the particles to actually hold water. If you have a really tightly packed soil, you’re not going to have a lot of space, so it’ll either pond on top or you won’t have a lot of movement.”

If your soil test is deficient in organic matter and/or the macro/micro nutrients that are essential for plant life (the most important being nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), never fear. Adding high-quality composted materials to your land for organic matter and using organic fertilizers is the best way to start increasing these vital ingredients of healthy soil. We crafted our TRUE farm-grade organic plant foods just for this reason.


“Do I Need to Soil Test My Home Garden?”

Sometimes gardening is just a stress reliever, and you’re less concerned with optimizing your yield or you’re not growing food that will end up on your table. And to you, Margaret says: have fun! Don’t worry too much about the extra-technical aspects of garden and soil unless that helps you have fun and feel good about growing plants. Because that’s the whole point, right? To grow plants and feel good about it.




- True Organic - TrueOrganic.com

Winter To-Do List For Home Gardeners

December 12, 2021

Gardening Tips & Tricks

Winter To-Do List For Home Gardeners

As days go from crisp to downright chilly, the natural world shifts into a restorative phase, soil hardens under snow and freezing temperatures, and it’s time for urban farmers and gardeners to shift their focus.

A seasoned gardener knows there is no true “off-season” when it comes to working with soil and plants. Just like a committed athlete, a dedicated gardener considers the purpose and optimal activity through each season — it’s just that certain seasons call for rest as part of the regimen.

Cold months mean “rest and restore” season for your plant habitat. That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do during Winter to keep your garden healthy, organized, and prepped for growing season — and to keep your green-thumb inclinations satisfied.

What’s Your Zone?

Understanding your region’s average climate is an essential part of taking good care of your garden or farm year-round. The tasks and projects that are most appropriate for your land will depend on your climate and the Winter weather your region experiences.

The specific USDA Plant Hardiness Zones Map pin-points average winter temperature lows — from Zone 1 to 13. This is the best tool to discover exactly which plants are most viable in your location.

Once you know your Zone, even a simple internet search for “winter crops for Zone 4-6” will yield a wealth of knowledge to support your gardening dreams!

Clean and Clear

Winter garden maintenance can feel like a whole lot of cleaning. While it can feel tedious at times, remember that the better you maintain your garden space when growing season closes, the more you’ll enjoy returning to that tidy, ready-to-grow garden next Spring.

  • Clean out smaller pots and containers that contained annuals. Store them inside a garage, basement or shed where they’re protected from harsh weather. Exposing plastic and some ceramic pots to freeze-thaw cycles can cause them to crack and erode.
  • If you grow in large containers full of healthy soil (like barrels or troughs), you can keep the soil inside, covering it with mulch and/or a tarp to nourish soil for next Spring.
  • If you don’t have an indoor storage place for your pots, stack them upside down and cover with a protective tarp.
  • Pull up any remaining annuals and toss them in your home or municipal compost.
  • If you don’t have a compost option, cut up spent (healthy) plants and place them on top of your raised bed or in-ground soil. They’ll start to decompose over winter and enrich the soil for the spring.
  • Pro tip for cold climates: get as much weeding and bed-clearing as possible done in the Fall and early Winter, before temperatures really drop, to spare your fingers from getting frosty.

Support The Soil

Leaving bare soil exposed over Winter invites a whole host of undesirable outcomes, including soil that’s tapped of nutrients come Spring.

Enriching soil during less bountiful months not only helps support a bountiful Spring garden, it also prevents erosion during those Winter freeze-thaw cycles and precipitation. Supporting your soil throughout Winter can be as simple as covering up your growing area or as extensive as planting a cover crop.

Plant Cover Crops

Cover crops suppress weeds, restore soil nutrients that your Summer and Spring plants used, and prevent erosion and disease.

Some of the most popular and easy-to-grow cover crops are clover, fava beans, and other legumes, as well as grasses like oats, barley, and rye. The time to plant cover crops is before the deep freeze arrives.

Cover Soil

Not ready to plant a cover crop? You can protect your soil in other ways.

If you grow in raised beds, cover your soil with a layer of mulch, or even with nicely chopped pieces of those spent annuals you pulled up. (Don’t do this with any diseased or pest-ridden spent plants.)

You can even cover your soil (and the mulch on top of it) with a tarp to protect it from harsh weather.


Embrace The Winter Harvest

Depending on your Climate Zone, you may still be harvesting into early Winter! Take full advantage of your cold-season harvest and allow plants to fully run their course.

Or perhaps you’re gardening in a Zone that supports growing cool-weather crops like citrus, kale and other leafy greens, and root veggies — especially carrots and beets, which get sweeter in cold temperatures!

Reflect and Plan

Winter is the time for cozying up by the fire with a mug of tea, your gardening dreams, and all your new seed catalogs. Take some time this season to relax, reflect, and plan — and appreciate.

Here are some tips on how to embrace Winter garden planning:

  • Look back at what worked and what didn’t during the Spring and Summer months. Record this in your garden journal.
  • Dream about what you’d like to plant, harvest, and eat next year. Get imaginative!
  • Assess your land, beds, and planting areas. Will you need more space next year? Perhaps you want to scale down?
  • Order seeds early! Homesteading and home gardening is experiencing a surge in popularity (yay!), so serious urban farmers will want to get a head start on scooping up the seeds they want.
  • Consider adding diversity to your garden with native plants and pollinators.
  • Organize your saved seeds, if you are a seed saver, and chat with friends and community members about swapping seeds.
  • Artistically inclined farmers may use a journal to capture drawings of the wildlife and weather that passes through your urban habitat throughout winter.

Not only is garden journaling and planning a great way to keep your mind and hands at ease, it’s also in-line with what nature intends for us at this time of year. Winter is, for many in the plant and animal kingdoms, a time for rest, restoration, even hibernation and dormancy. Why not join in?