Every month on our Instagram account we open up a question box for you to submit your plant questions. Think of it like a Dear Abby column but for plant-related questions. If we select your question, we'll send a treat to your Instagram inbox.
Dear Plant Pro: Can a cutting live indefinitely in water, or be planted in soil after a really long time?
-Puzzled Propagator in Pomona
- Transition your cuttings back to soil as soon as you have 1-2 inches of roots. This will minimize the shock to the roots as they adapt back to soil.
- Pre-moisten your soil before adding the cuttings. Soil should be damp, but not soggy before placing cuttings in it.
- Choose a container with ample drainage (as always), and thoroughly water after placing cuttings in soil. Keep soil fairly moist until the cutting has fully rooted in the soil- this will help any water roots make the transition to soil more easily.
- Change water regularly. This will help remove built-up mineral salts, as well as clear out any algae that's formed. We like to change our cutting water weekly at the shop.
- Consider using rainwater or distilled water. Both types of water contain fewer mineral salts, which is better for the roots and will minimize unsightly mineral build-up on the glass.
- Choose colored/opaque glass. Water in clear glass evaporates more quickly, and it's easier for algae to form, so colored or opaque glass- especially amber glass- will help vessels stay full of water longer and keep algae at bay.
- Provide nutrition for your plants with liquid fertilizer. Without access to nutrients in soil, you'll need to add them to the water using a liquid fertilizer. Be sure to dilute your fertilizer well to avoid 'fertilizer burn'. Specific dilution ratio will vary, depending on the brand of fertilizer- a good rule of thumb is to mix it at half the strength advised on the bottle (i.e.- use twice as much water, or half as much fertilizer, as the directions recommend).
Whether you transition your cuttings into soil quickly, or decide to grow them in water long-term, remember that propagation is always a bit of an experiment, so don't be discouraged if something goes wrong. Enjoy learning as you grow!