Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant) is remarkably easy to propagate in water and propagation can be a good way to reduce the size of any large and out-of-control monsteras that have outgrown their position.
It is also a great way to gain new houseplants for free and I always find they make a very well-appreciated gift at a housewarming!
In this article, I guide you through step by step with all the relevant photos of propagating my own monstera plant in water, with all the experience I have gained from doing this at home and commercially when supplying garden centers…
Why Propagating Monstera in Water is Better than Propagating in Soil
I have personally experimented with the various methods for propagating monstera (air layering, stem cuttings in water and soil and division) and can confidentially say from experience that propagation from stem cuttings into water is the easiest and most reliable way to successfully propagate monstera plants.
Whilst you can propagate monstera into potting soil just fine, I prefer propagating into a clear jar of water as water-propagated roots grow quicker, and with a transparent vessel, you can see the health of the roots and how large are.
This is in contrast to cuttings growing potting medium which may develop root rot but you would only be able to tell when the foliage starts turning yellow and dying, at which point it is difficult to save.
The longer the monstera stays as a cutting without roots the more vulnerable it is dying due to a lack of nutrients. The roots develop much faster in water compared to soil so the monstera can establish much quicker and sustain itself which is why the rate of success is higher when propagating in water compared to soil.
What is the Best Time of Year for Monstera Propagation?
You can propagate monstera in water from cuttings at any time of year. However it should be noted that you are more likely to have success during Spring and Summer as the roots grow more quickly, therefore the plant monstera can be transferred to a potting medium and established in a shorter time frame.
If you are trying to propagate a cutting in Winter, then it is possible the roots may take too long to form due to cooler temperatures and lower light intensity.
However, I have personally propagated Monstera in the Fall/Winter months of October, November, and December. The key to propagating in Winter is to locate the cuttings in the brightest room in your house and keep the leaves misted to increase humidity to replicate the conditions of its natural environment.
The roots take a week or two longer to form but all the cuttings I took in Winter successfully propagated.
Can You Propagate from Just a Leaf?
To propagate monstera from a cutting you have to cut the stem below a node as new roots only form from a node. A leaf cutting without a node will not be able to form roots causing it to shrivel up and rot as it cannot uptake water or nutrients.
Here is how to identify a node and therefore the best place to take a cutting…
Where to Cut Monstera for Propagation?
The best place to cut a monstera for propagation is a few center meters below the node as shown the the photo below where I have placed the blade. It is essential to cut below the node as this is where the roots will form, so if you cut above this point the plant will not form roots and die.
As you can see in the photo, I am taking a cutting that has an aerial root just above the node.
Whilst it is still possible to propagate monstera cuttings without aerial roots I have found through trial and error that cuttings with an aerial root have a significantly higher success rate than those without.
This is because the aerial roots form lots of side roots very quickly when placed in water, so your monstera can begin drawing up moisture and nutrients to sustain itself so it can be established before rotting.
The photo above shows the best place to cut the monstera as I am making the cut almost an inch below the node with an aerial root attached. This gives the monstera lots of space to form new roots quickly. My cutting that I took for this photo also has 3 leaves.
Always select a stem that has at least one leaf on it.
I personally prefer to take cuttings with 2 or 3 leaves because it is the leaves that photosynthesize and provide your cutting with the energy to form new roots which is an energy-intensive process.
I find 2 or 3 leaves is the sweet spot as with only one leaf the roots develop slower but with 4 or more leaves the success rate for propagation seems to drop as the demand for moisture and nutrients is higher and the roots may not develop fast enough to sustain the cutting.
Step-by-Step Monstera Propagation in Water
- Select your stem cutting (ideally with an aerial root) with around 2 or 3 healthy-looking leaves and cut below the node with a clean pair of pruners or pruning blade. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of sterilizing the blade (with a cloth soaked in disinfectant) as unclean blades can transfer bacteria and fungal infections that turn the cutting mushy.
- Let the end of the cutting dry out for about 2 hours. This allows the end to partially callous over which is another step to reduce the risk of fungal or bacterial disease entering the cutting.
- Treat the wound with an anti-fungal ingredient to prevent disease. I personally recommend using either cinnamon or unpasteurized honey (both of which work effectively as an inexpensive fungicide treatment) to treat the wound on the bottom of the cutting and on the mother plant.
- Dip the cutting in melted candle wax to prevent rot. Whilst this step isn’t 100% necessary, I usually recommend doing this if you are propagating an expensive variegated variety of monstera as sealing off the end is the ultimate way to ensure your cutting doesn’t succumb to bacterial infection.
5. Use hormone rooting powder to cover the aerial root. This step is optional but I recommend doing it as rooting powder is inexpensive and in my experience, stimulates the growth of roots much more quickly which increases the success rate of propagation.
6. Place the cutting in a clear vessel (a jam jar or clear plastic jug works well) and fill up the jar so that the node and the aerial root are submerged. Ensuring the node is underwater stimulates the roots to grow. Here is a photo of how much the new roots have grown in one week:
7. Leave the monstera in a bright, warm room to increase the growth rate of new roots. Normal room temperature is great for propagation but studies have shown monstera cuttings grow faster in temperatures of 30°C (86°F). I personally locate my cuttings in a room with a South facing (out of direct sunlight) with lots of bright light so that the leaves can photosynthesize and the roots can grow quickly.
8. Change the water every 3 or 4 days. It is essential to change the water every so often as stagnant water in bright light and warm temperatures can increase bacterial growth which can harm your monstera cutting.
9. After 3 weeks the roots should be at least 3 inches long which is the optimal length to move your cutting from water to soil. Here is a photo of my monstera cutting’s roots after 3 weeks in water:
10. Find a pot large enough to accommodate your monstera’s roots and prepare your potting mixture. In my experience, a potting mix of 80% compost and 20% orchid potting mix works best as this provides the right balance of moisture retention and good drainage.
11. Create the optimal growing environment for your propagated cutting. Keep it at room temperature and away from draughts or air currents that may lower humidity. As the roots have initially developed in an aquatic environment, it is important to not let the potting medium dry out completely in the first year of growth. However, I recommend watering when the top inch of potting medium has begun to dry out to meet the water requirements of the monstera without risking root rot.
Can You Propagate from Just a Leaf?
It is important to acknowledge that to propagate monstera leaf from a cutting you have to cut the stem below a node as new roots only form from a node. A leaf cutting without a node will not be able to form roots and therefore cannot uptake water or nutrients causing it to shrivel up and rot.
Why You Should Use Rooting Hormone Powder When Propagating Monstera
Whilst it is not necessary to use hormone-rooting powder as monstera propagates easily in the right conditions, I still personally recommend it.
I performed an experiment where I took 6 cuttings from various monstera plants. I applied hormone rooting powder at the base of 3 cuttings before propagation and propagated 3 cuttings without the powder.
Whilst all 6 cuttings developed roots, the cuttings with hormone rooting powder grew their roots much quicker they reached 3 inches long in about 2 weeks, whereas the cutting without powder took about 3 and a half weeks to reach 3 inches.
Whilst this difference may seem trivial at first, I noticed the plants that were propagated with hormone-rooting powder established more in their first year of growth with greater resilience and much larger leaves that had a greater number of fenestrations (holes) than those without the powder,
Therefore I have personally found that the rooting powder can really give a cutting a significant head start and increase the success rate of your plants.
Common Problems with Monstera Cuttings:
The key reason why I prefer propagating monstera cuttings in water as opposed to soil is that you can see the condition of the node and developing roots and make adjustments to the environment if they look unwell.
Propagated Cutting Turning Black and Rotten
If your cutting is rooting and turning black then this is typically because of a bacterial or fungal infection that has entered the cutting via the wound at the bottom where you actually made the cut. Often cutting turns black and mushy.
The most common reasons for infection entering the wound are because of…
- The cut was made with a blade that had not been sterilized and infection had transferred from the blade.
- The water has not been changed often enough and bacteria has developed in the stagnant water and infected the cutting.
The reason I recommend taking a cutting as far below a node as possible is that if the end of your cutting does turn black and rot you can cut off the rotting section of cutting and still have space for roots to grow. However, if the entirety of the node has turned black and mushy then the cutting cannot be saved.
You can prevent your cutting from becoming infected by sterilizing the blade before cutting, allowing it to dry slightly, and dipping it in melted candle wax to seal off the end and prevent infection from getting into the cutting before placing it in water.
Why is my Monstera Cutting Not Rooting?
Monstera takes about 3 weeks to root in water with small white roots visible in just a week. If your cutting is not growing roots this may be cause you did not cut below a node. The roots can only develop from a node and a leaf with a stem is incapable of developing roots.
However, if you have made the cutting in the right place and the cutting is still not rooting then the leaves can turn yellow and die as they are not able to uptake the moisture or nutrients.
There is not much you can do when this happens therefore it is better to provide the optimal growing conditions to increase the growth rate of the roots so that the cutting can sustain itself.
To get your monstera cutting to root successfully:
- Take a cutting with an aerial root as this develops side shoots very quickly which are capable of drawing up water and nutrients.
- Use a cutting with 2 or 3 leaves and the leaves provide the cutting with the energy to grow new roots.
- Use hormone rooting powder on the node and any aerial roots that stimulate the development of roots.
- Place the cutting in a warm sunny room with lots of bright light to increase the speed at which the roots develop.
- Take the cutting during Spring or Summer as the roots grow much more quickly when the monstera plant is in active growth. If you take a cutting in the Winter, ensure the temperature is relatively warm and I find supplementing with a grow light can really help the cuttings to root.
- Wait until the roots are at least 3 inches long before transferring your water cutting to a potting mix. Use a potting mix of 80% soil and 20% orchid potting bark or perlite for added drainage.
If you have any specific problems with your monstera, read my related articles: