One of the easiest ways to produce new plants that are genetically identical to their parent is by taking leaf cuttings. This ensures the offspring will exhibit the same growth and flowering traits as their progenitor. The simplest method is to use a complete leaf with its stalk (or petiole) still attached. Cuttings may be taken at any time of the year, provided the parent plant is in active growth and a selection of fresh, new, fully expanded leaves are available.
Here's how to propagate houseplants using leaf cuttings:
1. Fill a clean seed tray or container (at least 20 centimetres wide) with a sterile, soilless mixture specifically formulated for propagating seeds and cuttings (available at most garden centres) to one centimetre below the rim. Tamp down evenly so the soil surface is firm but not hard-packed.
2. Slice suitable leaves cleanly from the parent plant, leaving about four centimetres of the petiole attached to each cutting; use a sterile knife or a single-sided razor blade to ensure the least possible damage.
3. With a clean dibble or knitting needle held at a 45-degree angle, make several small holes in the soilless mixture. Insert the leaf cuttings so the petiole is below the surface and the bottom of the leaf blade is resting on top. When all the cuttings are in place, firm the mixture around their bases and water in lightly.
Illustrations by Cybèle Young