Q&A – Propagating Leaves

Bev asks Annie:

Q Hi Annie,

I have been trying to propagate AV leaves.  I have roots but no babies. Do some AV leaves just not make babies?  These leaves are from a plant that has not bloomed for months but looks really healthy.

A Hi Bev!

This is a great question – I think this has happened to every grower at least a few times. Yes – some leaves do take longer than others to send up babies.

Generally speaking, it takes at least 8 weeks and often closer to 12 weeks to be able to see any little mouse ears making their presence known. I have had it take even longer with some varieties!

There are a few things you can do to lend a helping hand:

First – be patient. As mentioned, some varieties take longer than others.

  • You can slice off the top of your leaves with a sharp blade. I do this for all leaves that I put down, and I have definitely had occasion to make another cut – and in some cases two additional cuts hoping to get leaves to cooperate. It’s supposed to send a signal to let the leaf know that it’s not supposed to keep growing, but rather should be getting busy making baby plantlets!
Leaves put down to propagate on one of Annie's stands.
Leaves put down to propagate on one of Annie’s stands.
  • It can also help to have the bottom of the tray that the leaves are in be resting on top of a light fixture, which puts out a small amount of heat. If you look at my shelves, you will see that I pretty much always have leaves on the top (warmest) shelf, and the fixture for the shelf below is right up snug again the bottom of the tray. The dome already creates a warmer atmosphere for leaves to propagate, and I find having their bottoms warm, too, to be really helpful.
  • One other thing I have had success with in the past, is planting by the phases of the moon. Like the Farmers Almanac, this is simple folk wisdom about fruitful and barren days. In my experience when I plant on fruitful days, I usually have better and faster success with both leaves and plantlets. The book that I use is Llewellyns Moon Sign Book. I will do a podcast episode about this soon. In the meantime, Gardening by the Moon is a helpful website.

So hang in and be patient – hopefully you’ll see some plantlets soon!