Plant people are taking TikTok by storm.
For amateur horticulturists, one trend may be especially helpful: Videos on how to propagate plants at home.
There's a whole world of plant propagation videos on TikTok, with some racking up hundreds of thousands of likes. Inverse asked professionals to weigh in on the trend — and to explain how best to get started if you want to propagate plants yourself.
Videos kindle rising interest — Taylor Clem, a horticulture agent at the University of Florida's Alachua County extension office, says that recently there's been a "huge rising interest" in plants, particularly house plants, among younger demographics — people in their thirties and younger.
Videos on TikTok can play a role in getting people interested in horticulture, Clem tells Inverse.
"I think trying to get people engaged in a unique way is one of the most successful parts of it," he says.
Tapping into this interest with one of today's most basic tools — a smartphone — can come in handy at a time when nothing is normal, and many of us are looking for something to do. You can only eat so much sourdough.
Getting started propagating — There are two main ways plants reproduce: sexually, requiring a transfer of pollen from one plant to another, and asexually, which produces new plants that are genetically identical to their parents.
When it comes to asexual reproduction, one popular way to force the process as a plant owner is with plant cuttings. This is seemingly the most popular type of plant propagation video on TikTok. Likely the easiest plants to propagate from cuttings, Clem says, are succulents. All you really need to do is stick a leaf in the ground, and watch as a new plant roots and begins to grow.
Several TikTok videos suggest a hack for getting free succulents: Go to a big-box store that sells them and hunt around for leaves that have dropped from plants.
While videos make it look easy, propagating plants can be a challenge.
"Be prepared for failure — it's not always going to work," Clem says. But that's part of the game. Even if you're doing everything right "plants don't read textbooks," he notes.
Every plant has a different method of its preferred propagation, Clem says, but in general it's important to consider three factors:
- Temperature — Between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit is best for most plants.
- Humidity — As high as you can get it; 100 percent is "wonderful"
- Sanitation — Plants spread diseases easily, so keep tools like scissors clean. If you're bringing in a new plant from an unknown source, consider quarantining the plant until you know it's safe to be around others
Begonias are another easy-to-propagate plant, Clem says, "and everyone likes begonias." With just one leaf of a begonia, you can grow new roots and grow multiple baby plants.
Snake plants, on the other hand, can be a bit more frustrating — it takes weeks or even months for them to root, so patience is required. Clem is a fan of some snake plant propagation TikToks, especially those that encourage sticking multiple pieces down in the soil in an effort to grow a fuller plant:
Videos as an educational tool — In recent years, Cornell University horticulture professor Mark Bridgen has increasingly used YouTube in his plant propagation classes.
"They're [students] not into reading 20, 30-page chapters in books anymore," Bridgen tells Inverse.
Textbooks are costly, so rather than waste the money, Bridgen has been incorporating more short online readings and videos online.
"There are a lot of really interesting things on YouTube," he says, and they tend to be pretty accurate. Plus, they keep students entertained.
Recently, Bridgen says he's taught more students outside of Cornell's plant sciences program, another sign that interest in plant propagation is broadening. Students in Bridgen's class take their skills home throughout the semester — he gives each student three plants to care for and to bring back at the end of the class for a check-in.
In his own home garden — indoors and out — Bridgen and his wife grow "everything." He spends at least an hour a day tending to plants, he says, and maybe more like five or six hours a day on the weekends.
As a very unusual spring turns to summer, Bridgen says he's fielding more questions than usual about home gardening.
Bridgen's own family has their interest sparked — his son has been trying some propagation of his own, like growing a new pineapple from the top of an old one.
There's a TikTok video for that:
Bridgen agreed with Clem that, in essence, the TikTok videos are a good way to entertain and engage. As Clem put it, they're likely to make people think, "Hey, I can do that, too."
But taking your research to the next level is important for successful propagation, too. Experts recommend researching how best to propagate a specific plant since there's so much variation.
You can also contact your county's extension office — they can provide information about both outdoor and indoor plants to help you maximize your propagation success.