How to Propagate Devil's Ivy in Time for Christmas Presents

If, like me, you are attempting to live your simplest life you will be thinking of ways to give gifts that are all about love and care and not about lining the pockets of some global conglomerate. One of the ways to do this is to make gifts yourself.

I am just going to take a moment here to say I am pretty terrible with gifts. I rarely remember birthdays, including my own, and because I am not fussed about gifts myself I tend to think other people aren't either. But I realise this is not always the case and I am trying to get better at gifts, not only at birthdays but all the time. I do love gifts that come with heart, and I want to make a stack of them so that there are always gifts on hand for those who need a little something. Also, a little note. Not everyone wants a plant as a gift. I know, it's hard to imagine, but some just don't want that kind of responsibility. I would never offer a house plant to my mother for instance, as she would panic and hand it straight back. I do bring her quite sturdy plants for her garden though, and she is now on board with that. So, plants, inexplicably not for everyone.

If you like to cook or sew or do woodwork, ceramics or blacksmithing you may not need to be thinking about Christmas gifts right now (unless you have a really large Christmas list), but if your Christmas gifts of choice are garden related it is never too early to begin planning. I love to give plants, but many take months to grow from cuttings and that means I get to December, contemplate Christmas and sigh ever so gently. Same a week before birthdays. So now I often have new plants in various stages of propagation to ensure birthday and Christmas goodies, and I plan to show you some as I go along. I had a little conversation with Jonathan at A Possible World the other day about devil's ivy propagation so we'll start there. Devil's ivy is also known as pothos vine. It is epipremnum aureum and a very popular indoor plant. It grows one long trailing vine for a couple of years before finally starting a new vine from the base. Each vine grows for metres, so if you know someone with this plant they will probably be quite happy to give you a cutting, or even a metre or so of vine, especially if you promise to bring some new baby plants back to them! My original plant came from a cutting from my friend Carla's plant. She wanted to cut hers back because it was hanging down and the cat kept trying to swing on it. The plant that grew from that cutting has sat on top of my fridge for two years and would be about two metres long if I didn't continually chop the ends off and pot them up. I have given away four or five pots and kept three myself and I am pretty sure I can keep up this rate of production for years. More even, because the three plants I kept will also grow many devil babies. Those little green devils will take over the world if we let them.

I have to keep cutting the ends off this vine because it wants to grow into the toaster. Maybe it should be called kamikaze vine instead..

Steps to becoming the proud parent of a devil baby:

1. Look for the little bump behind the place where the leaf meets the stem. This is the beginning of an aerial root and is where the new plant's roots will grow from.

2. Cut above and below one of these embryonic roots. Each cutting will contain at least one root and at least one leaf. I cut off about half a metre of vine and made six cuttings from it.

3. Stick the cuttings in a jar of water. Put them somewhere with indirect light, not full sun. Wait. Don't forget to refill the water periodically. Try and balance the cuttings so the leaves aren't under water or they may rot.

4. Depending on the time of year, after a couple or many weeks white roots will grow in a big tangle in the jar and if you are me you will leave them and leave them until there are so many roots that almost no water fits in the jar anymore. You will no doubt not leave them that long. At some point in the production of roots you take them out and plant them in potting mix in a pot. I water the new plants with a liquid seaweed fertiliser which helps with root development.

5. (optional) If you want a bushy plant with lots of vines cascading down you could wait a couple of years whilst frequently pruning your vine, or plant a bunch of cuttings in one pot. Then in a couple of years you can repot and thin out the vines if it looks crowded. Here is more info on creating a bushier devil's ivy plant.

6. Water when the soil is dry. I find that devil's ivy does not like a lot of water. Poke your finger into the soil up to the second knuckle. If you detect moist soil, don't water. If it is dry, water. My rule of thumb is to check every week, but if your room is very hot or dry, check more often. Often plants exhibit the same symptom if you are over or under watering them, ie they start yellowing on the margins of the leaves. If you are the plant parent you should be able to tell which one is the problem. The helicopter plant parent is the over waterer, the neglectful parent is the under waterer. As in many areas in life, aim for the middle path.

7. Fertilise in the spring with whatever you have on hand. For me, that is usually the pelletised manure that I feed the vegies. Always water your plant well when you fertilise it. Set all your  house plants outside in the rain sometimes in warm weather, and every few weeks sponge the dust off their leaves and they will be so grateful because they breathe through their leaves.

Some cuttings will grow faster than others. This one in Posy's room was from the same batch as the one above on the dining room table. 

8. Sing to your plant. It is hard to tell whether they appreciate this, but I can tell you that certain other individuals in my household do not appreciate my singing. Plants do not have eyes to roll so they get impassioned renditions of La Vie en Rose whether they like it or not.

There you have it, everything I know about how to make a Christmas gift in June. Although, even with six months to grow it is going to be a very small Christmas gift. Posy's plant above is two months old but so is my single-leafed runt of the litter above.. Next Christmas it will be much more impressive and that means you can keep it yourself for longer in the meantime.. if you want a quick gardening present, pot up some succulents or divide your aloe plant.

Do you propagate plants for gifts? Let me know your favourites.


Anonymous said…
For the last couple of months, I have been propagating different succulents, and devil's ivy for gifts. I am also using different recycled containers for pretty presentation ( wood salad bowls, candle glass containers etc). You are right about giving a non plant lover (what??) a gift of a plant! The look of horror!Lesson learned for me!
In my quest for more sustainability, and preparedness, having a steady supply of plants to gift is important.
Have a great week-end, Jo.
L said…
I think that’s a wonderful gift idea, I’ve never thought of starting slips of plants now to have established plants at Christmas but what a great idea! Your tutorial was excellent as well! Thank you!
Anonymous said…
I am propagating succulents to give as Christmas gifts - little jade plants and the round succulents that look like open roses. I clearly don't remember names! I don't like Devil's ivy - I like a bushier plant. I did not know its name (see previous sentence) but now I do, I like even less. What a mean name to give a plant!

And yah! my carrot seeds have sprouted! Fingers crossed they will continue to grow and be happy!
Jo said…
Patricia, yes, I think giving plants as gifts is excellent, because i'm not very good at other crafts.. but it's not for everyone! I am taking note of your alternative plant pots. I have been using various odd things including tin cans recently.

Laurie, I hope it all made sense. I must say that usually I am completely disorganised re Christmas but this year I may have a chance by starting now..

Lucinda, carrots, yay! I would quite like to train the devil's ivy around the kitchen walls on hooks and I also have a chain of hearts plant I need to corral. I think the cordless drill may require a little outing. I believe the succulent you are referring to may be echiveria if it is grey or aeonium if it is green or black. They are all so adorable and so easy to propagate.
Anonymous said…
I'm not sure I've ever seen a Devil's Ivy plant, but I'll look out for them now. A really easy plant to pot up for gifts is baby's tears (soleirolia solierolii - the best botanical name ever!), which takes only about 4-6 weeks to fluff up to a good size. I have it in a couple of corners of my garden after it escaped from a pot. I have potted it up in different, interesting containers, and it makes a really simple, pretty gift. I gave one to my sister, planted in an old china jug which belonged to our mother, and it has never looked back. It's a very forgiving plant! Like Patricia, I use all sorts of containers - golden syrup tins are great, as are olive oil cans.

Linda in NZ
What a great reminder to start preparing early, I always mean to but somehow time slips away. I once received a little terracotta pot of heartsease as a birthday gift and was really delighted with it. Perhaps I need to look up all of the occasions in my circle of friends and family and get myself organised. It's probably time I knitted some more moss stitch dish cloths too as these can't be prepared at the eleventh hour (I know because I've tried!)

Jo said…
Linda, love, love botanical names. Tetragonia tetragonioides (warrigul greens) is one of my favourites. Sounds like the spell in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.. ah, baby's tears, I remember them from way back. I can't say I've seen them anywhere for a long time but i will look out for them.

Madeleine, like you, I always mean to start preparing early.. ooh, knitting dishcloths, I think I could give that a go, even though moss stitch takes forever.. Heartsease grows all over my garden and i could make many viola gifts. It's making sure it's in full flower at the right time that is tricky. This is why I tend to stick to non-flowering plants for gifties, less panic involved.. although for a flowering plant, heartsease is very prolific and reliable..
Evi said…
No not a plant gifting person here. I sew things and my family and friends get a regular supply of small zippered pouches, hottie covers, kitchen hand towels, baby wash cloths, cushions and other bits and pieces. Most of them are made from either thrifted fabrics or ones I already have in my rather large stash ;o)

Oh and one memorable xmas gift was a bottle of Limoncello made with the organic lemons from a friends tree and a bottle of vodka! Divine and fortunately there was half a bottle to spare......haha! That one required some forethought which was well done of me since I am much like you - not big on gifts, always forgetting birthdays and panicking the day before!!
Jo said…
Evi, yes, well, being a sewer gives you an advantage in the preparedness stakes! I bet those gifts are well looked forward to. I love useful things that are homemade, and even more if they are reused or upcycled. Stuff made out of old stuff is the best! I have been saving my tin cans to plant in. I leave them out in the rain for several months to go industrial chic rusty! Most of my gifts take a lot of time but little actual effort:)

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