How To Transfer Water Propagated Cuttings to Soil – A Beginners Guide

When it came time to transplant a Monstera Albo (pictured below) that we had purchased from a fellow plant parent, we must admit, it was intimidating. We were scared we’d lose the cutting. Not only was it one of the more pricey plants in our collection, but it had such beautiful variegation we would have been devastated if it didn’t make it.

How to Transfer Water Propagated Cuttings to Soil

So, to help our Garden Bench Top community members overcome their initial fears, we have documented the process we used to transfer our water-propagated cutting into the soil with tips for increasing the odds of a successful outcome.

In this guide, we will be exploring:

  • The critical differences between water roots and soil roots, and why understanding these differences is vital for successful plant propagation.
  • A step-by-step guide to transferring your water-propagated plants to soil, ensuring their continued growth and vitality.
  • Common mistakes to avoid during the propagation process and expert tips on how to care for your newly-potted cuttings.

Each tip and trick could be the difference between a thriving indoor jungle or a wilting windowsill.

Are you ready to become a propagation pro? Let’s dive in!

Water Roots Vs. Soil Roots

Indoor plants aren’t just about glossy leaves and pretty flowers. There’s an amazing hidden world of roots under the soil. These little powerhouses can take many shapes and forms based on the plant’s needs – quite like a magic trick!

Some roots might be thin and delicate because their main job is to grab as much water as possible from the soil, while others could be thicker to provide robust support to the plant. This fascinating variety keeps our plant babies healthy and happy in their pots.

Suffice it to say, behind every stunning indoor plant is an incredible network of roots hard at work! So, let’s explore the difference between water roots and soil roots.

Water Roots

  • Water roots are formed when plant cuttings are rooted in water. They are typically thin, light-colored, and appear fragile.
  • These roots are designed to absorb water and nutrients directly from the water. This means they are generally smoother and less branched.
  • Since they are not exposed to soil or air, they do not have root hairs. Root hairs are tiny, hair-like outgrowths from a plant’s root that absorb water and nutrients from the soil.
  • Water roots can be less sturdy and may be more susceptible to damage during transplanting to soil.
Water roots on my Monstera Albo

Soil Roots

  • Soil roots develop when plant cuttings are rooted directly in soil. They are generally thicker, darker, and hardier than water roots.
  • These roots are designed to extract water and nutrients from the soil, resulting in the roots forming a more complex structure with more branching and root hairs.
  • The presence of root hairs allows for better absorption of water and nutrients from the soil.
  • Soil roots are usually tougher and better adapted to transition from a moist environment to a drier one.

Generally, whether a cutting develops water roots or soil roots depends on the medium in which it is rooted. Each type of root is uniquely adapted to its environment and will perform best in the conditions for which it is developed.

How to Move Cuttings from Water to Soil – Step-by-Step Guide

Here’s a detailed step-by-step guide to how to transfer water propagated cutting into the soil:

  1. Select a Pot Size: Choose a pot suitable for the size of the plant. The pot should be deep enough for the roots to grow and wide enough to accommodate the spread of the plant. But the most crucial aspect of your pot is adequate drainage to prevent root rot. We will water the plant heavily in the initial weeks to help transition from water to a drier soil environment.
  2. Soil Choice and Pre-Moisten: Use a well-draining potting mix suitable for your plant type. You can buy pre-made mixes or make your own with ingredients. We like to use a mixture of orchid bark, perlite, and pumice. Pre-moisten the soil before placing it into the pot. This helps create an inviting environment for the roots.
  3. Prepare the Pot: Fill it with pre-moistened soil, leaving enough space for the cutting and its root system.
  4. Remove the Plant from Water: Gently remove the plant cutting from the water. Be careful not to damage the fragile new water roots.
  5. Place the plant in the Pot: Create a hole in the center of the soil in the pot, deep enough to accommodate the roots. Place the cutting into the hole, spreading out its roots. Gentle backfill with soil, ensuring all roots are covered, but do not compact the soil too tightly. Remember, we need the mixture light and airy for the oxygen to reach the roots.
  6. Water the Newly Transferred Plant: Water your plant thoroughly after transplanting. The soil should be moist but not saturated. Be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot.
  7. Place them in a Location with Good Light: Finally, put your newly potted plant in a location where it will receive plenty of indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight immediately after transplanting, as this can stress the plant.

Garden Bench Top Tip

It is important to remember that transitioning from water to soil can be shocking for plants initially, so don’t worry if you see a little wilting or drooping. With proper care, your plant should perk up in a few days.

Factors to Consider when Transitioning Water Cuttings to Soil

Now that we have the fundamentals of how to transfer water propagated cuttings to soil mastered let’s consider the factors that can sway the odds of success in your favor.

Birds eye view into the propagation cup
Birds eye view into the propagation cup

Timing of Transfer

The first factor to consider is the timing of the transfer. The cuttings should not be transferred too early or too late. The ideal time to move a water propagated cutting to soil is when the roots are about 1 to 2 inches long. This is because the longer the roots, the more likely they will have difficulty adjusting to the soil environment.

Root Health

Before moving the cutting to the soil, it’s crucial to examine the health of the roots. The roots should be white or light-colored, firm, and free from any signs of disease or rot. If the roots appear brown, mushy or have a foul smell, this could indicate a problem.

Soil Preparation

The type of soil used can significantly affect the success of the transition. It’s best to use a well-draining soil mix, as this can prevent root rot.

Some plants may prefer certain types of soil (e.g., succulents prefer sandy soil), so it’s worth increasing your PLANT PARENT AWARENESS and researching your plant’s specific needs.

Pot Size

The size of the pot can also impact the plant’s transition.

A pot that’s too small may not provide enough room for root growth, and a pot that’s too large may retain too much water and cause root rot.

A good rule of thumb is to start with a pot that’s just a little larger than the root ball.

Watering After Transferring

After transferring, the cuttings should be watered immediately. As we like to use an airy potting mix, we drench our newly planted cutting with water until it flows out from the drainage holes.

However, overwatering should be avoided as this can lead to root rot. It’s best to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.

After Care for Your Newly-Potted Cutting

Okay, you’ve successfully transitioned your water propagated cutting into soil.

This is an exciting time in your plant parenting journey, but it can also be daunting.

Don’t worry. We’re here with some helpful aftercare tips.

Careful Watering

As mentioned in the previous section, watering isn’t just about topping off with H2O occasionally. Overwatering can lead to root rot – a silent killer for many plants. After transplanting the cuttings, keep the soil moist because it will help the transition from water to soil.

However, we do not want the roots sitting in a pool of water. Just enough moisture to encourage more (soil) roots to develop in the soil.

Protect From Direct Sun

While the cutting adjusts to its new environment, it would be best not to expose it to direct sunlight.

Too much bright light can stress your little green pal more in this vital phase. Instead, place the pot somewhere, receiving indirect but ample natural light.

Regulating Temperature

Your newly potted plant prefers consistency when it comes to temperature. Avoid positioning it near drafts from open windows or doors, which might introduce sudden temperature fluctuations.

Humidity Helps!

Many plants thrive better in humid conditions that mimic their natural tropical habitat’s climate.

So, maintaining a high humidity level by lightly misting them or placing them near other plants can do wonders for their growth and health.

For more ideas about increasing the humidity around your indoor plants, check out THIS HUMIDITY GUIDE.

Fertilizing Tips – Shall We Feed?

When it comes to feeding (fertilizing), patience pays off now! Let’s refrain from feeding your little one for a few weeks post-transplantation. The new soil will feed enough nutrients initially.

Monitor Your Plant

This is the key to good plant parenting – Keep observing!

Changes in color and texture will give you insights into how well your plant is adjusting to its new setting.

Droopy leaves or premature leaf drops could indicate that something needs changing in its care routine.

Newly transplanted cuttings in shock

Frequently Asked Questions for How to Transfer Water Propagated Cuttings to Soil

Can Cuttings Stay Too Long In Water?

Absolutely! Just like us, plants can also overstay their welcome in water. While water propagation is a great way to start your new plant baby, leaving a cutting in water for an extended period can lead to root rot. So, once you see roots about 1-2 inches long, it’s time to move your little green friend to soil.

What Type of Cuttings Can Be Propagated in Water?

Hey there, green thumb! Most types of cuttings can be propagated in water. This includes popular houseplants like Pothos, Philodendrons, and ZZ plants. However, succulents and other plants might appreciate the water method less. So, always double-check what’s best for your specific plant baby!

Do I Need to Let The Roots Dry Before Planting?

Nope, you don’t need to let the roots dry before planting. It’s best to transfer them straight from water to soil. This way, the roots can continue growing without any interruptions. Just think of it like moving into a new home – you wouldn’t want to hang out on the porch with all your stuff before settling in, would you?

What Should I Do If My Cutting’s Leaves Start To Wilt After Transferring to Soil?

Oh no, wilted leaves! Don’t panic; it can happen sometimes as your plant adjusts to its new home. It’s called transplant shock, and it’s pretty normal. You can help your plant by keeping its environment stable – avoid temperature swings, keep the soil moist (but not too wet), and ensure it’s getting gentle, indirect light. With a little TLC, your plant should bounce back soon!