9 Reasons Why Your Water Propagations Always Fail

I’m starting a new series on YouTube (like a Q&A) in which you ask me any plant related question and I’ll make sure to answer the best I can.

Our first episode is inspired by an Instagram question and it’s all about those 9 reasons why your water propagations always fail.

the video version of this article

So without taking this any further, here you have it:

Reason #1: You forget to sanitize your tools

Always sanitize your scissors before taking cuttings. This will minimize the chances of spreading bacteria from your tools to your cuttings that could lead to rot.

Also, I also sanitize them if I’m taking multiple cuttings from different plants. You don’t know for sure if the sap left on the scissors from one plant could affect another plant 🤔

And I never use a rusty tool, so if your utility knife is a bit damaged, it’s better to change the blade.

Reason #2: You forget to change the water

If you take fresh cuttings and place them in water, you need to change the water at least once a week. Fresh water means oxygen and your cuttings need oxygen to grow healthy roots.

And please don’t use warm water, that’s a no no. Always go with the cooler setting for your tap water – I like to mix my water so half its directly from the sink and half is filtered water. If you know your tap water is not very high quality, you can use only filtered water for your cuttings.

change the water every time you get the chance

Reason #3: You overfill your glass with cuttings

Two or three cuttings per jar are more than enough especially if you forget to change the water. It’s the same as reason #2, your cuttings will run out of oxygen faster, develop bacteria and start to rot.

If you don’t have a lot of glasses to use, but have a great amount of cuttings, change the water once every two days to avoid problems.

too many cuttings in the same jar

Reason #4: You mix new cuttings with old/sick ones

If you have new cuttings, prepare a different jar for them, ‘cause If you put them together, the bacteria from the old cuttings will spread to the new ones and cause your propagations to rot… which leads me to reason #5.

Reason #5: One sick cutting per jar

Cuttings that rotted before, need to be placed individually in water. Let’s say you catch a cold, you isolate yourself in your room so you don’t infect others – it’s the same principle. If you have two cuttings with problems – place them separately, because one might survive and the other one might be a goner, and if you put them together, your success rates drop.

And another thing, these cuttings need fresh water way more frequently, if you remember to change the water every day is great, because this is how you’ll get rid of bacteria and fungus.

Reason #6: You didn’t get rid of all the rot

If you try to save a cutting that has already rotted, but the stem is long and has plenty of nodes, don’t be afraid to cut a bigger part of it and start all over again.

If roots started to rot, again, cut them until you make sure the remaining roots are healthy and can grow again. As a bonus you can spray your roots and stem cuttings with hydrogen peroxide to disinfect them before placing them in water.

Reason #7: You let your leaves drown in water

Leaves are very quick to rot, so only the stem and node should be underwater, because just the stem and nodes will create new roots. Leaves need that air and light to be able to help your cutting develop.

don’t let your leaves underwater like this

Reason #8: Your humidity is way too high

If your humidity is crazy high or you mist your cuttings, this could lead to more bacteria. Water propagations don’t need misting, especially if your home lacks ventilation or it’s a bit colder – of course it’s a completely different story if we’re talking about soil propagation, but for water, just skip the misting.

Reason #9: You don’t have the “right” cutting

This may be an obvious reason for some but maybe – you don’t have the “right cuttings” and what do I mean by that?

Maybe you cut just the leaf for a plant that needs a node to develop new growth. For example: pothos leaves could develop roots from just the leaves, but they will die eventually without a node.

Or, maybe you have a spent node, this means that your node has the axillary bud pretty much destroyed and that node is gone. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about it, so let’s call it just bad luck.

Another reason could be that the aerial roots are dried out or damaged, and you won’t see developing roots pretty soon. If this happens, don’t lose your hope completely. In some cases, you might have to wait for the axillary bud to develop first. New roots will grow eventually from this bud if your node is healthy.

left: axillary bud starting to activate
right: axillary bud producing new roots

Final thoughts

I hope this article was of use and from now on, you will grow only successful water propagations.

If you have any plant questions, you can reach us here or via Instagram, TikTok or YouTube and we’ll be happy to answer.

If this helped, share it with someone else! ❤️