Shifting Focus to the Indoor Garden, Begonias and Rooting Cuttings in Water

One of my favorite things about autumn is bringing my houseplants inside again. There's something so cozy about arranging my plants around every window, all of us getting ready to brave the winter together.

houseplants, home, decorating, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

(The metal table in the corner used to be black. This summer I painted it pink!).

I repot those that need repotting. I take cuttings of annuals like geraniums (pelargoniums) and fuchsia and impatiens instead of bringing in the whole plants (more on that in a minute).

watercolor paintings, watercolor plant, watercolor fuchsia, clay pot, houseplants, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
a watercolor painting I did of one of my fuchsia plants grown from a cutting, available in my shop

And I make decisions about which plants to bring in and which plants not to. Maybe that sounds bad, but I've come to the conclusion that I don't want to have plants in my home that are simply limping along. If they're diseased or damaged or otherwise failing, I let them go.

At a time when everything else is winding down and ending, this process is a fresh start, a beginning, and it feels good.

This autumn I was especially excited to get my small begonia collection arranged on my newly painted book and plant shelf in the living room. The peach color makes me happy every day (as does that pink table up above).

houseplants, begonias, home, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The plants, of course, make me happy, too.

There's something special about begonias. Their leaves are so pretty and dramatic.

begonias, houseplants, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

And the flowers are fascinating, even when they're not showy, because they're distinctly male and female (the top one is male and the bottom is female).

begonias, houseplants, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

But one of the things I most love about my begonias is that all but one of my six plants were grown from cuttings.

Yes, even the plant with the four foot wide spread started out as a cutting, a cutting from a plant my mom was growing that itself had been a cutting from my plant.

begonias, houseplants, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I have a couple plants like that. It saved me when some squirrels destroyed plants I had been growing outdoors during the summer.

I prefer to root my cuttings in water. This goes against everything you'll read in books, but for me it works (and I was surprised to see that the American Begonia Society recommends it as well the other more complicated techniques).

The best thing about rooting cuttings in water is that it's easy. A few weeks ago I took some cuttings of the dragonwing begonia I was growing outside during the summer.

begonias, plant propagation, cuttings, houseplants, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Despite the fact that I left on the flowers and probably too many leaves (some have started to turn yellow and will need to be removed), the cuttings are already growing roots.

houseplants, plant propagation, begonias, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I have found that with the cane-type begonias (including the angel and dragonwing types) cutting one of the fresher (not woody) stems with a few leaves works best. Rooting a few of the same type and potting them up together will give you a bushier-looking result. Also, if your plant is looking a little leggy, taking some cuttings and then repotting the parent plant in a new, larger pot with those cuttings will help refresh the plant and give it a fuller look.

With the rhizomatous type begonias I take a single leaf with a long enough stem and place the stem in water to root.

rhizomatous begonias, houseplants, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Again, rooting a few leaves and planting them together in a pot will give you fuller end result, but even one leaf will eventually give you a nice full plant, too. All you need is patience.

This plant came from a single leaf.

begonias, rhizomatous begonias, houseplants, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

And so did this one.

houseplants, begonias, eyelash begonia, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Once your cutting(s) have a fair number of roots, simply place the leaf (ves) (or canes) in a pot with potting soil and care for it as you would for an established plant. Don't let the soil get bone dry or waterlogged. Eventually the plant will begin to grow, sending up new stems, leaves and shoots.

I use this method of propagation for geraniums, fuchsias and impatiens, too.

impatiens, cuttings, plant propagation, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Which means that little nooks and window ledges are packed with cuttings right now.

cuttings, plant propagation, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

They don't take up much space.

geraniums, cuttings, propagation, plants, houseplants, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

And they add a bit of color.

Those geranium cuttings in my studio window were taken from plants I grew in the garden this summer that had been grown as cuttings last winter.

watercolor, watercolor plants, watercolor geranium, clay pot, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
a watercolor I painted of a geranium grown from one of the cuttings I took, available in my shop

Want to learn more?

So, what about you? Do you grow or propagate plants indoors? What's your favorite?

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  1. Anne, firstly I would like to say how much I love your new header! I also love that peach painted book/plant shelf. Well done with all your propagating. You are a natural. I don't have so much luck with house plants but at the moment I have bought my teacup gardens into the house so I can keep an eye on them over winter and water as and when necessary. I have also bought in 3 perlagoniums so I may have a go at taking some cuttings from them this week using your rooting method. If I succeed I will let you know! Have a lovely week. :-)

    1. Thank you so much, Simone!

      How fun to have your teacup gardens inside for the winter. I hope you do take some pelargonium cuttings and that they root well for you.

      Enjoy your week!

  2. I agree with Simone, that new logo is adorable!
    Your home has such a cheerful look to it, all those happy looking plants and pretty colors. (Well done on the pink table!)
    I love rooting geraniums/pelargoniums/whatchamacallits. My problem is finding enough space to put everything!

    1. Thank you, Laurie!

      I totally know what you mean about space. But I'm also always thinking "there's always room for one more" and tend to squeeze things in, no matter what my clear-headed thinking is initially.

  3. Hi,
    I am going to try wintering my geraniums. Thank you for the tips. I went back to your 2014 post. Well done.
    I also am going to try to winter my lavender. I have never had luck with this. I will keep trying.

    1. Hi, Carla! So glad to know you're going to try overwintering things. I've never tried overwintering lavender, except within the garden. In my garden in Cleveland it was hardy, here in Wisconsin it didn't survive and I didn't plant any this summer. But I have a rosemary plant that I've brought inside for the past five or six winters and it does great.

      Good luck with the lavender!


  4. My living space is so small and cluttered right now (obviously, for good reason). This post let me take a deep breath and imagine our new space...light filled, curated and lovely. Thank you for this little bit of respite. xo

    1. I have no doubt that your new space will be wonderful. Transitions are hard. The middle part can seem to last so long. It will be worth the wait.

  5. Nice tips, Anne. You're a begonia Queen! I might have a few plants that I've brought in ;)

    I have to share with you another fantastic plant blog and that is A Garden for the House by Kevin Lee Jacobs If you've already discovered him, maybe your readers will try it, if you haven't discovered him yet, oh my gosh go now!

    Love the new header!

    1. Thank you, Jaime! You're so sweet. I do love begonias, kind of strange considering how I used to be so focused on other kinds of plants. But really, I can get along with just about any kind of plant once I get to know it. :)

      I will have to go take a look at that link. Thanks for passing it on!

      Hope you're enjoying the loveliness of fall and the pleasure of bringing in your plants. :)

  6. Can you keep the begonias in water, rather than just for rooting?

    1. It's possible to grow begonias in water longterm, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First you'll want to make sure that the water is always clean. You don't want the stems to start to rot, which could happen if there is bacteria in the water. Regularly replacing the water and cleaning out the container should do the trick. The other thing to think about is nutrients. When you plant something in soil the plant receives nutrients from the soil and from any fertilizer that you add to the soil. Fertilizer meant for a plant in soil won't work for a plant in water. For that you'll have to look to hydroponic nutrients, which I really don't have any experience with.

      Happy growing and good luck!


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