Can Plants Grow From Leaves?

I don’t know about you, but recent world events got my wallet suffering. Every day I find myself pinching cents here and there. But being more budget conscious has not tampered my love and passion for engaging my daughters with nature.

In my quest for new and cheap science lessons, I decided to do plant reproduction after my youngest proclaimed that we needed more plants. As if we weren’t crowded in our 950 sq.ft. already!

Often times, children create the misconception that plants only grow from seeds and that those seeds are only found in fruits. So, it occurred to me that I would check their knowledge about that misconception and we could investigate propagating plants from leaves. In this blog post, I share with you how I went about doing that chillax science lesson.

I started by informally posing the science question, Can plants grow from leaves? I know what the answer is, it depends. However, my children had to think for a while about the answer. Score! After what was clearly some pondering time for them, my children went on great lengths to explain to me that it was not possible. Double bingo! I sparked their interest and they were doing a science talk. We were ready to go and experiment.

Since I am not a master gardener (actually my gardening skills are questionable!) I did a lot of research to prepare. Yes, preparation is key in this Chillax science lesson. I researched 3 main ideas:

  • what are the methods for plant’s propagation
  • which plants propagate best
  • what is the history of plant propagation

I found a few great reliable resources that might be helpful to you too.

The Science Behind the Lesson

What is Plant Propagation?

Plant propagation is the process of taking parts of a plant and asexually cloning the part. We can do this by cutting, layering, separating, budding, and even doing tissue cultures.

I decided to focus this lesson on propagation methods that only involve cutting. Why? Because is easy. Did you know that leaf cuttings can be done with or without the petiole? I didn’t! Anyway, I chose lettuce as we already had access to that vegetable. I know what you are thinking, all that research and she settles on lettuce? Didn’t I tell you at the beginning that I was trying to be cheap!

I was also reminded that similarly to when growing and maintaining plants light plays a key role in plant’s propagation. Basic, right? However, it was something I had not considered. So make sure you place the leaf cuttings near a light source.

Chillax Science Activity

Like in many Chillax Science explorations there are many right ways to do the instructional sequence. Below I give you one suggestion. We hope it is useful to you.

Step 1: Tour a garden or backyard with your children and discuss which plants could potentially propagate through cuttings. Think of this step like the prediction phase. Take advantage and prompt children with questions that encourage them to justify their thinking. Then, decide on 1, 2, or as many plants you would like to test with.

Step 2: Cut a leaf for each plant.

Step 3: Set up a glass jar with water for each one of the plants you are propagating. Use masking tape to label the jars.

Step 4: Place the leaf in the jar. Although initially we settled on lettuce my youngest daughter quickly became uninterested and wanted other plants. We settled on these two plants.

Final experimental plants

Step 5: This is the step where most learning (I think) can happen. Journaling! Invite your child to journal the experiment and the process. If your child has experience journaling long-term projects you might be able to simply let them determine how to do it. Most children, however, need a little bit more guidance. I modeled to write the day and time and she wrote what she observed (which was not much writing.)

Step 6: Discuss results and invite your child to make a scientific claim. My daughter concluded that some plants can propagate from leaf cuttings. Big one, don’t you think?


Step 7: Dive deeper by investigating scientific content related to plants. Invite your child to explore but don’t tell them what to explore. Our goal is for children to take ownership in their learning.

Step 8: Plant the propagated plant.

Connecting to Other Disciplines

Connecting learning to other subjects is important for children’s scientific content growth. I love to connect science to history and math. For example, for this lesson we are trying to figure out when scientists figured out propagation methods. Will share some of that on another post.

What is your preferred connection? Finally, of course, go back to nature to ponder and explore new questions.

Try this at home and let us know about your child’s learning.

Reizelie is a parent and a Ph.D. mom trained in science education with a passion for all things STEM. She loves learning and teaching and on her spare time she helps families create home environments that foster learning. Reizelie is committed to a healthy lifestyle and shares ideas on education, cooking, urban homesteading, and fitness.

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