What are Propagation Cups and Are They Hindering Growth?

by | Oct 26, 2022 | 0 comments

There has been controversy about the propagation cups used by houseplant growers. They start their plants in these cups.

I first wrote this blog post in 2016 and wanted to update it with more information about these cups. 

October 2016

I recently bought my 6th variety of Aglaonema. Yes, I’m obsessed with the amazing color of the leaves and can’t resist a different one when I see it.

This newest acquisition is ‘Pink Dalmatian’. I brought it home and of course, had to re-pot it into a more attractive (green) container. While removing the plant from its plastic grow pot, I found something unusual in the root area of the plant.

Surprise-propagation cups

As I turned the plant out of the pot, these plastic baskets with roots protruding from them appeared.

The plastic propagation cups with the aglaonemas
The plastic propagation cups with the aglaonemas

Story behind the propagation cups

I had to know the story behind these plastic, root-filled cups. I contacted Justin Hancock (Consumer Marketing) of Costa Farms to find out about them.

Justin said these plastic cups are part of the propagation process. They ensure high-quality cuttings that continue to grow well after planting. These cups also help keep the plant stable during shipping, a huge factor in the end retail product.

The plants begin their life in the Dominican Republic. They plant them in coconut coir, a sustainable product. They no longer use peat moss in the production of their houseplants.

Repotted with propagation cups

Look at the extensive root system growing out of these cups. Thank you Justin for enlightening us about the production of these plants. It is so interesting to me and I’m sure to the people reading this and buying Costa Farms plants.

The newly repotted 'Pink Dalmation ' aglaonema
The newly repotted ‘Pink Dalmatian ‘ aglaonema

Propagation Cups in October 2022

When I published this blog post in 2016 there was controversy over the use of these propagation cups. I’ve seen social media posts of people blaming Costa Farms for the death of their plants because of them. I bought a couple of new aglaonemas recently and I unpotted them today to see if they are still using them. As you can see below, they are. Obviously, they don’t hurt the plant, and look at that extensive root system! 

Repotted with propagtion cups intact

Here are the two aglaonemas I unpotted and repotted today. They look great and the monstera container is from Nicole from Well Traveled Wares. It was my birthday gift in September and I finally put a plant in it today. It is stunning, Nicole! 

Aglaonema on end table
My aglaonema on my end table . It won’t stay here because there isn’t enough light


My conclusion is that the plants aren’t bothered by the propagation cups. If your plant has died, it most likely is from another problem. It may be too much water, not enough light, not enough water, insects or disease. Let’s not jump to conclusions and blame others if we aren’t sure. If Costa Farms is still using them 6 years later, they must be working. The extensive root system I see leads me to believe they are. What are your thoughts?

Have a great week, plant friends!


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