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A sign at a garden center asking people not to proplift, which it defines as taking cuttings
Succulent leaves being propagated

Proplifting (sometimes written prop-lifting[1]) is the practice of taking discarded plant material and propagating new plants from them.[2][3] Some proplifters engage with the hobby as a form of self-administered horticultural therapy.[4]

Etymology and origin

The word is a portmanteau of 'propagate' and 'shoplifting'.[4] However, this derivation is misleading as ethical proplifters are advised to seek permission first to take such floor sweepings.[4] Though much of the material would be thrown out, it is technically the property of the store or business where found. Also, ethical proplifting excludes the practice of removing leaves from living plants as such unauthorized removal is theft.[2] The term was coined by Sarina Daniels, the founder of the r/proplifting subreddit, as a joke, while she was participating in r/Succulents in 2017.[4][5] Though what started as a joke quickly became an on-line community of dedicated practitioners that has surprised its founder.[4] Even so, proplifting practitioners have been accused of being common thieves by people who have misunderstood the practice.[4][6]


Practitioners often gather fallen leaves of succulents and other plants from the floors of big-box stores.[7] Proponents state the practice rescues something that would otherwise go to waste, and gives the plants a new chance at life.[4] It is also touted as much more economical than purchasing full-grown plants.[4] Some chains have even publicly approved of the practice.[8] Proplifting from smaller stores is discouraged as often these stores will propagate the material themselves.[7]

Cutting from live plants

Clipping off pieces of living plants for sale is a discouraged practice even among proponents of proplifting.[9][7] This practice is becoming more common, and not just at large corporate chains.[7] Smaller stores also have lost revenue when they cannot sell plants that have been damaged by cutting,[7] and even the San Diego Botanic Garden was targeted by plant thieves cutting living plants.[1] Enthusiasts are strongly encouraged by the community not to clip live plants and to trade or buy rarer cuttings within the community instead.[7][9] Despite communities of proplifters encouraging asking permission and discouraging cutting and outright theft, others see it as a slippery slope from one to the other.[5]


Some plants cannot be propagated legally at all, even if purchased. In the United States such actions may violate the Plant Patent Act of 1930 or the Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970. In the United States, there is no common law expectation of privacy for discarded materials,[10] making the collection of plant material from garbage legal.

See also


  1. ^ a b Meyer, Matt (12 March 2021). "Experts warn of houseplant black market after thief targets botanic garden". Encinitas, CA: Nexstar Media Inc. Fox 5. Archived from the original on 16 September 2021. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  2. ^ a b Wilson, Tess (24 July 2018). ""Proplifters" Are Getting Plants for Free from Big Box Stores". Apartment Therapy. Apartment Therapy, LLC. Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  3. ^ "'Proplifting' a budding trend". Star-Phoenix. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. 4 August 2018. p. E.1. ISSN 0832-4174. ProQuest 2082978933. Archived from the original on 16 September 2021. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Brooke, Eliza (25 September 2019). "This Booming Digital Community Is Obsessed With Bringing Plant Bits Back to Life". One Zero. Medium. Archived from the original on 10 March 2021. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  5. ^ a b Chapman, Gray (15 January 2020). "A growing concern: is it ever OK to steal plant cuttings?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 16 September 2021. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  6. ^ "I managed a garden center for years ... (Deleted Post)". r/proplifting. Reddit.Com. 12 August 2019. Retrieved 19 September 2021. I managed a garden center for years and imagine how I felt when plants I'd grown and cared for became disfigured from people ripping off leaves. Many of my own plants are propagations but I only took what had fallen off. People like you are no better than common thieves.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Nance, Iseabel (20 May 2021). "The ethics of proplifting and plant theft". The Daily of the University of Washington. Seattle, WA. Archived from the original on 16 September 2021. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  8. ^ Walmart [@Walmart] (1 September 2020). "Replying to @bAlliecakes Good way to recycle. 🌱🥀🌿" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 16 September 2021. Retrieved 16 September 2021 – via Twitter.
  9. ^ a b Duer, Emma (2020). "Rooted in Relationship" (PDF). SoFA Journal (4: Exchange). Portland, Oregon: PSU Art + Social Practice: 28–29. Archived from the original on 16 September 2021. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  10. ^ California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35, 40 (1988)