'Our Birthright': Proplifting 'Crime' Divides Opinion Online

Debate is raging online over the practice of "proplifting" and whether it's considered a crime, with people coming forward to admit they're guilty of it.

The term refers to the practice of taking fallen cuttings or leaves from plants in a store to then propagate and grow at home.

A photo of a sign shared to Twitter sparked the intense discussion. While it's not clear where the sign originated from, it was posted to the social media site on Saturday by Cara Sandiego.

It says: "'Proplifting' is picking up fallen succulent leaves (or any other plant leaf) off the floors of garden centres or pinching off leaves and taking them home to propagate.


Sandiego, whose bio states they're based in New York, captioned the snap: "YOU WOULDN'T DOWNLOAD A PLANT," thought to be referring to illegally downloading media online.

Since being shared the post has amassed more than 160,000 likes, and can be seen here, as people furiously debated whether it constitutes a crime.

Woopwoop pointed out: "I mean you say that, but it defeats the purpose of them selling plants, if you can just pick up sprouts and leaves to grow your own for free, then why buy them? Then why would they sell plants?"

"Next step: 'If you share clippings from your succulents with friends, that would count as unlicensed sharing and may be fined for distribution,'" @AssertionShark wrote.

Serene admitted: "I [100 percent] take clippings off every beautiful plant I f****** pass, AND YOU KNOW WHAT? Your plants LOVE THAT S*** They get to spread their polleneous wings and fly. Flowers don't give a damn about your money. Don't believe me? Ask the [bees]. Sincerely, The Cropnapper #StealPlants."

"Imagine telling someone that plants growing is theft. Imagine having capitalism so thoroughly compromise your reasoning faculties that you have no choice but to believe something so ridiculous," @stupidtrashboy commented.

WitheringAurora reckoned: "I don't see why people are so against this message. It isn't your property??? You don't go to a store, ripping off fabric from clothes do you? Or break off arms from toys and take them with you???"

Link01 said: "Pinching leaves is wrong because you're damaging a plant someone is going to buy but if they're already fallen they're free for the taking."

Although @mamatiresias added: "Disallowing pinching is fine, but I guess the problem is people will pinch a bunch of plants and say 'whuh I found it on the floor.'"

But Meren Iscariot replied: "Never fails to astound me how blatantly people sell our birthright, nature herself, back to us under strict conditions. What's next, watering your garden with rain water is cheating your water taxes?"

And Ben Norris thought: "It's the stealing parts of the plant from the garden center which IS theft. Even propagating your own plants can be patent infringement."

In recent years the term, and the practice, has seemingly gained momentum, with a Reddit forum, aptly named proplifting, dedicated to people sharing their spoils.

Set up in 2017, the subreddit, entitled "one man's trash is another man's propagation," has more than 180,000 members. Sandiego's tweet also made it onto the site, reposted there on Tuesday, captioned: "They're on to us."

Plant lovers have also been sharing videos on the subject, with one, @free.plants.forever, whose bio states "proplifting is not a crime," posting a video in February which amassed more than 480,000 views. It can be seen here.

They filmed themselves in what's believed to be California, as they said in the on-screen captions: "How I walk out of Home Depot with free plants." In the video they pick up what they refer to as a "broken stem" of a tradescantia.

What's next, watering your garden with rain water is cheating your water taxes?
Meren Iscariot

The practice of propagation has been carried out for centuries and is a staple of the green-fingered community.

Home Depot has an online guide over how to best apply the practice of propagation to succulents. They shared three methods, offsets, cuttings, and leaf pulling, as well as explaining both wet and dry propagation.

"You can either toss the clippings into the compost or use them to create more plants," the retailer explained.

However, as Norris points out, some plants are patented, which prohibits anyone else cultivating them, including by proplifting.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office explains the patent covers anyone who has "invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state."

The patent stops anyone from "asexually reproducing the plant, and from using, offering for sale, or selling the plant so reproduced, or any of its parts." These methods include from root cuttings, budding, grafting and dividing plants.

While the practice of propagation isn't illegal—unless from patented plants—taking fallen leaves or cuttings from a store, without paying, could land you in trouble.

Newsweek reached out to Sandiego, Home Depot and @free.plants.forever for comment.

File photo of a broken succulent.
File photo of a broken succulent. Debate is raging online over the practice of "proplifting." Vanessa Powell/Getty Images

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