What are the parts of a stem?

Don't laugh. Once upon a time I admit I had to Google 'Where is a node on a plant?'. To make myself feel better, I tell myself we've all been there, right? Right?

Okay, maybe my own 'new plant parent' journey started a little more beginner than most. But in case you're like me, and want to learn your plant's bits, this is for you. The way I see it, we never stop learning when it comes to plants, and honestly? That's one of my favourite things about this awesome hobby.

As usual, I used my own plants as our Guinea Pigs for today's 'lesson'. Two photos coming up, and below each we take a look at which bit's what and where as a little 'Plant 101' for the parts of a stem...


diagram showing the parts of a steam including node petiole leaf internode apical bud and axillary root



Let's start easy peasy. The internode is what we think of as the stem, basically a name for the space between two nodes.


Where the magic happens. The nodes are where the petiole and leaf grow from the stem. At least one node is needed when propagating by stem cuttings. I like to include at least two or more. I leave the leaves attached on the top nodes, remove a leaf from the bottom node, and pop the bottom node in the water or soil, as that’s where the new roots will grow from.


The short stem that attaches the leaf to the main stem or branch.

Apical bud

The boss. This is the bud at the tip of the stem where new growth happens. There’s a high level of a growth hormone called Auxin here. Auxin controls growth and flowering, and stops auxillary buds further down from growing, keeping them dormant.

When you cut off a growth tip (when you prune or propagate), the change in auxin can trigger axillary buds to grow. That why pruning can trigger growth below where you cut, helping your plant branch out and become fuller and bushier.

Axillary bud

Buds that form between the bottom of the petiole and the main stem. Auxin in the apical bud may keep these axillary buds dormant, or they may develop into a side stem, a leaf or a flower. You can also work a little magic and apply cloning paste to auxillary buds to trigger growth (I sell both Urban Botanist and Crazy Keiki cloning paste).

Check out the photo below for a perfect example of what can happen to the axillary buds when you cut the apical bud off. This is my Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma or ‘Mini Monstera’  (the OG Philodendron Minima), popping out new growth everywhere, further down the stem below where I chopped off the main growth tip...


Parts of a stem showing axillary buds activating after the apical bud has been pruned


PS: You're most welcome to share these diagrams if you like but please link back to this post & give credit @lovethatleaf on socials, or :)

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