October 4th, 2011

How to Root Coleus Cuttings

How can I take cuttings of coleus? I have a beautiful multicolored coleus that I want to grow again next year. I am told it’s easy to propagate.

blog-dougThere are two good ways to achieve your goal and end up with a bounty of coleus transplants next spring. One way is to take stem cuttings in early fall and root them individually in 4- or 6-inch pots containing good peat-based potting mix. Cut the sections of stem about 6 inches long. Remove the leaves on the lower half and plunge the stems into the moist potting mix. No rooting hormone is needed.

Protect the cuttings from direct sun initially and tent each pot with a clear plastic bag. Once the cuttings take root and begin to grow, remove the plastic and put the pots in a sunny window in a warm, humid room. Pinch the growing tips occasionally so they don’t outgrow their pots. Keep an eye out for mealybugs, scales, and other insect pests; scrub them off with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.

A second technique is to carefully dig up a mature plant, transfer it to a pot (with potting mix, not garden soil), and bring it indoors for the winter. Cut the plant back halfway to lessen transplant shock. About two months before the frost-free date in your climate, take stem cuttings from this “mother plant.” Because cuttings made in late winter have less time to outgrow their pots, it’s okay to root them in 2-inch pots or cell-packs.

My grandmother over-wintered coleus cuttings in a glass of water on her kitchen windowsill, but I’ve had better success rooting the cuttings in potting soil. Whatever method you choose, it’s best to have your coleus indoors before night temperatures dip regularly below 50 degrees—the point at which coleus outdoors begins to decline.  —Doug Hall

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