Today I am going to show you a simple step by step technique I use to propagate Coleus from Cuttings.
I am going to show you how to get many plants from the cuttings of a single plant. With a little time and patience, you will see you can have as many of these plants as you care to have.
As with most things, people want “bang for their buck” and “easy maintenance”. Coleus fit this description more than most plants. They used to be one of the cheaper plants you’d see in a nursery. Over the past couple of years with their gaining popularity, the price has risen a bit.
Most Coleus varieties are tough as nails and will grow almost anywhere you can stick them in the ground in my experience. I have lots of “volunteers” that have just sprouted up in the middle of my yard from seeds or even a broken branch that fell from a container I was moving. And yes, I don’t have the heart to pull them up. I just let them grow wherever they are….
Using Coleus Plants in the Garden
Coleus work great in the landscape as a colorful filler for almost any environment. They may not have the showy flowers but their vibrant foliage more than makes up for this.
With their range of bright and dark colors it is easy to find a complimentary Coleus breed for any existing plant you may have or one you’re planning to buy.
If you have a shady spot where nothing will grow you can probably get a Coleus to grow there. I would suggest any spot where you’ve had no luck with any other plant. They are just that resilient.
Coleus work equally well as Container Plants. They are super popular in the Fall where they are used in container arrangements and pose striking contrast with their deep reds and oranges.
In the south, they easily last through the cooler weather along with ornamental grasses and other container beauties keeping the front porch looking festive throughout the holidays.
Coleus are one of my favorite plants because I’ve figured out how to propagate them like crazy. My problem is that I love buying as many plants as possible, so this saves me loads of cash.
The added benefit is I am simultaneously filling my garden with beautiful and interesting color. Color that will last from Spring up through Fall and possibly even Winter if you have a greenhouse or space to bring a potted cutting inside.
If Coleus cuttings are brought inside for the winter, a single plant can pass on its “genes” for literally years.
The Best Times to Take Cuttings
The best time to take cuttings is really in late Spring or early Summer in my opinion. Coleus will root within a couple of days when the weather is high 70’s low 80’s. Later on in the year, say September or October, you can get them to root but they won’t grow as leafy or as fast.
Coleus will readily root in a cup of water. Just cut the stem and place it in water like a cutflower. The roots will appear in a matter of days.
Transitioning the coleus cuttings from water directly to soil can be a shock to the plant sometimes and you may not get the best results. On the contrary, it is also possible to directly grow coleus cuttings in soil. Using a loose, well draining medium for coleus propagation is your best bet for the best results.
Okay, lets get down to business. I’m going to take you from buying the plant, to putting the cuttings in a container to wait for the roots to take and show you the end result, with some I’ve recently propagated.
How to Select a Coleus Plant Specifically for Taking Cuttings
If you are in the nursery specifically looking for a coleus plant to propagate, there are certain things to look for. I look for a healthy looking plant with no dead limbs or leaves and not a lot of flowers. If a Coleus plant is tall and stringy it’s not one you want to buy to plant in your garden, but it will do okay for cuttings.
Look for a plant with lots of distinct well-formed branches. Visualize if this limb looks like a plant on its own, clipped from the main plant.
In this picture, you will see I’ve hit the “cutting jackpot”. This plant has 8 nice looking stems. Basically, I just bought 8 plants for the price of one. That’s the mindset.
With a little practice, you’ll know exactly what to look for and can apply this knowledge with other plants you plan on propagating.
First I wet down my growing medium, to eliminate air pockets and make it solid enough to hold the cuttings up once they are stuck in the pot. I use plain old ground up tree bark.
You can use potting soil put you want to make sure it drains well. I use this same method for propagating most of the plants I am able to successfully propagate. Read this article to find out how I propagate Cuphea (Cigar Plants)
When taking your cuttings for coleus propagation, you want to snip it just below a node where the leaves are sprouting out from.
The Coleus palnt is in the mint family so it has a square stem and its growth is kind of in sections. Each one of these sections is pretty much another plant. Once you cut this stem, remove the lower leaves right at the node that you’ll be sticking into the medium.
Now just poke a hole in the medium with your finger or a stick of some kind about the size of your cutting so when you place it in the hole it doesn’t break.
Now just put your cutting in the hole making sure the leaf node is below the surface. If you take a longer cutting with more nodes , having more than one node in the rooting medium gives your cuttings a better chance to take root.
Firmly pack down the potting medium around the base so your cutting stays upright while the roots form.
Depending on the weather, the Coleus may wilt a bit for a couple of days. If you find your coleus cuttings wilting after the first day, a good idea is to spritz the leaves with a spray bottle or a fine garden hose on mist setting. Just keep the potting medium damp and keep them in a shaded area.
How long does it take Coleus to form Roots?
Coleus usually root very quick, so within a week or so the plant should have taken root. If the plant looks healthy it has more than likely taken root.
Gently pull on the plant and if there’s any resistance, there are probably roots. Coleus are pretty tough , so if you want to pull it up and look, you can.
At this point, You can plant them in the landscape or keep them in the container a while to grow in a more controlled environment.