Gardening, Home and Garden

How to Propagate Coleus

I love coleus! There is something about their variety of bright colors, ease of propagation, long growing periods, ease of adapting to different environments, ability to grow indoors and even bloom throughout the entire year, and of course their beauty, that all sums up as to why coleus is one of my favorite plants.

One of the many reasons why I love coleus, as said above, is due to their ease of propagation. In this blog, I made a fun growing area/ nursery for my cuttings to grow roots, but in all honesty you can just go outside take a cutting and stick it into a moist spot in the garden. Coleus cuttings will root almost anywhere, but for this blog I will show you how I grow healthy coleus plants from cuttings.

How to Propagate Coleus:

Create a Never Ending Supply of Plants for Your Garden

Step One: Gather Supplies

The first step to grow coleus from cuttings indoors, is to gather your supplies.

You will Need:

  • Coleus Trimmings
  • Small Paper Cups
  • Potting Soil
  • Scissors
  • A Shallow Container to Hold Water
    • This is to catch any extra water that may spill while watering the cuttings
    • The dish I usually use has a crack and it was my Nana’s (grandmother) and I just can’t bring myself to throw it away, so I cover the inside with plastic wrap to keep any water from leaking out, so if you have a similar leaky container that you want to use but shouldn’t you’ll need…
  • Plastic Wrap
    • if you are creating your own Waterproof Container, as I did
  • A Sunny Window

Step 1.1: Gather Coleus Trimmings

When a coleus is growing, it is similar to a tree. There is a single “trunk”, which is the thickest stem of the coleus that grows in the middle of the plant, from which will grow “branches”. The coleus “branches” are what you will be cutting and will eventually, through this process, grow its own roots to become a brand new plant.

So, to collect your coleus trimmings simply cut stems off of the plant. You can use a pair of simple scissors or gardening sheers (I usually cut the stem by pinching it off with my sharp fingernails, which might be odd but it works).

Once you have your coleus trimming, you will need to prepare it for propagation. First, using scissors, cut off the bottom leaves of the trimming, leaving just the top four or five. This is to allow the plant to focus its energy on growing roots, instead of spending energy to keep so many leaves alive and vibrant.

Once the bottom leaves have been trimmed, it is ready to be planted.

Cut the trimming to whatever length you would like

Step Two: Prepare the Growing Space for the Trimmings

As I said in the beginning, my favorite container to hold the cuttings as they grow is cracked in the middle and therefore susceptible to leaking any draining water from the paper cups used in this tutorial. So, my first step is to place a layer of plastic wrap into the container to make it waterproof.

You may also have to do this step if you are improvising your own water-catching container to hold all of the paper cups holding your cuttings as they grow. The container just needs to be deep enough to catch any residual water that may leak from the cups.

Step 2.1: Fill the Paper Cups Containers with Potting Mix

Next, to prepare our growing space, take the small paper cups and fill them with potting mix. The potting mix has nutrients added to the soil that will help the trimmings root.

Step 2.2: Place the Cups of Dirt into the Water-Catching Container

Step 2.3: Poke Holes into the Dirt of Each Cup

Your finger will work just fine.

Step Three: Plant the Coleus Cuttings

First, take each trimming and place it into the holes you just created. Then, press the potting mix firmly around the coleus trimming to keep it upright as it grows roots.

Continue until all of the coleus trimmings are planted in their paper cups.

Then, water them until the soil is damp. See more tips below…

Step Four: Care for the Coleus While it Grows

A Few Tips to Indoor Coleus Propagation Care:

  • The coleus trimming WILL look dead about an hour after this project, and that is absolutely OKAY. You just need to have some patience. The coleus is confused, it doesn’t have any roots or the plant it was attached to, and therefore can’t drink the water it needs to survive. So, it will have no choice but to make roots (which is what we want) or die.
  • Water the coleus to keep the soil damp; but do NOT water it so much that you create a swamp and any roots that the coleus is trying to make will immediately rot, basically drowning the plant and killing it.
  • Keep your coleus in a sunny window. The coleus trimmings will need an energy boost, since they cannot drink water yet. Going through photosynthesis is one way to give the coleus help while it creates new roots.

Step Five: Transfer the Plants into the Garden

When the small coleus have their own roots, you can plant them out in the garden. My coleus trimmings usually take a week to sprout new roots.

I did not photograph planting the baby coleuses, but about two weeks days later I did take all of these photos to show how well the babies adapted to their new outdoor environments. Coleus thrive so quickly outdoors it is crazy! These are each planted in a shady spot: under a Japanese maple tree or on a covered front porch.

See why I love coleus? Every time I want a new coleus or see a dull spot in the garden, I just pick off a stem from one of my other coleuses and BOOM I have a new plant!

Each fall I go out and collect trimmings from my coleus to grow inside during the winter. Then, in the spring I plant the same coleus and start the process all over again. With my vibrant, beautiful, well adapted FREE plants.

Actually, every coleus in this tutorial is an offspring from trimmings that I collected THREE YEARS AGO. I have had an endless source of free plants for three years, and now that you know how to propagate your own coleus you too can have free plants for life! That sounds dramatic, but it is true.

Thank you for reading.

Looking to do more Gardening Projects with Unplanned Whimsy? Check out my Blogs below by clicking on the links in each photo.

Happy gardening!

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