How to Grow Coleus From Stem Cuttings
It doesn't take much to propagate coleus. All you need is:
- A knife, gardening shears, or your fingernails
- A small container
Rooting hormone helps, too, but you don't have to have it. Coleus is one of those happy plants that roots easily from cuttings.
1. Find an Apical Stem on a Mature Coleus Plant
Apical stems have a bud at the end of them. When selecting an apical stem from which to take a coleus cutting, pick one that is fairly long: Your cutting should be anywhere from 2 to 6 inches in length.
I prefer taking cuttings from large, mature plants, ones with multiple stems that branch out from the main stems. Mature plants are not only easiest to get good cuttings from (since they have lots of strong apical stems from which to choose!), but they also won't appear scraggly after some of their stems are removed. Removing apical stems will also cause the plant to develop a fuller, more bushy habit, something most gardeners like.
What Are Terminal Buds?
Apical stems have buds at the end of them. These buds are known as terminal buds.
2. Cut off a 2 to 6-Inch Apical Stem Below a Node
Once you've found an apical stem on the coleus, snip that stem from the plant below a node (a place where there's a stem or a bud).
Coleus stems are thick and juicy, with visible nodes up and down them. Some will have incipient or full-fledged petioles (leaf stems) growing from them. Other nodes will simply appear as lines and feel like lumps on the stalk. Be sure to make your cut below at least one node on the stem. If propagation is successful, all of the nodes will produce roots.
The cutting should be anywhere from 2 to 6 inches in length—long enough to stand upright when placed in water.
What Is a Node?
A node is a place on the stem where a bud or a leaf is growing.
3. Remove the Lower Leaves From the Stem
Coleus stems have two types of structures growing on them: short leaf stems (petioles) and tiny leaf structures that grow between the leaf stems and the main stem (stipules). All of these should be removed, leaving only the topmost leaves.
Once you've removed a 2 to 6-inch apical stem from its parent plant, pinch off the stem's lower leaves with your fingers. You could also use garden shears or a knife, but really there's no need. Coleus leaves—which are attached to the stem by petioles (a short stem of their own)—are easy to pinch away. Coleus stems also often develop little leaves where the petiole (short leaf stem) meets the main stem. These little leaves are called stipules. Pinch those off, too.
Remove as many lower leaves as you need to so that none will be submerged in water when you start the rooting process.
Dip the Cut Ends of the Stems in Root Hormone Powder
As noted above, coleus roots easily, so rooting hormone isn't a must; however, it does tend to promote success.
When using rooting hormone, always follow the directions on the label. You may be advised to wear gloves or even a mask. I'm always careful to use it out of the wind. For the rooting hormone powders I use, the directions are simple, and they are generally the same:
- dip the plant part that you're rooting into water
- dip it into a small amount of rooting hormone that you've placed in the upturned bottle lid
- tap the stem or leaf against the lid to remove excess powder
- place the cutting into a growing medium or soil.
4. Place the Cuttings in Water
Once you've removed the lower leaves (petioles and stipules), place the cutting—with or without rooting hormone—in a container of plain water and set it in indirect light.
You may place each cutting in its own container or put them all in one. Whichever you choose, be sure that the water is deep enough to cover the nodes, but not so deep that the top leaves are submerged.
Alternatively, you can make holes with a pencil or your little finger in a container of moist, light potting mix and plant your cuttings directly, without waiting for roots.
I, however, prefer water to potting mix, simply because water works so well and using it is much more fuss-free. When rooting coleus in water, I don't have to moisten the soil daily or worry that the potting medium is too wet or not wet enough. Every two or three days, I simply check the water level to make sure the nodes are still submerged and, if they're not, add a bit more water. It's so easy!
Within a week, the cuttings will have developed roots. When roots are thick on the stem, it's time to plant the cuttings outdoors.
What Kind of Medium Do I Need?
You don't need a fancy soil mix or special rooting liquid. In most cases, plain water is the best propagating medium you can use.
To learn more about the next steps, planting and caring for coleus, read How to Care for the Coleus Plant.
What propagation technique interests you most?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
I cut off three Coleus stems, with leaves, and put them in a plastic bottle of water. They all did wonderfully, and grew white roots about 4 inches long. I decided to plant them in pots, and used some Miracle Grow Garden Soil. I placed them in each pot, added water, and waited. The next day they were drooped over. I figured perhaps transplanting shock. I waited again, and the following day, all three had totally died. Do you know of any reason?
Did you place the plants in direct sun? If you did, that's probably why they died. Harden them off; in other words, allow them time to acclimate to outdoor conditions by placing the pots outside in the shade for a few hours each day for a couple of weeks, a little longer each day.Helpful 105
I bought a coleus plant from a nursery. They had kept the plant in the full sunlight. It was bright and beautiful but since I have got it at home it became dull and faded. First it had leaves fall as well but then it stopped and it started growing but still, the color is faded and plant looks dull. What am I doing wrong?
Your plant might need fertilizer. A once-a-month application of 10-10-10 should do it.Helpful 74
I took cuttings from coleus plants several weeks ago and stripped off the lower leaves. They were so beautiful that I stuck them in a cup and added water to enjoy them longer. To my great surprise, those leaves have grown roots. Is there any way that a new plant could grow from the roots if I planted the leaves?
Yes! Propagation by leaf cutting is a common practice.Helpful 62
Another question: I was instructed on rose growing from the stem by inserting them into potatoes. They said one could use honey and Cinnamon as a substitute for the rooting hormone. What do you think about this? I also have tried growing potatoes in a five-gallon bucket. They would sprout really well, grow long tops; then they would just die off. Do you have any ideas?
Hi! I've read that honey, due in part to its antiseptic qualities, can be used in rooting. An experiment by Hawaiian MGs, however, showed it to be less successful than rooting powder: https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/uhmg/news/V21-honey-r...
I've started roses from cuttings in half-soda bottles with plastic bottle "cloches" on top, a method a friend taught me. No rooting powder or honey involved. The technique is probably online somewhere if you're interested.
As for the potatoes, I have no experience/information on growing potatoes in buckets so can't really speak to that.Helpful 38
Any tips on preventing white mold from growing around the roots and stems of coleus?
One thing that will reduce/prevent it is to thin the plants. This will increase airflow and reduce moisture.Helpful 10
© 2013 Jill Spencer