How to propagate plant cuttings – Starting simple

I have always been fascinated on how anyone can make another whole plant from just a little snippet. 4th grade earth science to be exact. I am going to take us though how I save my 2 favorite coleus every year and replant many every spring. These are some unique plants that the leaves are the real show and the flowers are secondary. Another neat thing about saving the slips is I know I can have that plant in the spring. I was geocaching in Upsate New York when I came across a coleus at a deli we stopped at for lunch. I asked if I could have a clipping and tossed it in a water bottle with water until we got home. Not only do I have a plant I enjoy, I remember the day out with friends. Side note – do not just move plant life across state/country lines. Some are invasive if they escape or may be carrying disease. When in doubt, take picture, do an internet search or ask a master gardener.

How to propagate plant cuttings isn’t new…

It isn’t a new idea and it isn’t a hard thing to accomplish. All it takes is a cutting or slip. What qualifies as a cutting? I have had success with ones as tiny as 2 inches with a couple of baby leaves in a shot glass of water. The ideal would be 3 – 4 inches with four leaves at the top. As to where to get them, your own garden is the easiest. Gardeners in general love to share and talk about their gardens. Ask for a clipping and your will probably get several. Do not take a clipping without permission – gardeners like to share but nobody likes being stolen from. Clipping or slip

Starting Simple – we will propagate a coleus

Choose disease and parasite free plants. Spots, dried curling leaves, bugs under the leaves or small bugs that fly up out of the soil when the plant is disturbed are signs to watch for. Remove all leaves for the bottom 2 inches and place in a small vessel on a windowsill. Which windowsill makes a difference also, too much sun the water evaporates quickly and will stress the little guy. Coleus like shade so a window without direct sunlight is preferable. A vessel can be what your want it to be, my preference is clear glass. Commonly I use double shot glasses, champagne flutes or other such. Use what your have available. I prefer clear so I can easily monitor water levels and root growth. Once a week passes, your should have roots beginning. They will look like little white hairs. I prefer to give them 2 weeks of growth or about 4-5 inches of roots. 

2 week old roots

The magic of overwintering annuals

I find it works well for me to have about 3-4 of each variety I want to keep. The reason is twofold, one helps to prepare in case of sickness/disease killing the cutting. Another is to have more specimens. You can have a drinking glass with water and keep the coleus growing roots for two or three months. My winters are longer and require a bit more intervention. Plants need more that sunlight and water for long term growth. I save recyclable food containers as temporary plant pots for the winter. Poke holes in the bottom, use the lids as saucers beneath. They are flexible enough to pop the plant out for direct garden planting in the spring.

Coleus Clippings

Time to plant propagation cuttings

I actually plant my coleus twice before spring. I root my favorite Coleus from slips in the fall. Plant the slips in temporary pots around the holidays Nov./Dec. Then in March I cut and root more slips from the temporary pots. April is our last frost here in New England and I plant the rooted cuttings and the ones from temporary pots outside. Now the bonus, not having to keep track of pots – just recycle and make more next fall.

That is all there is to it

They are free of cost, bigger and healthier than from the nursery. And your got to garden in the winter!

Winter is gardening time.

16 thoughts on “How to propagate plant cuttings – Starting simple

  1. Growing multiple at once, clever! I one had the interest of growing a plant. I chose to grow thyme as a hobby and it grew really well ready to harvest and I loved it… until at one point, I forgot to take into consideration natural disaster that made it wilt and die. Man, I should have planted a few rather than putting all my eggs in one basket. 

    1. I miss my sage the same way. I have dreams of doing herbs again. Annuals over the winter and maybe some herbs in the spring. Thank you for your feedback.

  2. Hi,

    Great article about plant cutting. I had no idea how easily we could propagate plant cutting. As I saw all you shared here with us your personal experience and which is awesome. I love plants. I enjoy gardening. But sometimes it is harder to grow plant trees outside the garden because of the weather, as I live in Britain. But after reading your post I got an amazing idea which I could follow to grow plants by little efforts. Thanks.

    1. I am in New England now but I used to be in South Florida, USA. Impatiens used to dot my lawn, philodendron that were house plants became these huge vines covering trees in Florida. I enjoy my flowers so much I found I can keep them indoors because I wasn’t ready to let the frost of autumn take them from me. Never know until you try.

  3. Hi 

    Propagation of plants via water can be successful for a number of plant but never with coleus. I have done it with carnations and tomato side shoots, which are relatively straightforward to do. This is a good way to get free plants but there are not  always successful. I always say if one technique does not work there are plenty more.

    What other plants do you recommend that can be propagated via this technique?



    1. I have had repeated success with impatiens and coleus. Spider plants just beg for it when they send out babies. Looks just like the parent plant. Just snip off and set in moist soil. I just heard about marigolds, by rooting instead of by seed! I hope to share many more. 

  4. What an interesting read! Thanks for sharing your knowledge of how to propagating plants. I have learned something =) 

     I liked that you use coleus as an example and showed picture for different stages of propagating. Overall I thought was very clear steps to follow. Just wondered if  it’s exactly the same process/steps for other plants? anything else we need to watch out for? 

    1. There is some variations but I like to stick with the simple ones for now. I am currently rooting several Impatiens and a goldfish plant right now. The goldfish plant I didn’t even know if it would work, I was out a jury selection and it was on the windowsill, I asked if I could take a clipping. That was 4 years ago and it got long so I cut off 4 more branches and they are rooting. I plan on posting the pictures of both soon. Thank you so much for your question.

  5. Thanks a lot for this post.I’m not keen on plants but my mum is. She doesn’t really give me a choice when it comes to helping her out.  I’ll be sure to surprise her with these suggestions next time. I’ve never really heard of plants with diseases and parasites. Could you please expound on that.

    1. As houseplants these annuals do not pick up many problems aside from rot from over watering. Any houseplant can get fungus gnats in the soil. Outside I have brought in little aphids, these are tiny little bugs that suck out the plant juices and weaken the plants. The little vampires! The aphids can be gently washed off with a soap and water mixture, about a squirt of dish soap (tablespoon) into a quart/liter of water. Gently clean of leaves by moistening a paper towel or napkin with mixture. Probably have to repeat a few times.

  6. Hi! Thank you very much for this post. I have also liked the idea of plant propagation. Since I was exposed to the basic idea for the first time I have always appreciated this inexpensive and easy method of getting new plants from plants we already have. But I have a question concerning what plants grow from cuttings? Can an African Violet be propagated from stem cuttings?

    1. I have seen that African violets can be propagated from a leaf with a stem in a book I was reading on Kindle. I suppose I will need to make some and share my results. That would be a good link! Thank you for the idea. 🙂

  7. Thanks for sharing this knowledgeable post about growing coleus. Like you mentioned I love the kind of leaves that grow on the coleus plant. I would like to have it for my sister as I am sure ahe will absolutely love it as she is a garden person. But before that I will be sharing this post with her so that she knows about the optimal conditions and prerequisites to grow coleus.

    I tried to find if I can order a cutting or sapling online but couldn’t find anything? Any ideas where can I get this amazing plant ?

    1. Burpee has some. They are really cheap and as you can see easy to propagate. I am hoping to put a Burpee link on my site. Thank you so much for your comment. 🙂

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