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.
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.
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.
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.