Growing coleus from cuttings

How to grow coleus from cuttings

Saving coleus from year to year

If you’ve never met a coleus you didn’t like, then you’ll surely want to know how to keep them growing from year to year. It’s a simple process to propagate new plants from one you admire. See the easy steps below to learn to take coleus cuttings of your own.

Step 1: Take a coleus cutting

Take a cutting from a mature coleus plant: Look for stems that are 4 to 6 inches in length. Make the cut using pruners or scissors right above a leaf node, which is where the leaves come out of the sides of the stem (where you make the cut, the plant will produce two stems from where the old one was, making the plant bushier). Don’t make the cuttings too large; they will not root as well or — if rooted — will become tall and lanky instead of compact.

You might also like How To Root Succulents with Leaf Cuttings

Step 2: Remove extra leaves

Remove the lower leaves, leaving the top set of four leaves. Any part of the cutting that will be below the surface of the water should be free of leaves. The cutting is now ready for rooting in water.

Step 3: Put coleus cuttings in water

Place the coleus cuttings in a glass jar filled with water. Place the jar in a bright place out of direct sun in a 60 to 75 degree F room. Several cuttings may be placed together in one container.

Step 4: Watch the coleus root

Rooting will generally occur in 3 to 4 weeks. Be sure to add fresh water as needed until the cuttings are fully rooted. When roots are 1 to 2 inches long or longer the cuttings are ready to be potted up. Rooted cuttings will survive in water for long periods of time.

See more helpful How-To Articles

Step 5: Plant rooted cuttings

  • Premoisten the soil in 3- or 4-inch pots and plant so the top of the root ball is an inch or so below the rim of the pot.
  • Fill in the spaces around the roots with additional premoistened soil and gently press the soil around the cutting to provide good contact between the roots and the soil.

Watch our coleus root in water!

This is so cool! We took photos of this coleus over a couple of weeks time. Watch it grow…

How To Grow Coleus from Cuttings

Coleus are one of the easiest plants to grow from cuttings. With a few simple steps and minor after-care, you can grow wonderful plants that will give you months of pleasure.


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Coleus are easy to grow from seeds or cuttings, but I wanted to explain my method of growing them from cuttings. The first step is to choose a plant that is healthy and to make sure there does not appear to be any pests or diseased plant material you will be working with. You should also make sure that the plant you choose is not patented. If in doubt, you can check into that part online.

In this case I chose a well branched coleus named “Elfers”; it is one of my favorites and is large enough for me to cut up and still have a nice growing season with the rest of the plant.

Always be sure to use clean scissors or pruners so you don’t contaminate your plant with a disease. I clean mine with alcohol wipes before making any cuts. Your containers should also be clean as well.

I will make my cut right above a leaf node, which is where the leaves come out of the sides of the stem. Where you make your cut, the plant will produce two stems from where the old one was, making your plant bushier.

Now at this point you could just simply cut off the lower leaves and pot this whole big piece up, but I will show you how to get 3 cuttings off just this one piece.

First cut off the top section right above a leaf node as you have done before.

Then make your cut where the middle piece will have a few sets of leaves. The bottom section will only have the two sets of leaves left.

Starting with the first piece, cut off the side leaves, leaving an exposed stem. On the middle section cut off the lower sets of leaves as well.

You can also root these tiny tip cuttings where the arrows point, just remove the larger leaf next to it.

I chose to just leave the bottom piece the way it was.

When I am starting seeds or rooting any sort of plant cutting, I use polymer gels, but only in the very bottom of my cell or container. In my opinion, it will act like bottom watering and keep the moisture level even. But you can skip this step if you do not have gels available. When you take them out of the package or container they look like small crystals.

I always expand the gels prior to use. Take a plastic container, like one left over from soup, and put a small amount of crystals in the container, then add water. It will take a half hour or so for the gels to fully expand. I always keep some expanded on hand because I don’t like to wait. Once the gels are fully expanded they will look like this:

I also use coconut coir for my planting medium. You can use whatever medium you prefer or have on hand: perlite, peat, vermiculite, seed starting mix, or any combination of these materials. Just choose something light that drains well and does not have large chunks of soil in it. I will take a small amount of coir and place it in the bottom of my cell or container.

Then add a bit of the polymer gel.

Fill the container to the top with your medium and press down to be sure any air pockets are gone. Next you have to make a hole for the cutting to go in, by using a dowel, stick, or your finger like I have done.

At this point if you have rooting hormone you can dip the cutting, shake off the excess and place it in the hole you made. If you do not have any rooting hormone, it is not a necessary step, but using it does give you a little more insurance that the cutting will take.

Fill the hole by pushing back your medium. Be sure to firm the medium around the base of the cutting by pressing your fingers down and around all the sides of the cutting. Give your cuttings a bit of water and keep them in the shade until well rooted. If the weather is hot, be sure to water a few times a day, and you can also mist with a spray bottle. In warmer weather it can take only a week to produce roots; you can also add a heat mat under your containers if the weather is cooler. As long as your cuttings do not dry out, you should have big healthy plants within a month or so. Happy growing!!

Kate’s Gardening Tips

Easy At Home Propagating Tips for Coleus

Overlook these gems, and you are missing out!

I must admit I was not always a big fan of Coleus. When I was first introduced to this plant, they were just another inexpensive and boring plant. Red geraniums and pink and cream coleus with pale green edges were a standard for all of the grandmothers in this world. My grandma Lois led the charge! They seem to have become a tradition that in the gardening world can be compared to good ol’ American apple pie!

The great thing is that many growers have taken the time to change the face of our coleus plants and wet our pallet with a wide variety of bold and beautiful color combinations! My hat goes off to these beauties!

Now that we have a wide variety of cultivar choices to pick firm, it is time that we learned how increase our coleus crop by propagating this plant in our very own home!!!

“But I don’t know how to propagate plants!”

Do not let the word “propagation” scare you! We can all enjoy the benefits of plant propagation with little practice!

Seed Propagation

Coleus can be easily raised by seed. In early spring sow seeds into pot containing a light sandy soil. Cover the seed lightly with soil and place glass over the top. Keeping the pots exposed to temperatures of 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Once seedlings have emerged, transplant them into a flat of well-water soil. Keep these guys in the shade until they are established. You can then transplant your larger seedlings to their very own pot!

Propagation with Cuttings

Obtaining cuttings from your favorite mature coleus plants can result in the yield of many healthier coleus for you to give to friends and family!

Rooting a Coleus Cutting

Step 1, snip off the top 4 to 6 inches of a

healthy stem, just above a set of nodes.

Step 2, break off the lower leaves flush with

the stem. Leave only two sets of leaves at the top.

Step 3, dip the stem into a rooting hormone

powder (IBA powder). Make sure to cover all

of the exposed areas of the bottom of the stem

with a light powder cover.

Step 4, fill a 3 to 4 inch pot with potting soil, lightly

moistened. Stick a pencil or your index finger into the

center of the pot to make a planting hole. Place the coleus

cutting in the hole. When doing so, make sure that all of

the powdered area is below the soil level. Gentle firm the

soil area around the cutting. Place the potted cutting in

a bright place and mist it daily to maintain a high humidity level.

Enjoy Your New Plants!

Coleus are great in containers and combine beautifully with other plants. They run the exposure gamut from shade to sun. This Coleus “Dipped In Wine” is more sun and heat tolerant than others. It gets quite a bit of sun which seems to bring out more of the burgundy color and lees of the lime green. They can be cut back, brought indoors and over wintered in the house but beware, they are subject to spider mites and all their leaves may drop off. I am going to take a few more cuttings of mine and then cut the mother plant down by a foot and see how she carries over into the coming season.

This is a stem cutting I took one week ago and little roots have already started to emerge. I will plant the cuttings back out in the garden by the end of February. That way, the plants should be very good size by June.

These are cuttings I took last year – I potted them up first. They were smaller so it took them longer to get going. This year, the cuttings will go directly into the garden by March 1 or earlier.

How do I keep my Coleus healthy and going strong? Glad you asked. I use a good organic potting soil or planting mix with a sprinkling of worm compost thrown in the planting hole. I covered the top with an 1″ of organic compost and water once or twice a week depending on how warm we get. Every other month I water them with a generous douse of Moo Poo Tea. That’s it – easy as can be.

Here’s a video for your viewing pleasure showing the above mentioned plant and how simple it is to propagate. I did call it Coleus “Kong Red” in the intro but it is actually Coleus “Dipped in Wine”. Oops, I have that one too. All Coleus are propagated the same way.

I can’t wait to get more – they have already appeared in our garden centers. I have an itching to pick up a few Caladiums too – I feel a riot of color coming on sans the deadheading!

To see all the wide variety of Coleus out there: Rosy Dawn Gardens

I use this on my container plants: Moo Poo Tea

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Coleus is one of those magical versatile plants that everyone loves at first sight.

While it is hard to find flowers that bloom all season long in sun and shade, Coleus will happily fill that role with its showy colorful foliage. Not to mention it is one of the easiest plants to grow, propagate, and share with friends!

Let’s get to know this star plant today in the following sections:

1 . Make free plants! How to root Coleus from cuttings easily in 2 ways.

2 . How to grow healthy Coleus: sun, shade, water, and soil requirements

3 . Beautiful Coleus varieties and inspirations on how to use them in a garden.

How to root Coleus cuttings easily in 2 ways.

Coleus is unique in a way that it is fast growing, but fragile. Tender stems can break easily when we move planters around in our garden. The good news is, those broken stems have become new plants!

Step one is to select stems that have at least 2 more nodes ( spots where leaves grow out) under the top set of 4 leaves. See photo above.

Remove lower leaves, keep the top set of 4 leaves. Now we have a cutting ready to be rooted.

The easiest method is to root Coleus cuttings in water.

Just place the cuttings in a glass jar filled with water. Make sure at least 2 nodes are submerged in water. Place the jar in a bright place out of direct sun. 60 to 75 degree room temperature is ideal.

BTW, here’s a super cool trick: how to grow lots of these shade loving plants indoors in glass bottles and water!

Most of the time there’s no need to change water. Roots will start forming in 2-3 weeks. If the water looks cloudy, you can change it with clean room temperature water.

Plant the cuttings in moist potting soil when roots are about 1″ long.

The 2nd method is to propagate Coleus cuttings in soil.

Fill a pot with moist potting soil. Use a pencil to poke some holes, and place the cuttings one in each hole. Make sure at least 2 nodes are below soil level.

Place the pot in a bright place out of direct sun. 60 to 75 degree temperature is ideal. Keep the soil moist but not sitting in water.In about a month, the plants will be rooted.

The challenge with the soil method is to remember to keep the soil moist. Otherwise, it is a super easy one-step process!

You can also create an easy humidity tent like the above, check out our tutorial on how to propagate and grow Fiddle Leaf Fig for more details.

How to grow healthy Coleus: sun, shade, water, and soil requirement.

Does Coleus like sun or shade? The short answer is : morning sun, late afternoon sun, or dappled shade are all ideal conditions.

( Images below from here and here )

The above planters are featured in our recent post here- Best shade plants & 30+ colorful shade planters with complete plant list for each!

Based on the short answer, you can vary the conditions a bit depending on the variety and where you live. Dark colored varieties tend to tolerate more sun, while lighter varieties need more shade. Here in sunny southern California, hot noon sun will cause leaf scorch, but in Pacific Northwest, Coleus can be grown in ‘sunnier’ spots because of low sun intensity.

Observe your plant: when a plant is lacking in foliage color and has weak stems, it means too little light. Leaf scorch means too much sun.

Coleus can drink a lot of water. It loves well drained, but moist potting soil. Give it regular water. Fertilize during growing season in spring and summer once every 1-2 months with an all purpose fertilizer.

Great Coleus varieties and planting design inspirations.

Here are a few beautiful examples to remind us the wide range of colors and textures Coleus can bring to a garden or container. ( Images below from here and here )

Such a magical variety of colors here from hot pink, to deep burgundy, to golden rust! And don’t forget size variations: Kong coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides “Kong Series”) has huge leaves 4 to 6 inches cross, ‘Ruby Ruffles’ has tiny, frilly, fine textured foliage about 1″ wide.

The above planters are featured in our recent post here- Best shade plants & 30+ colorful shade planters with complete plant list for each! Lot’s of inspirations to check out!

Best shade plants & 30+ colorful shade planters with complete plant list for each.

You may also like: 20+ Stunning container plantings for sunny locations, with plant lists of course!

Happy gardening! See you next week! =)

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Coleus Uses

Today I am going to show you how to grow Coleus from Cuttings. Coleus seems to be having some type of Renaissance here lately. It had grown out of favor over the years in popularity. As of late though, I think Gardening in general has become more of a trendy, sustainable living kind of thing.

As with most things, people want “bang for their buck” and “ease of use”. 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 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….

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.

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. If Coleus cuttings are brought inside for the winter, a single plant can pass on its “genes” for literally years.

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 even 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 rather quickly. Transitioning the roots from water to soil can be a shock to the plant sometimes and you may not get the best results. I pretty much stab a hole in the ground where I want them to grow and plant them like that.

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.

If you are in the nursery specifically looking for a 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 is tall and stringy it’s not one you want to buy to plant 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.

Coleus with 8 distinct branches

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. You can read about how I propagate Cuphea (Cigar Plants) HERE or check out some of my videos of how I do it HERE

For your cuttings, you want to snip it just below a node where the leaves are sprouting out from. The Coleus 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. Just keep the potting medium damp and keep them in a shaded area.

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 theres 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.


Coleus was the darling of Victorian gardeners. Their carpet beds as they called them, used coleus plants extensively for dependable color in intricate designs. Often referred to as floral “Persian rugs”, these beds required intensive labor and thousands of plants, unimaginable to gardeners of today. Taking their cue from the French parterre, these gardens were meant to be viewed from above through the drawing room window.

Today the colorful coleus is once again a horticultural hero. With the advent of sun-tolerant coleus a whole new world opened on what was once considered a “curious, comical” shade plant. A dizzying array of new color variations now offer endless design possibilities.

Unlike most flowering annuals, coleus can be counted on for continuous color 24/7. It can carry the show or compliment other plant combinations. Still a star in beds, it now features in many container plantings. The deep wine to dark purple of “Black Prince”, “Dark Star”, and “Merlot” goes well with flowers of fuchsia pinks and magentas, as well as lavenders. Add lime green trailers like ornamental sweet potato for pizzazz.
Or pair them with other coleus like “Dapple Apple” and “Religious Radish” for a super sampler. Scalloped, lobed, cut and ruffled leaves add to the whimsical effect of a plant mosaic.

While many coleus are a study in reds, purples and green; a few unique specimens deserve mention. “Freckles” has a splotched leaf of yellow and bronze. “Sedona” will remind you of sunset-color rock formations in Arizona.

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