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Propagating Coleus plants in water is easy as can be. In this step-by-step guide, I will show you the process from start to finish with pictures. You will see exactly how to take your coleus cuttings, prepare them to root, and how to pot them up.
This is a great way to start new plants at the end of a growing season to keep them going indoors, or even to return them to the garden the next growing season.
HOW TO PROPAGATE COLEUS IN WATER
Coleus is an easy plant to propagate if you follow these simple steps below. The rooting process is relatively fast with the right preparation and the right conditions.
Timing will vary depending on your growing conditions, but in just a couple of weeks, you can go from cuttings to potted plants. Here is how:
1. CHOOSE AND PREPARE YOUR CUTTINGS
The first step is to choose a healthy coleus plant to take cuttings from.
If you live in a cold winter region and have your plants growing outside, it’s important to take cuttings of your plants before it gets too cold. Coleus plants start to decline rather quickly when temperatures get into the 40s F in the evening.
You can see some cold damage in the photo below with a coleus that I have growing in a pot.
So before it gets too cold, go ahead and take some stem cuttings off of a healthy plant. Using a sterilized, clean pair of scissors pair or pruning shears, make a clean cut right below a set of leaves. You can wipe the blades with isopropyl alcohol to easily sterilize them before you make your cuttings.
You do NOT want giant cuttings. Smaller cuttings will fare much better and you will have much better success.
I’d recommend keeping the cuttings smaller, with the stem no bigger than about 3 inches or so. If you make them much bigger, they will struggle and potentially wilt before they can get a chance to root.
After you’ve snipped some cuttings, you’ll want to remove the lower leaves from the cutting. Each cutting should have 2-4 leaves.
If you see any flowers forming at the tip of the cutting, remove those. You can simply pinch them off with your finger. They will come off easily. Removing it will allow your plant to focus on growing roots, rather than wasting energy trying to grow flower stalks.
2. ROOT CUTTINGS IN WATER
Next simply place your cuttings in a glass of water or vase and add some fresh water. Make sure that the water level is above the bottom of the cutting.
Keep it in a warm, bright area, away from too much direct sun. You can place them in the shade outdoors if it is still warm, or on a bright windowsill indoors that has no direct sun, or very little direct sun.
If the water seems cloudy, change it out immediately with fresh water.
Root formation should occur pretty quickly. Depending on what time of year you’ve taken your coleus cuttings, the time that it takes your cuttings to root can vary. For a little perspective, I took my cuttings in October, and roots started to form after just a week or so in water.
Here is a cutting after just 13 days of being in water. The roots are already half an inch long or so.
3. POT UP YOUR CUTTINGS
Lastly, after you have some root growth, it’s time to pot up your cuttings. I like to pot my cuttings up as soon as the root are approximately half an inch long or so.
For best results, don’t let the roots get too long. Water roots are different than soil roots, so the transition to soil will be harder for the cutting if you wait too long.
To start with, I like to pot up my cuttings in individual pots. Make sure your pot has drainage holes. This is non-negotiable! For one cutting, I recommend using a 3.5-inch or 4-inch pot. This is a great starting size, and once you have healthy root development and your plant is pot-bound, you can move up in pot size.
Avoid the temptation to place one cutting in larger pots. The excess volume of potting medium will take much too long to dry out and potentially cause issues. Stick with approximately a 4-inch pot and increase the pot size as needed as your plant grows.
For this cutting, I potted up my cuttings using Pro-Mix. I simply filled the pot with the mix, inserted my finger in the middle to make a hole for the cutting, and placed the cutting right in. Then I gently moved some of the potting mix into the hole and very gently pressed down on the surface of the soil.
If you have any potting mix on hand that doesn’t seem too well drained, mix in some perlite or pumice. Two to three parts of potting mix plus 1 part of perlite or pumice.
After you’ve potted up your cutting, give it a good watering, allow excess water to drain away, and place your plant in its growing location.
If you are growing these plants indoors, place them immediately in front of a window that has just indirect light to start with (no direct sun). After 2-3 weeks, after your cutting has acclimated and started to grow, you can place your plant in a location that has morning sun.
Regular watering is important. I recommend waiting until the top half inch or so feels dry, and then give your new plants a good watering. Do not allow your soil to dry out completely.
Some direct sun indoors, especially during winter time, is great for coleus plants. Many coleus varieties actually have been developed to do well in sun OR shade.
Come springtime, you can repeat the process and make more new coleus plants. Early spring is a great time to take cuttings to increase the size of your coleus collection. Few plants beat the colorful foliage of Coleus for your own garden, or even for indoor plant enthusiasts.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on how to propagate coleus in water. Have you tried it? Comment below. I’d love to hear!