How to Grow Coleus from Stem Cuttings

Propagating Coleus in 4 Easy Steps
Propagating Coleus in 4 Easy Steps | Source
Coleus plants are available in so many gorgeous, vibrant colors!
Coleus plants are available in so many gorgeous, vibrant colors! | Source

It doesn't take much to propagate coleus. All you need is:

  • A knife, gardening shears, or your fingernails
  • A small container
  • Water

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. Select an apical stem from a mature coleus plant.

This coleus stem has a prominent terminal bud (a bud at the end of the stem). In fact, if it isn't snipped soon, this bud will flower.
This coleus stem has a prominent terminal bud (a bud at the end of the stem). In fact, if it isn't snipped soon, this bud will flower. | Source

Apical stems have buds at the end of them. These buds are known as terminal buds.

See the little bud at the end of the stem? It's a terminal bud on an apical stem.
See the little bud at the end of the stem? It's a terminal bud on an apical stem. | Source

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 (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.

2. Cut off a 2 to 6-inch apical stem below a node.

Coleus stems are relatively thick and plump with lots of nodes on the stalk.
Coleus stems are relatively thick and plump with lots of nodes on the stalk. | Source

A node is a place on the stem where a bud or a leaf is growing.

Cut the apical stem below a node on the stalk.
Cut the apical stem below a node on the stalk. | Source

Once you've found an apical stem on the coleus, snip the 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.

3. Remove the lower leaves from the stem.

No need to use shears. Pinching with your fingers works just fine to remove the lower leaves. (Oops! I missed a little stipule!)
No need to use shears. Pinching with your fingers works just fine to remove the lower leaves. (Oops! I missed a little stipule!) | Source

Coleus stems have two types of leaf structures that grow from their nodes: leaves with petioles (short leaf stems) and tiny leaf structures that grow between the leaf stems and the main stem. These little leaves are called stipules.

Once you've removed a 2 to 6-inch apical stem from the parent plant, pinch off the stems lower leaves with your fingers. Sometimes,

You may 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 them 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.

Optional Step

Dip the cut ends of the stems in root hormone powder.

Follow the directions on the rooting hormone package.
Follow the directions on the rooting hormone package. | Source

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As noted above, coleus roots easily, so rooting hormone isn't a must; however, it does tend to ensure 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.

First, dip the plant part that you're rooting into water, and then 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, and then continue to the next step in the propagation process: placing the cutting in growing medium.

4. Place the cuttings in water.

I opted to root my coleus cuttings in style in a vintage Fostoria sugar bowl, but just about any sort of container will do, so long as it doesn't leak.
I opted to root my coleus cuttings in style in a vintage Fostoria sugar bowl, but just about any sort of container will do, so long as it doesn't leak. | Source

You don't need a fancy soil mix or special liquid. In most cases, plain water is the best propagating medium you can use.

This cutting began to form roots in under a week without the aid of rooting hormone.
This cutting began to form roots in under a week without the aid of rooting hormone. | Source

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 may make holes with a pencil or your little finger in a container of moist, light potting mix and plant your cuttings.

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 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.

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About the Author

The Dirt Farmer has been an active gardener for over 30 years.

She first began gardening as a child alongside her grandfather on her parents' farm.

Today, The Dirt Farmer gardens at home, volunteers at community gardens and continues to learn about gardening through the MD Master Gardener program.

© 2013 Jill

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Comments 22 comments

The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 2 years ago from United States Author

Hi Dolores, Rebecca & Susan. Thanks so much for stopping by. It's a great time of year to start coleus. It's so pretty for fall. Celosia (cock's comb) is a similar plant that starts easily from cuttings in water. Thanks for the shares! --All the best, Jill


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

I am doing some now! I just got some cuttings from a friend's . I have 4 variations, and I am excited. Very helpful!


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I just love Coleus and have found your hub so very useful. Thank you!


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 2 years ago from East Coast, United States

I must try this! I love to get freebie plants from friends and neighbors (and share with them as well). Coleus is so pretty! Your pictures are, as always, awesome!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Thanks for the share, faythef!


faythef profile image

faythef 3 years ago from USA

I love coleus, have never tried a cutting..but will use your method..need to visit friends so I can snip a leaf from theirs..thank you , voting up and sharing


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi Thelma! If it's as humid and warm there as I think it is, I bet your coleus will do beautifully. I wonder if, like livingsta's mom, you'll have huge growth AND trouble with pests. Nice to hear from you, Thelma. All the best, Jill


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

I have done this propagating for my Coleus in which I have known the name of this plant just yesterday here in HP. I have not tried propagating this plant in a glass of water yet. It´s a great idea. Thanks for sharing.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi Deb! How are you doing? I'm glad the hub stirred up some good memories for you.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

As a young'un, I recall my father doing some of these things with certain plants. I don't recall must of them, but I do remember that white powder. He had a friend that was a retired officer from the Burpee Seed Company, and Ken taught him a great deal about gardening. Thanks for the reminders and the memories. You are so good at what you do!


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi Jill, it's the mealybugs I guess. They are in clusters all over the stems and mostly under the leaves. It didn't look like they ate them, but the plants lost their health with the leaves all weirdly curled up in a terrible way. It also hinders the healthy growth of the plant. Yes, this was in India. Would it be because it was easier for them to thrive in warm climates? Not sure.

Mum used to use pesticides to get rid of them.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi livingsta! You have me very curious about what eats coleus in India! Here in the eastern US, I've never had a pest problem w/them except for occasional snail damage. Were those the culprits in India? --Jill


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom

Nice hub, I used to have these plant when I was in India. The colours are lovely but they were prone to pests. I did not know that such a short stem was sufficient. We were planting long stems of 10 to 12 inches length.

Thank you for this useful information.

Voted up, useful and interesting, Sharing!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi Sharkye11! What a great garden story. Isn't it great to get volunteers? Love when that happens (and they're not weed). Take care, Jill


Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma

Very interesting hub! I had a coleus appear mysteriously in my yard last year. I quickly fell in love with it and moved it to my flower bed.Even though it died over the winter, it left a legacy behind...hundreds of babies! I carefully moved all of them to different beds. I can't wait for them to mature so that I can try propagating them. I love rooting plants in water! Will bookmark this for future reference!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi Thelma. It really is easy. Why buy a tray of the same color coleus, when you can get a few in different colors and "make" a bunch more so easily! Thanks for stopping by. --Jill


ThelmaC profile image

ThelmaC 3 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

So very easy... I just love coleus. Thanks for the good info.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi rajan jolly--Yes, it's a good plant for beginning propagators as they're almost certain to be successful. Thanks for commenting!

Hey Zsuzsy--Yep, it's a standard method that's easy to use w/lots of plants, especially houseplants easy-care houseplants like African violets and jade. Nice to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by! --Jill


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Very interesting, Jill. Coleus are one of the easiest to propagate.

voted up.


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 3 years ago from Ontario/Canada

Great hub. This method works great for quite a few plants.

regards Zsuzsy


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Awesome, RTalloni! We think alike! I love coleus, but they can be expensive if you want to fill a bed with nursery pots of them. Thanks for stopping by! --Jill


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

I'll be doing this tomorrow, if not later tonight. Thanks for an easy and inexpensive way to get more coleus for the summer/fall season!

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