Coleus Cuttings...

I had to do this for a fun little assignment for school and thought I would share with y'all.  This is super easy, really fun, and a great science experiment for kids to watch.  Plus, if you have some plants that you would like to propagate or save for next spring, this is an easy and cheap way to get them!

Taking cuttings is fairly simple, but you will need a few things:

A good sharp knife
Transplanting pots (plastic cells with seed starting mix work well)
Rooting hormone (available at good nurseries/garden stores)
Plant labels (popsicle sticks and tongue depressors work well)
Waterproof pen for labeling
Pencil or screwdriver to make holes in the potting medium
Drinking straws
Clear plastic wrap or large clear plastic bags
Rooting medium
              - low in nutrients, well draining, water-retaining
              - soilless is best
              - commercial propagation mixes are available
              - You can try a mix of 2 parts quartz sand and 1 part Sphagum peat (I don't recommend using  
                peat because of the negative environmental impact associated with harvesting peat.)
              - Jiffy peat pellets work well, but then again, we are back to peat... they must be rehydrated

First, prepare your medium by putting it in pots or cells and wetting it well.  Set up a work station so that you can work quickly.  Also, put on some gloves, you don't want to touch the rooting hormone with bare hands (don't follow my bad example...).

To cut coleus, you will be taking a stem tip cutting.  A stem tip cutting is taken from the ends of stems where new growth is occurring.  You will cut the stems about 4-inches long, making the cut just below a node.  A node is a bump in the stem where the petiole for a leaf will emerge.  (See diagram below).  You want to make a 45┬║ angled cut.  I cut mine a little long and then go back and cut at the right spot with a very sharp knife, so that the cut is clean.
Backyard farmgals

After you have made your cuts, put the cuttings in a bowl with luke warm water, you don't want them to wilt.  One at a time, pull the leaves from the stems, all but the top two or four leaves.  The less vegetative tissue the plant has to support the better.  If your cuttings have any flowers or flower buds, pinch them off, if not the cutting will put energy into making seeds and not rooting.  After you have cleaned the stems, put each cutting back in the water.  

With a pencil or a screwdriver, poke a hole about the diameter of the stem in the rooting medium.  This makes it easy to push the cutting down into the medium without breaking it.  Dip each cutting into the rooting hormone (about 1/2- to 1-inch up the stem) and then stick the cutting into the hole in the potting medium.  Repeat until all the cuttings are stuck, making sure that the node is covered with medium.  

Label and place straws in the medium.  The straws will hold up the plastic so it doesn't lay on the cuttings.  Cover the pot or cell with plastic.  Alternatively, you can use what I have used - plastic trays that have a clear plastic cover that fit over them.  By covering the cuttings, you increase the humidity in the cutting's environment, decrease transpiration (plant loosing water through it's leaves), and decrease the need to water.  Place in a lighted area (not intense sun, but moderate light - near a large window is a good place).

Check the cuttings weekly.  When you check them, very gently tug on the cutting.  If it doesn't slip right out of the medium, it has rooted!!!  Coleus roots quickly, about 4-6 days. Soon you will see adventitious roots covered with very fine hairs at the soil line.  Check the water when you check the cuttings, you may need to lightly water.  After the plants have rooted and are established, you can transfer to a larger pot.  When transplanting, these may shock, because they go from a humid atmosphere to a dry atmosphere.  Before transplanting, you may need to acclimate to normal atmosphere by lifting the lid or opening the plastic for periods of time.

This is so much fun for kids to watch.  My two farmhands have loved seeing the roots form from stems.  It's a little awe inspiring for kids and adults alike.

This works with other plants too, here is a list of plants that can be vegetatively propagated by stem tip cuttings:

*most herbs propagate easily from stem tip cuttings*

Aluminum plant
Arrowhead plant
Crown of Thorns
Dieffenbachia (dumbcane)
Kalanchoe (brophyllum)
Velvet plant
Wandering Jew

Plus, many more...

Have fun with this!


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