Propagating Annuals from Cuttings

By now many of our annual plants in the garden are gorgeous to overgrowing! It will be hard to watch these prized flowers die after the first frost. Fortunately, some annuals can be propagated from cuttings and brought indoors during the winter. This is a great way to extend their beauty inside and reduce the cost of annual flowers for next spring.

Annuals such as sweet potato vine, coleus, geranium, impatiens, begonia, and plectranthus are easy to root from cuttings. Below is a brief outline of the process.

  1. Remove a 2 to 4 inch stem tip with a clean, sharp knife.
  2. Gently remove the leaves from the lower half of the cut stem or cutting.
  3. Dip the cut end into a rooting hormone, if available. Many garden centers will sell rooting hormones. Rooting hormone is not required for all cuttings.
  4. Carefully, insert the cut end into a container filled with moist perlite (available at garden centers). Several cuttings can be placed in a 6-inch container.
  5. Water lightly.
  6. Cover the container with a clear plastic bag to create a tent over the cutting or cuttings. Secure the plastic with a rubber band around the base of the container.
  7. Place covered containers in a location receiving indirect light for several weeks. Some condensation should form inside the plastic.
  8. Check the perlite regularly to ensure that it stays moist. Water lightly if needed. Remove any leaves or cuttings that are discolored or moldy.

Most cuttings form roots in 4 to 6 weeks. Gently tug on the stem tips to see if they are rooted. If there is some resistance during the "tug test", the cuttings may have formed fine roots. When the roots are at least 1 inch long, they are ready for transplanting into individual containers. After transplanting move rooted cuttings into well-lit locations for optimal growing.

This article originally appeared in the August 23, 2002 issue, p. 113.

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