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Hi, I'm Jennifer, owner and lead designer at Petals a floral design firm in Boulder, Colorado.  Along with my husband and two children, I  grow my own organic blooms using the greenest and most sustainable processes available.  

This blog is where I explore topics from floral design, wedding planning, organic farming and gardening, sustainable living, and our family's quest to find the perfect farm! 

I'm so glad you are here! 


Propagating plants from cuttings: Dahlias, Coleus, and Jade Plants

Over the years I have attempted to propagate a lot of different plants from cuttings because...who doesn't love a free plant? And with my love of plants, even starting a business around them isn't always enough to keep me well enough stocked.

But with propagating, I have more than enough plants...just kidding...that's not a thing.

In this article I will share all that I have learned over years of propagating plants from cuttings and give specific insights into my three favorite plants to use this money saving technique on.

Please, learn from my mistakes, this article contains YEARS worth of tips gained from MANY trials and errors.

Propagating plants from cuttings: Coleus

cat statue in a pot of propagated coleus of all different colors
I grew all of these from cuttings in one summer

I chose to start with coleus because they are the easiest and, in my opinion, the most satisfying. My love of coleus started a few years ago when I was struggling to fill my front porch flower pots with enough color without going broke. This is when I discovered my first coleus, a super producer called Dragon Heart Coleus. I foolishly bought three of these bad boys not knowing that with coleus all you need is a single stem and within a few months you will be stocked for LIFE.

After my first season with the Dragon Heart Coleus I went a bit crazy and started collecting coleus and by collecting I mean stealing. Let me explain. A lot of the higher end shopping centers in our town will fill the medians with coleus in late summer for a burst of color that lasts until the first frost. When this happens the race is on for me to sneak a cutting of a branch or two before the frost kills them all.

I have also experimented with growing coleus from seed which, if you know how to start seeds indoors, coleus is easy as can be. The best part about this is that you never know what color or patterns you will get as each seed has unique DNA much like humans. Maybe you'll grow the next never-seen-before-sensation! I know I have a personal favorite that I grew from seed that is chartreuse with what looks like paint splatters in a deep purple/fuchsia.

But how do you successfully take a cutting of a coleus?

Simple. No rooting hormone, no humidity dome, no soil, just water.

propagation tubes in golden frames hold burgundy coleus cuttings with visible roots.
look at the roots on these babies after just 1 week!

  1. Pick the woodiest stem you can find on the plant. This means that when you shake the stem gently the top doesn't wiggle but is firm.

  2. Make a cut a few inches down with at least two sets of leaves left on both the cutting and the mother plant.

  3. Strip all but the top most or top two layers of leaves from your cutting. If your cutting has flowers or seed heads on the top pinch these off so that all of the plant's energy goes into root production.

  4. Place the cutting in a glass of water or propagating tube and leave in a warm spot away from indirect light.

  5. Check the water levels daily as these suckers take a lot of water, especially cuttings with larger leaves. I have found that plants left in clear containers produce roots faster and the fastest in clear plastic bottles.

  6. Within ten days to three weeks your cutting will have developed lots of roots.

  7. Transplant your cutting into a pot of very very moist soil (so moist that its basically crumbly mud). Keep moist for the next month.

  8. After a month of babying your cutting you can plant it out (if your outdoor temperatures are above freezing) or move to regular plant care where you water every week or so.

  9. Within a month or two your cutting may have enough side shoots that you can start the process all over again!

Every year before the first frost I now take a few cuttings of my favorite coleus plants (who am I kidding, they are all my favorite) and bring them in for the winter. By the time warmer weather rolls around a few months later I now always have more than enough plants to fill my front porch containers, for free!

Propagating plants from cuttings: Jade

We move from Coleus to Jade because Jade are slightly more complicated but NOTHING compared dahlia cuttings, which are the hardest. Both Jade and Dahlia's need a lot of humidity to take successfully take as cuttings. Jade plants only require two more elements than the coleus and you can plant directly into soil so that part is easier.

Successfully take cuttings of Jade plants:

a jade cutting that has developed roots.
check out the roots on this cutting!

  1. Remove a branch that is at least two inches long and has two sets of leaves from your jade plant.

  2. Wiggle off all but the last two sets of leaves.

  3. Dip your cutting and the ends of any leaves that came off without tearing into rooting hormone.

  4. Place your stems and leaves into a clear dish or pot filled with at least 3 inches of clean and moist potting soil or perlite. I like to use tall clear vases with a wide opening or a clear plastic tubber-ware will work. You want the top edge of the container to be taller than your cutting.

  5. Burry stems to just clear of the first set of leaves. Just press the tips of your leaves into the soil. Spray soil and your plant liberally with water.

  6. Cover dish with plastic wrap (this is why it helps if the dish edges are taller than the plant.

  7. Place in a warm spot that gets indirect sun. Check that your soil remains moist and remove any rotting material as needed.

  8. After about 12 weeks your cuttings should have developed sufficient enough roots to remove them from the humidity controlled dish and to plant them out in their own pots of soil .

  9. After about a month of keeping this soil moist you can begin to let the soil fully dry out between watering.

Propagating plants from cuttings: Dahlias

Now that you have mastered taking cuttings from Coleus and Jade plants you are ready for the master level: Dahlias. We grow hundreds of Dahlias at Petals Flower Farm every year. Because of our climate (zone 5) we have to dig them and overwinter the tubers every fall. We then start them indoors in late February before planting out in May. You can read about growing dahlias here and caring for dahlias here and how to split dahlias here.

Propagating dahlias from cuttings is super exciting as you can multiply your stock for free (and since dahlia tubers can cost upwards of $25 each that is big savings). HOWEVER it has taken me 3 years of failure to learn how to successfully grow dahlias from cuttings.

Let me tell you: The key is humidity.

Successfully take cuttings of dahlias:

Raspberry pom pom dahlias from Petals Flower Farm
Dahlias grown from cuttings

  1. When your dahlia is at least 6 inches tall you want to pinch the dahlia. This involves removing the central stem so that the lateral shoots turn into additional branches and produce more flowers. See here. For a cutting you want at least 3 solid inches of stem on your pinching.

  2. If what you pinched has a hollow stem, toss it. Its sad but it won't grow, I know. The best way to avoid this is by cutting deep into the plant where the stem is woodier, but this requires waiting to pinch your mother plant until its more mature.

  3. Remove all but the top set of leaves from your cutting. Leaving extra leaves will just cause your plant to loose water more quickly and that is our worst enemy until it grows roots of its own.

  4. Dip your pinched dahlia in rooting hormone.

  5. Place about 3 inches of dirt into a plastic pot or cup (Starbucks cups work great). Pop your cutting into the dirt about 1 inch deep making sure the leaves are not resting in the dirt.

  6. Water your cutting deeply, like until the dirt is basically mud.

  7. Put your entire potted up cutting in a ziplock bag and seal it up. You can also cover the top with saran wrap.

  8. Place in a sunny spot with indirect light. Check every week or so that the humidity stays high and add water as necessary.

  9. After at least 8 weeks check to see if your cutting has roots by gently tugging on the stem. If you meet resistance there are roots! I usually wait 12 weeks before removing the humidity cover and treating it like a normal plant.

Want to know a secret:

This fall, right before the last frost I plan on taking cuttings from many of my dahlias and setting them up as cuttings. If all goes according to plan, I'll have a greenhouse full of dahlias ready to bloom in February! Wahahahah!

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