Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
September, 2008
Regional Report

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I can't lose this vibrant coleus so I'll take cuttings to overwinter indoors!

Start Your Mother's Day Plants (Really!)

As I walked by my pot of coleus at the back door on a beautifully sunny, cool day, I was struck again at how I really want to have that same coleus next year. The color is more vibrant than any I've seen, and rather than risk not being able to find it in the garden centers next year, I'm going to take cuttings now and grow them through the winter.

It may seem early to be thinking about Mother's Day, but taking cuttings now to grow them into pretty little plants for next May seems a prudent thing to do. What mother wouldn't enjoy receiving a perky little maroon coleus tied with a bright ribbon, or a fragrant rosemary for the windowsill?

Success at growing cuttings indoors in winter means a commitment to giving them plenty of light. Fluorescent light fixtures are perfectly serviceable, and all you need to remember is to give the plants about 12 to 15 hours of light about 3 or 4 inches from the plants. Putting the light fixtures on chains and hooks is a simple way of raising and lowering them as needed. And a $10 timer is worth its weight in gold so you don't have to remember to turn lights on and off.

There are many plants that make great cuttings. Coleus, of course, is one of them. Take cuttings about 2 inches long and make sure that at least one leaf node is buried. As the plants root, pinch them regularly to make them sprout from the side buds for a full, bushy plant.

Impatiens also cut well. Take cuttings about 2 inches long and dip the cut ends in rooting hormone, available at the local garden center. Once they've rooted, be sure to grow them somewhat dry since they are prone to rotting. Pinch out any flowers that form since they take away energy from the roots.

Rosemary plants can be propagated by cuttings, although they take a little more care since they are technically woody plants just like any other shrub. Snip 2-1/2-inch stems from new growth on an established plant. Clip off the bottom leaves and dip in rooting powder. Rosemary roots best if you put a cover over the cuttings to keep the humidity high until they root. Once they are established, pot them in individual pots and keep them under lights. They are best grown in very cool conditions, and keep pinching the tips out to make them bushy.

Thyme and Sage
You can propagate thyme and sage the same way as rosemary. Just make sure to keep a close eye on them and pot them in individual pots as soon as they are rooted. You should be well on your way to having wonderful gifts and plants for your own garden next spring.

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