How to trim a coleus?

hem_krishJune 21, 2009

I bought three coleus plants. They haven't been trimmed till date and are quite leggy. Here's a pic of one of them. This one stands erect while the other two are viney but the stems are semi hard - not like pothos. I want to make the plants bushy and compact. Can I straight away trim these and plant them in soil? I'm concerned because the stems are semi hard and not like soft tips from which I can take cuttings.

Also, I read somewhere that these plants are quite hardy and can be pruned down to the soil. Once I am done with my cuttings, can I prune the remaining to about 1 inch from the soil (roots intact) and expect these to grow again?

http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/i5s-3F9lY_8DitCCvoaj4w?feat=directlink

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Mentha(9 CA)

Since your plant is pretty devoid of leaves, if you trim all the way down you're likely to kill the plant. What I'd suggest (for now) is to find the two top leaves, probably very small and pinch those off. Do this on each branch. It doesn't matter how long the branch is as long as it has at least two nodes or pairs of leaves on a branch when finished. This will cause back budding and make a fuller plant without taking much of the plant. Since it is variegated, I'd suggest putting it in a window which gets morning sun. You want it to have light, but not enough to bleach the color out.

When the plant has back budded and developed some mature leaves near the ground, then you can cut it back to about 1/3 the height. Continue to pinch the new growth when you get about 4-6 pairs of leaves on a stem, this will keep it bushy. Don't expect to get too much growth right now as you are in your winter. but feed it a diluted fertilizer now then wait until spring to feed again.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 12:31PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Good advice, M. ;o) All I would add is to get the plant outdoors and in the shade. SOME morning or very late afternoon sun will shorten those internodes considerably & make the plant MUCH bushier.

The results of attentive pinching:

Al

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 1:51PM
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Mentha(9 CA)

Lovely coleus Al! I especially like the one in the second picture. I'm more partial to the smaller, darker leaved ones. I may have to go out and find some.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 6:34PM
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hem_krish

Wow!!! I love the first one - its a nice sunny color and its exactly the height I am looking for. Do you think they'll do well in an east facing window in office? Less humidity and a bit cool though.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 9:20PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The one you like is (actually 'WAS' - it's several years old with a 'trunk' an inch thick & residing with a friend now, growing as a bonsai) under lights indoors. I keep the humidity around 60% in the grow room, which is why they do well. 'Cool' isn't a problem unless it's below about 16* C. Most people don't get very good results growing them indoors. You'll just have to try your hand at it and see. ;o)

Al

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 9:22AM
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hem_krish

Well I'm guessing the temperatures in office are around 20-24 degress C. I do get a lot of bright indirect light though. I just finished hacking up all my coleuses (except the tall one in the picture above) and planted them in several pots. The stumps with the roots, I've left outside; the ones which are stem cuttings - I potted them in sterile soil in a small pot, put that in a bigger pot and covered with plastic wrap. Will keep you posted on how it goes.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 5:32AM
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hem_krish

Coleus question - When do I know that my cuttings have rooted? Its been about 10 days now, the cuttings in the plastic wrap have not wilted - though one of them has lost some color. When I look closely, I see that some hair-like roots have developed on the lower branches. Is that normal? Can I get rid of the plastic wrap and expose them to the elements now?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 11:13AM
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Mentha(9 CA)

It doesn't take coleus that long to root, I've seen some root within days. I'd say with the roots above the soil, you could probably take them out of the plastic.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 2:36PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Note: Please do it slowly. Poke a few holes in the bag or snip off a corner to let a little dry air in, and gradually expose them to the drier air over the course of a week or so. The leaves will collapse if you move them from 100% humidity to dry air.

Al

    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 2:41PM
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hem_krish

Makes sense - on a side note, why do people advise that the plastic wrap should not touch the leaves? I've heard of people making a grid of sticks and wrapping plastic around that. Some of my leaves were touching the plastic wrap and I dont see any damage.

I'd love to post some pics of my coleuses (coleii?). I just moved and cant find my usb connector. darn!

    Bookmark   July 4, 2009 at 12:17AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Leaves will eventually rot where they touch the bag as bacteria grows in the stagnant water that is held between the leaf and bag by capillary attraction.

The plural of Coleus is Coleus. The names of most genera are used to indicate either a single plant or the collective genus.

Al

    Bookmark   July 4, 2009 at 10:43AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hem,

Broadly speaking, the best indicator of when cuttings have rooted is when one sees new growth up top -- that's a sure sign & does't depend on tugging on the plant to check (which breaks the tiny new roots we're trying to encourage).

I THINK the thing w/ recommendations that the plastic wrap not touch the cutting or its leaves is 'cause it may cause rot on the leaves either by the contact btwn the two, OR by trapping moisture on parts Of the cuttings.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2009 at 10:45AM
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hem_krish

Thanks guys! Here are some pics of the coleus I rooted (twin pots) and some new ones I couldnt resist buying. Have I potted them too densely you think? From Houseplants From Houseplants From Houseplants

Hemant

    Bookmark   July 4, 2009 at 10:59AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I would pinch the centers of each branch out of the plants in the top pic, especially the one on the right. It will make them very 'bushy'.

The plant in the second pic would be cut back severely, so the main 'trunk' only has 4 branches coming off of it, & those I would pinch back to 1 pair of leaves each.

I would remove the grass from the plant in the bottom pic & cut it back severely as well. Your plants will look MUCH better if they are full at the bottom, & that won't happen if the top is shading the bottom branches out. They are much more attractive if they are growing in a mound, and it's very easy to accomplish.

Al

    Bookmark   July 4, 2009 at 1:42PM
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hem_krish

Hey Al,
I hope you are reading this - my coleus has done exceptionally well in office. Here is an "after" pic of the coleus pictured above. From Houseplants

I'd like to know how to make the leaves big all round. The leaves are large only at the front, behind they are pretty much the size they started with - must have grown a bit maybe. Will turning them toward the sun make them larger? Also, I havent pinched them at the top yet - am waiting for them to grow a couple of inches more.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 9:43AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Resist that urge to "let them grow a couple of inches", and pinch pinch pinch if you want the fullest plants. If you pinch a stem, the leaves behind the pinch will produce 2 stems from axils. Let each of those 2 stems get two sets of leaves on them, and then pinch both back to 1 set of leaves. This doubles the number of stems and leaves every time you pinch a new generation, but it makes LOTS of small leaves. It makes you look like a FABULOUS gardener because no one else will have plants as full. ;o)

If you want big leaves, you have to let the plant grow w/o pinching. I don't know why you have some small leaves & some large ones on the plant, but it's not unusual. It could be from an injury, a light issue (bright light reduces leaf size), because of the position of the branch on the stem (better water/nutrient supply) ...... and sometimes an entire branch just decides it wants to be the boss & grows with superior vitality for seemingly no rhyme or reason.

Strong work! ;o)

Al

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 4:30PM
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