Take cuttings of annuals now while the plant is in its prime

cutting from a coleus
Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

If you want to take cuttings of annuals to take inside for the winter, now is is the time to do it.

Cuttings need to be taken while the plants are in their prime, not after they start to fade, said Lyn Chimera of Lessons from Nature.

The coleus in the photo can be rooted easily placing the cutting in a glass or small vase of water. Tip: Cut off the leaves on the part of the stem that will be submerged in the water. Submerged leaves will rot.

Get more tips on propagating plants from David Clark here. Clark, horticulturist and CNLP, teaches horticulture classes at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.

If you have a sunny window, you may be able to enjoy that plant inside all winter, and perhaps plant it again in your garden next spring.

UPDATE: So many of you are asking for details on what to do during the winter with your annuals. Here is more information from Lyn Chimera:

First thing is to bring the plants inside while they are in their prime and when night time temps get below 50. With as cold as it has been overnight that would be soon. Also give them time to adjust to the temp and light difference by putting on a porch or sheltered area for 3 or 4 days.

If your plant is already in a pot, be sure to check for insects and trim off dead or damaged leaves. If you’re digging up a plant and repotting, the same rule applies. I always cut off blooms to lessen the strain on the plants adjustment. 

There will be a period of adjustment as many plants might drop some leaves. This is normal. 

If it’s a large plant you can take cuttings and start new plants. Keeping the cuttings on the dry side once they are established is helpful.

Pinch back the plant so it doesn’t get leggy.

Sometimes they get mildew and can be treated with a fungicide.

Update #2: See David Clark’s advice and tips from readers in comments.

15 Comments on “Take cuttings of annuals now while the plant is in its prime

  1. Connie I tried to reply twice to your question 9f cutting the leaves but technology wouldn’t cooperate so Anyway….

    I cut part of the individual leaves off. If I have a cutting with several leaves on it I just cut par of each leaf off. If it is a very small cutting with only a couple of,eaves I usually just leave it as is and don’t cut the leaves.

  2. Connie you know how you would trim a leaf that would get damaged so that it looks like a normal leaf, wel I would take a single leaf and and cut it in half. I do that with each leaf on the cutting. Then I put a clear cover over the cutting to keep the humidity up around the cutting while itroots.

  3. Connie you know how you would trim a leaf that would get damaged so that it looks like a normal leaf, wel I would take a single leaf and and cut it in half. I do that with each leaf on the cutting

  4. Thanks, David. I really appreciate you saying that the limiting factor is how much light you get through your window. I’m not a bad gardener; I just don’t have sunny windows!

  5. Hello All-
    This is a great article, and there are many ways to propagate plants.
    Let me see if I can be of assistance along with Lyn Chimera’s advice.
    Lyn’s RX for acclimatization is perfect!
    Plants that have been growing outdoors (and that you want to bring indoors to save for next growing season) may react by dropping leaves, as they adjust to lower indoor light conditions. There is just not enough energy in the plant to support all of that foliage that will transpire moisture, without necessarily providing sites for photosynthesis of said foliage as the plant is moving indoors to lesser light intensities.
    The brightest window in a home really only provides plants as much light as a shady spot outdoors, due to the transmission of the light energy through glass windows, and especially through newer high-energy-efficient windows, window coverings such as curtains and toppers, and the length of daylight hours.
    As Penny mentioned, removing 1/2 the total length of the leaf will reduce moisture loss, but then will also remove 1/2 of the leaf’s potential photosynthetic abilities…maybe leading to further foliar abscission (loss of leaves/i.e. deciduous woody plants in fall). What is one to do…
    If you are propagating, yes, a covering over the cuttings such as a cloche or plastic baggie, will be of assistance regulating moisture loss of the cutting(s).
    The most limiting growth factor in our homes is the light intensity. LED options such as panels, or replacement full-spectrum LED tubes (which can go into any existing florescent fixture) would be my best recommendation. Prices have lowered to “reasonable” out-of-pocket expense…and they last over 50 years, only pennies per day to operate.
    As Lyn prescribes, fertilizer in February would be much appreciated by windowsill plants. For plants under full-spectrum lighting, nutrients should be applied at 1/2 to 1/4 strength weakly/weekly. For plants not under supplemental lighting, I would forgo nutrient additions until days lengthen in spring. Don’t forget to change the water in rooting glasses occasionally, as it can foul in a couple of weeks. Grandma taught me to add a smallish chunk of charcoal (not briquette), to the glass – it can help absorb impurities.
    My experience has been that even with the best indoor lighting you can afford, full sun annuals cuttings such as Zinnia, Marigold, and Cosmos will most likely peter out by next spring….just not enough light hours.
    As Lyn says, Coleus is a great plant to take cuttings from, and do follow her instructions. She is a learned plantswoman!

    Kind regards,
    David R. Clark, CNLP

  6. Penny, when you say you cut the leaves in half, you mean you cut the leaves by half, right? You keep the leaves whole, but cut off half the number of leaves. Is that correct?

  7. Great advice! I do this, and am actually planning to add a shelving unit to an upstairs window for a second area to overwinter – that and my basement for things that go dormant. I find that by spring often those annuals are leggy and sad, but as soon as the weather warms they are happy again!

  8. I am doing cuttings and seed collecting now of my Salvias. You have to take cuttings while the plant is actively growing. I usually cut the leaves in half to lessen the stress on the cutting and make a cloche to go over the cutting to keep the moisture leaves up until the cutting develops roots. Some very easy to root plants such as water wise plants can be rooted in a glass of water

  9. To Linda above. Try moving you cutting/plant around to windows with more light as the winter season drags on. Don’t hesitate to feed the cutting. I usually use those Job’s Food Spikes beginning the end of Feb.-early Mar. Linda M.

  10. Linda, I don’t have any advice. I think I can’t nurse them through the winter because they need more light and I don’t have any sunny windows. Let me see if I can find out more.

  11. Do you have any advice about how to keep the plant that results alive until the next outdoor growing season? Mine usually die off just before it gets warm enough outside.

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