How To Propagate Petunias, Wax Begonias & Impatiens for Winter Bloom Indoors

August 5, 2009

YES, I KNOW IT’S ONLY AUGUST, but I’m preparing my petunias, wax begonias and impatiens for winter bloom in the house. By starting new plants from stem cuttings now, I’ll have a bevy of fresh, young beauties — and scent from the petunias — ready to bloom in the window garden just as the first snow falls.

There’s no trick to propagating petunias, wax begonias and impatiens. As illustrated below, simply cut off a two- or three-inch length of fresh green growth from the parent plant, and remove all but the top three or four leaves. Remove also any flowers or flower-buds that are present. Finally, insert the lower inch of stem into a crocked pot of light, porous potting-soil. Be sure to pack the soil firmly around the stem.

For petunias, insert three cuttings in a 5- or 6-inch pot for an attractive specimen plant. Limit wax begonia and impatiens cuttings to one stem per 4-inch pot.

Water the soil mixture well. Then set the pots in a light, but not sunny window (or outdoors in shade), for a rooting-period of 2-3 weeks. During this time keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Too much moisture will lead to stem decay. When new growth is evident, move the young plants to a sunny south or east exposure, and begin feeding with a high-phosphorous formula.

If rooted in August, impatiens and wax begonias will flower from November on. Petunias are a little slower; buds usually form in December, with bloom from January on.

Winter color is not the only benefit that propagation affords. In early spring I usually strike more cuttings, to produce yet another new crop of plants. These, when all danger of frost has past, are planted in window boxes, hanging baskets, and in the open garden. Now, that’s a lot of beauty — for free.

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Related Posts:
How to Make Your Own Potting Soil
Overwintering Tender Herbs & Annuals
The Window Garden in Autumn

Comments

  1. Gardenlady says:

    I have grown impatiens indoors, but never petunias. How fragrant they must be in the dead of winter!

  2. Justin says:

    This probably explains why I've had no luck overwintering my impatiens. When I dig them up and pot them in the fall, they always die after a few weeks. I'll try the cutting method later this month.

  3. Gardenlady – petunias are indeed very fragrant indoors – especially on a cold winter's morning.

    Justin – impatiens, when lifted from the open garden and forced into pots usually fail because they can't stand having their roots meddled with. Also, an abrupt change in humidity causes severe leaf-drop. New plants, started from cuttings of old, adapt to indoor life quite readily.

  4. Sandra says:

    If I could have petunias blooming in my house when its 10 degrees outside, I wouldn't mind winter so much!

    I'm a petunia fanatic, so I'll have to try propagating mine for winter. I love the sweet scent.

  5. Andrew Thompson says:

    I like the idea of having these three annuals – petunias, impatiens and wax begonias – blooming indoors in winter. Then, summer never really ends.

  6. Hi! I've attempted propagation by Petunia cuttings several times but they keep dying on me. Should it be in a more shaded area?

  7. Mel says:

    Thank you! I am bookmarking your site because your articles are easy to understand and follow :) Winter goes on forever here in the Pacific NW, so I will be trying to propagate some of my flowers.

  8. Chris and his Petunia – first, welcome to A Garden for the House; next, sorry for the delayed response! In summer, I set my petunia cuttings on the shaded and sheltered front porch; during the cold season, propagation efforts take place at a light (not sunny) window or beneath fluorescents.

    Mel – welcome, and thank you for your kind words!

  9. GothamDan says:

    If i have a very bright north facing window, but no direct sun, will the petunias take?

  10. GothamDan – Although petunias will root in a bright north window, they do require full sun for respectable winter bloom. Do you not have a sunny east window where you might place them once rooted?

    Wax begonias and impatiens will root AND flower well in a north window, providing it is fully light.

  11. Wendy says:

    Hi, I have some petunias which have produced beautiful flowers all summer, but the leaves have turned yellow and the stems are spindly. I live in mid-France and the plants have a southern exposure, the summer has been fairly hot and wet. Can I winter over these petunias, if so, how do I do that? Thank you for any advice you can give.

  12. Welcome, Wendy. You can overwinter petunias – I do this each autumn. First, cut the plants back to within 3 inches of their lives. Next, put them in smaller pots. These will grow on without a hitch, and in good light will bloom from January on. Be sure to read my post “Overwintering Tender Herbs & Annuals”. See you again soon, I hope!

  13. Theresa Jurevicius says:

    Hi Kevin! I remember when I was a young girl my Aunt (whom I was named after) always propagated her impatients, geraniums and begonias :) I always wondered how she did it; and I shall try this method this winter, THANK YOU for all you do :) You’re always an inspiration!!!

  14. Theresa – Your aunt was (is) a very wise woman. Hope you have fun with this propagation project — there is nothing like having petunias, impatiens and wax begonias blooming indoors in the depths of winter.

  15. Candy Tiley says:

    I was wondering if you would hold out any hope if I have impatiens that I haven’t gotten into the garden yet but are still alive. I have them under a grow light but they are looking very unhappy and haven’t bloomed. Do you think I should plant them now and hope I get some flowers before October? Or can I pot them for growing indoors as you suggest? Or do you think it would be best to take cuttings rather than the plant? Guidance appreciated:)

  16. trillium in badgerstate says:

    Is it possible to do this with coleus also? Geraniums?

    Appreciate all your advice and encouragement! And your “to do” lists!!

  17. Hi Candy – I’d take cuttings from your existing impatiens, and grow them on indoors. If you intend to grow them under lights, start with new fluorescent tubes. I refresh my own “grow lights” (I use “cool white” fluorescents) every September.

    trillium in badgerstate – I propagate both coleus and geraniums from cuttings. Coleus grows roots practically overnight. Geraniums take about 3 weeks to form roots. You can find more details about the indoor culture of geraniums in my 2009 article “Zonal Geraniums Big & Small.”

  18. Heather says:

    Hi Kevin, I live in a town home and so, have all container plants. My flowers are doing wonderfully, however, as it often goes in Colorado, we got our 1st frost last night. Though we will still see warm days through Thanksgiving, it won’t be consistent. I am looking to over winter my plants not only for their beauty, but also for use in the spring. Would you recommend using clippings or can I acclimate my pots to being inside? Aside from wax begonias, petunias and impatiens, I have snapdragons, coleus (I usually use clippings) as well as some potted greens such as Vinca Vine and grasses. Not sure how much I should keep and space is limited!

  19. Hi Heather – Snap dragons are half-hardy annuals — they often return if you leave them outdoors. Mine do, anyway, and I think I’m in a colder zone than you. As for wax begonias, petunias, impatiens and coleus, I always take cuttings. This way the plants can be grown in smallish, “house-size” pots instead of the big containers we usually use out of doors.

  20. Great tips! I pinned this one!

  21. Henrietta says:

    Hi I shall try overwintering petunias I have done geraniums and impatients in the past I do have a question however about overwintering aaa cotton lavender plant. (I could not resist buying it as the price was right 10 cents) I live in zone 5 and I believe it is a zone 6 plant. My question is this how would you winter it? Should I bring the plant indoors or cover it for winter protection?

  22. Edwin Reffell says:

    Within a week my Busy Lizzies root well in water in the sun. Impatiens New Guinea takes longer but roots fine in water which I prefer to soil for rooting as I usually succeed using that method. I have put recently Petunia and Begonia semperflorens cuttings in pots of soil on a heated strip with a cover over them (I call that an electric propagator). Will that be too humid so I should take off the cover and water them a little every day instead? If so how much should I water them? I do not want them to rot or mildew. The other week I put a cutting of Pelargonium (“Geranium”) in a pot without a cover on the heated strip. Previously my Pelargonium cuttings almost invariably rotted in water and mildewed in soil with a plastic bag over it with holes for ventilation and placed over a radiator. I have had no trouble raising them from seed. How often and how much should I water a Pelargonium cutting? If this one rots too then I give up. I have sown Snapdragons twice this year, first with old then with new seeds. Nothing came up. A friend gave me Snapdragon plants which I planted in an urn on my glazed balcony in part shade facing south. There are no buds and greenfly is attacking them. Half an hour ago therefore I planted them outside my flat window which faces north. For me Pelargoniums and Snapdragons like Asters are definitely not easy to grow. When it is cooler I shall take cuttings of Snapdragons and see if I can get them to root. Despite my failure with these plants I do not consider myself a gardener dummy. My orchids flower again and again, my Azalea which I bought in bad condition in January has buds and I have been eating my cherry tomatoes since 9 June sown with seeds collected from last year’s harvest.

  23. Marianna says:

    Thank you for the information! Going to give this a try with my not so green thumb!

    Just curious…if I have my petunia’s in a pot outdoors can I bring the pot indoors or will this shock the plant therefore causing my plant to die? Or is there something I can do to prevent this from happening?

    I look forward to your reply!

  24. Hi Marianna – I’ve always found it easier to overwinter my own petunias by taking cuttings. Why? Because a petunia which has been growing since spring will be horribly root-bound by September. It will also be worn out, and thus prone to failure if brought indoors. For more detailed advice on overwintering petunias (with lots of pictures!), be sure to read this recent article.

  25. Marianna says:

    @kevin Lee Jacobs
    Kevin thank you so much for your quick reply! I don’t particularly do well with plants of any type …honestly and sadly I kill most. So believe me when I tell you I truly appreciate your your knowledge and expertise! ~Thank You, again!

  26. Susan says:

    I just took some impatiens cuttings from outside and potted them inside in a south facing window that doesn’t receive much direct sunlight due to an awning (I don’t have another option).

    They leaves look very wilted. Is this normal during the rooting process or has something gone wrong ?

    I watered well and some water collected in the drainage plate – perhaps too much water ? Or not enough light ?

    I used potting soil for cuttings.

  27. Hi Susan – When the leaves of a cutting start to wilt, dry air is usually the culprit. To boost humidity, either spritz the leaves with water several times each day, or place a clear plastic bag over the pot. Or, even better, plant your cuttings in a make-shift terrarium, such as the one I use for propagating African violets (story and pix in this post).

  28. Susan says:

    Thank you Kevin. Yes, the air is dry in here for sure. I’ll follow your suggestions.

  29. kate says:

    I have some still live in the pots outside Petunias, looking more brownish green, now on October 16th. Do you think it’s too late to put them in the potting soil inside, maybe? I’m in MA and we haven’t had a hard frost yet, but mighty cool nights, 30′s, 40′s.
    Thanks, Kate

  30. Hi Kate – One December, I took cuttings from severely frost-bitten petunias. To my surprise, each cutting grew roots. So I suspect it’s not too late to propagate your own plants. Water the mother plant well the day before you intend to snip stems.

    Be sure to read my most recent petunia propagation article here (lots of pictures):http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2013/07/how-i-propagate-petunias-for-winter-bloom/

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