Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Coleus Plants
Known for its colorful foliage, Coleus is a wonderful, low-maintance plant to add to summer flower beds as well as containers. This tender annual comes in many shades of color, leaf texture, and sizes.
Coleus are in the Lamiaceae, or mint, family. While traditionally shade-tolerant, some modern varieties will thrive in the sun, too. Be sure to check with your garden nursery on the variety.
Leaf colors include: Green, Yellow, Pink, Red, Purple, and Maroon. The plant does bloom occasionally at the end of long stalks; trim the stalks for a more compact, bushy plant.
- Coleus can easily be started from seed indoors about 10 weeks before the last frost date in your region.
- Set plants out after all danger of frost is past.
- Choose a spot that is protected from wind. Coleus branches break easily.
- Coleus needs well-draining soil.
- Water the plant thoroughly after planting.
- During the first week after planting, keep the root ball moist but not too wet.
- Water when top inch of soil is dry.
- Pinch growing shoots of young plants frequently to encourage branching and bushier growth.
- Fertilize in mid-summer with a liquid fertilizer at half the recommended strength.
- Cut off flower spikes in late summer to extend the life of the plant and growth of new colorful leaves.
- In cool regions, take cuttings from your plants before the first frost in the fall and place them in water to root.
- Plant the rooted cuttings in small pots and keep near a sunny window for the winter.
There are more than 600 varieties of coleus to choose from!
Coleus for semi-shade:
- ‘Brilliancy’ has bright red leaves with green scalloped edges.
- ‘Fishnet Stockings’ has lime-green leaves with dark purple veins.
- ‘Mardi Gras’ is compact and has red, green and yellow leaves.
- ‘Japanese Giant’ has big burgundy leaves with pink and violet highlights.
Coleus for partial to full sun:
- ‘Pineapple’ has bright lime-gold leaves with burgundy stems.
- ‘Solar Shadow’ has green leaves with dark red serrated edges and tips.
- ‘Alabama Sunset’ has brick-red leaves with yellow edges.
Wit & Wisdom
- Coleus was a favorite plant in Victorian gardens.
- Coleus is a member of the mint and dead nettle family.
- Coleus was first discovered in 1853 in the mountains of Java, which is Indonesia’s most populous island today.