Growing Coleus

How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Coleus Plants

Coleus Leaves

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. 

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Planting

  • 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. 

Care

  • 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.

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Pests/Diseases

  • Insect pests to watch for are aphids, mealy bug, and whiteflies
  • Stem rot and root rot can occur if soil is too wet.

Recommended Varieties

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.

Growing Coleus

Botanical Name Plectranthus scutellarioides
Plant Type Foliage Plant
Sun Exposure Full Sun, Part Sun
Soil Type Any
Soil pH Neutral
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Varies
Hardiness Zones 10, 11
Special Features