Coleus Plant: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Coleus

The coleus plant is one of the best plants to grow indoors or outdoors because of its beautiful and vibrant look. The coleus plant is available in many bright shades that can completely transform the way your home looks. You can even choose a coleus plant color according to the wall paint in a room.

Apart from being available in a single color, it is also available in varieties that have multi-colored shades on the leaves. There can be a mixture of pink and green or purple and pink. This choice can be made depending on your likes and dislikes. The different color combinations of the leaves can be seen to help you in your decision before you will actually buy them.

One can find different types of coleus plants for sale at a nearby nursery or gardening center. A cutting or seeds have to be obtained in order to grow at home. This plant is suitable for potting both in the garden as well as indoors in a pot. However, while planting the seeds, one should take care that there is a space of at least two inches between two seeds so as to allow room for the plant to grow unhindered. One can either grow the coleus plant as a standalone plant or in clusters in an area of the garden.

The clusters can consist of coleus plants of different hues so as to make the garden bright and cheerful looking. The coleus plant or painted nettle plant is beautiful and can become the focal point of the garden or any indoor area. If one is looking for a specific color, one can ask a gardening expert to develop this and then bring the seeds produced by such a plant home.

Species of Interest

The species of coleus most commonly grown as a houseplant is the flame nettle or painted leaves (Coleus blumei). There are several forms and hybrids of coleus from which to choose. You might be interested in collecting some of the following:
‘Brilliancy’: crimson-red leaves with golden-yellow edges.
‘Golden Bedder’: lemon-yellow leaves, which turn a deeper golden color in bright light.
‘Pink Rainbow’: copper-red leaves with green bands and bright red veins.
‘Sunset’: pale-green leaves with a pink patch in the center.

How to Grow Coleus – Planting, Growing and Propagation


The coleus plant needs a certain amount of care to be able to grow properly. The right amount of sunlight and adequate watering is required so as to ensure that it does not become unhealthy or that it will not die. At least six hours of uninterrupted sunlight is required for the coleus plant to be able to grow. Daily watering is also required for its development. Plants that receive the maximum sunlight showcase the most vibrant colors in their leaves as they grow. A certain amount of taming and pruning is also required. This can be done on a frequent basis to ensure the orderly growth of the leaves. The flowers that grow on the plant can simply be cut off to maintain a uniform look of the leaves.

Start With Seeds Or Plants

Coleus seeds can be started indoors six weeks before the last predicted frost date by placing the seeds in a container of potting soil, or the seeds can be sown directly into outdoor flower beds or containers in spring when all danger of frost has passed. Coleus plants can be planted directly into the soil of a flower bed when the soil has warmed up in the spring and frost danger is past.

Planting Location

Coleus prefer fertile, well-drained soil. Read the plant label to determine if the type of coleus purchased grow best in sun, shade or partial shade and chose the planting location accordingly.

Coleus Care

Most gardeners don’t want coleus to bloom unless it’s for seed production. The bloom is rather insignificant and causes the plant to look leggy. To prevent the leggy bloom and force new side growth, pinch the flower spikes off as soon as they appear. Pinch off any unwanted new growth as needed to keep it looking tidy.

If seeds from the coleus are desired for re-planting the following year, allow the coleus to bloom and dry on the plant, then harvest the seeds and store until next season. Hummingbirds are attracted to coleus’ flowers, so a few permitted blooms late in the season will garner seeds and hummingbird sightings.

How To Propagate Coleus

Favorite or heirloom coleus are easy to propagate and grow throughout the winter as indoor houseplants. To propagate, cut off a 3-5 inch section from a non-flowering stem. Remove the lower leaves of the stem and place it in the cutting in a small container of good quality potting soil or perlite. Place the container with the coleus cutting in a warm, bright, indoor location out of direct sunlight and keep planting medium moist. The cutting will develop roots in four weeks and can be transplanted into a larger container for over-wintering as a houseplant. The propagated coleus can be grown year-round as a houseplant, or the new propagation can be planted outdoors next spring.

Coleus Tidbits

Coleus is a member of the mint family. All varieties are rapid growers that will fill in borders or flower bed gaps quickly. The leaf shape and architecture are almost too numerous to list include round, elongated, small, large or lobed leaves that end in ruffles, scallops, furled, fringed or serrated edges and add to the versatility. There are literally hundreds of varieties with a multitude of leaf colors to choose from.

How to Grow Coleus from Cuttings


With so many varieties of Coleus available on the market today, you could spend a fortune trying to increase your collection. Instead of going out and buying each variety, you can grow your own from stem cuttings. There are two ways to root Coleus cuttings. You can either grow them using soil or grow them in using just water.

To Grow Coleus from cuttings you will needs the following items:

  • Access to your favorite coleus plants
  • Shears
  • Small pots with good drainage
  • Water
  • Potting mix

When growing Coleus from cuttings, the first thing you need to do is prepare your growing medium. Filling each container with soil, water thoroughly. Allow all the excess water to drain out and water again to insure that all the soil has been moistened.

Next begin by taking cuttings from the Coleus plant. Choose stems that have new growth, appear to be healthy and free of diseases or illness. You can either choose to cut a whole stem or to just take tip cuttings. Either way, insure that your cuttings are 3-4 inches with at least 1 set of leave on the top of each cuttings.

Next, gently push each cuttings into the soil. You will want to be gently to insure that you don’t break the stems which will prevent them from rooting. Leave at least 1 inch in between each cutting. Depending on the size of your pots, you should be able to put 4-6 cuttings in each pot. Larger pots will be able to hold much more.

Once your cuttings are planted water them well. Allow them to drain and then place in a greenhouse, near a window or in a partly-shaded area.

With in a 1-2 weeks you should be able to see new growth and can assume that your Coleus are rooting. If you are not sure use your finger to move the dirt from around one cuttings. Gently pull the tip above the surface to check for roots. Be very careful as not to disturb the roots on other cuttings. If roots have formed you can now transplant the Coleus cuttings into larger pots.

Growing Coleus Using Water

To grow Coleus from cuttings using the water method simply take cuttings as mentioned above. Fill small cups, bottles, or other non-draining containers with perlite and fill with water. Perlite is not required but does help the process by holding up the cuttings so that they aren’t leaning or sitting on the bottom. Maintain freshwater in the containers and within 1-2 weeks you will have new cuttings. Simply pull the cuttings out from time to time or when changing the water to see the progress of your new roots.

How to Grow a Coleus Plant Indoors


Many home gardeners decide to grow a coleus plant in their house plant garden. The coleus plant is one of the most ideal plants for growing indoors, and truthfully, even the blackest thumbs in the gardening world should be able to grow a successful coleus plant indoors with minimal difficulty. In order to grow successfully indoors as a potted plant you will need to offer it five things: appropriate soil, appropriate light, food, and water and adequate pinching.

As with many other types of plants, the key to growing successful coleus begins with picking the appropriate potting soil. Picking the wrong type of potting soil is akin to providing a shoddy foundation for your house and expecting it to stand. Just as a house with a bad foundation will crumble, so too will a plant with a lousy potting mix. It is particularly susceptible to root rot, and a heavy soil will soak up too much water, leaving the plant’s roots drenched with too much water. This will ultimately kill the plant. Thus, while coleus has fairly easy standards for potting soil, in comparison to many other types of plants, but whatever you pick must be a light mixture that drains easily.

The second major aspect that a successful coleus needs in order to grow are plenty of light. If you do not live in an area that provides ample natural light, this is not only okay but might actually be better for your plant in the long run. Many growers report better, healthier, and larger plants from artificial lights rather than natural ones. But even if the plant does not get natural sunlight, it is important to grow the coleus in temperatures that range from seventy to eighty-five degrees.

The third and fourth steps to a healthy plant are water and fertilizer. Ideally, the soil of the coleus is moist, but not wet enough to become soggy, in order to help forestall any instance of root rot. Along with water, a diluted mixture of fertilizer should be added to the plant’s soil.

A fifth and final step to growing healthy coleus plants is to make sure any budding flowers are pinched off to prevent allowing to go to seed.

With plenty of food, sunshine, pruning, adequate potting soil, and cautious watering, a coleus plant can make an ideal novice entry into an indoor garden.

How to Grow a Coleus Plant Outdoors


The coleus plant, in all of its breathtaking splendor, is typically grown indoors. There are many reasons for this. The primary reason is that it requires a definite temperature in order to grow and can be easily killed if the temperatures dip too low. The easiest way to control what temperature your plant is growing in is by growing the plant indoors. A second reason the coleus is grown indoors more often than not is because the coleus is actually very easy to grow indoors. In fact, it’s one of the easiest plants you can pick as a starter plant. Despite these two factors, many coleus fanatics have begun opting to grow the coleus outdoors as well. While a bit more tricky than growing a coleus indoors, growing the plant outdoors should not be that big of a challenge.

The most essential aspect that must be kept in mind when growing the plant outdoors is that a coleus should only be planted ourtdoors once the temperature outside has reached a consistent temperature of at least fifty degrees Farenheit. Lower temperatures will kill off your plant immediately.

Another consideration is that the plant must have plenty of light. Getting the right amount of light to an outdoors coleus plant can be tricky because while they need and soak up plenty of bright, full sun, they contrarily grow quite well with a minimal amount of shade. Shade is not one hundred percent necessary for an outdoor coleus plant to thrive, and if you are in doubt about the shading for your plant, it is better to err on the side of caution of too little shade and more sun. However, coleus plants grown with adequate bright sun and minimal shade typically experience thicker foliage that is, by and large, brighter.

A third concern for your coleus plant is the soil, which must be light enough to allow the roots room to breathe. Ideally, the soil used to grow the coleus would be neutral or marginally alkaline. Fertilizers can help adjust native soils to meet this standard. Each coleus plant you seed must have at least twelve inches apart in order to help them grow.

Moisture retention is a considerable issue, also. Adequate water will keep the soil wet on top, and mulching will help if you live in a particularly dry area.

By making just a few simple changes to the typical coleus care, you can transform a highly regarded indoor plant into a gorgeous outdoor decoration as well.

Coleus Alternatives: Six Proven Annuals to Use in Place of Coleus


Coleus is widely grown as an annual for its dependable leaf color throughout its life cycle. Coming in mixtures of purples, pinks, oranges, green, lime green, and white, coleus is a staple for areas of partial to full shade. But what about when Coleus cannot be grown, or when gardeners want to change things up? Let’s look at six plants that can be grown in place of coleus.

1. Rex Begonias

Rex begonias provide similar color and size as coleus. They come in shades and mixtures of green, red, pink, purple, and silver. Although more limited in color than coleus, they make up for it with a variety of different leaf textures, shapes, and patterns. Plants grow about 12-18 inches tall and wide and grow best in shaded areas with rich, moist, but well-drained soil. They cannot stand wet conditions, too much fertilizer, or sun. Rex begonias have become popular recently, and new varieties are always being introduced.

2. Caladiums

Caladiums can be grown as a shade-loving annual. Plants range in size and can grow over two feet in height. Leaves are heart-shaped and come in mixtures of green, red, pink, purple, white, and silver. There is a lot of variation in the pattern of color and in shades of the colors, which more than makes up for Caladium having less of a color range than coleus and less diversity of leaf texture and shape than rex begonias. Because all parts of the caladium plant are poisonous, they should not be grown if children or pets are likely to try eating the plants.

3. Hypoestes Phyllostachys

Hypoestes Phyllostachys or polka-dot plant grows well in shade and has leaves that are speckled or mottled with white, pink, purple, or red over green. Polka-dot plant grows a foot tall and wide, and does well in partial shade and hot temperatures. Plants can be pinched to keep bushy or allowed to grow freely. It comes in many shades of pink and complements other annuals.

4. Ornamental Sweet Potato

Ornamental sweet potato comes in purple and lime green and grows in sun or part shade. The purple comes in cut leaves and heart-shaped leaves. Sweet potato provides a different habit as it is a vine, and the lime green plants contrast well with other leaves. Plants in partial shade will exhibit a greener shade as opposed to being more yellow in the sun.

5. Iresine

Iresine or bloodleaf grows much like coleus and comes in shades of red, green, and pink, but mostly red. It grows about two to three feet high and grows in sun or shade. The more sun, the better the color is drawn out. Iresine can tolerate wet conditions and does not like drying out.

6. Strobilanthus Dyerianus

Strobilanthus dyerianus or Persian shield grows about two feet wide and tall, with large purple and green leaves. It resembles coleus in color, but the plants do not vary much in color and shape. However, the Persian shield is an addition to the shade garden that adds diversity and variety to the annual color.

These six annuals provide good color variation and are viable alternatives to coleus. Having a variety of annuals allows the garden to stay productive as different plants have different requirements and so the soil does not deplete or harbor disease as easily. These annuals will provide variety to the garden and balance or replace coleus well.

Theresa Lien
Theresa Lien
A professional writer who has specialized in houseplants and indoor gardening. She's had experience with outdoor landscaping too, having written about plants that grow well on balconies and patios as one of her previous articles for Wohomen.


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