Have you ever noticed how some plants are better standing alone, and some aren’t? Some plants are outrageous lookers that should only be grown in flowers pots on their own. While some plants have magnificent foliage and are more suited to grow in abundance on a flower bed.
And then there are some plants, plants that are so dazzling, colorful, and easy-to-grow that they can do both. The coleus plant with leaf colors ranging from purple, yellow, pink, to red or chartreuse. The coleus plant with leaf patterns that are distinct and interesting – spotted, splashed, or lined at the edge. The coleus plant that’s a constant favorite for combinations in gardening. The coleus that by all accounts is easy to grow and is perfect for the most novice gardener.
Yes, it’s that coleus. And if you’re looking for ways to improve your landscaping, or experiment with container gardening, this is the plant guide article that’s sure to help.
In This Article
Coleus Plant Facts
Coleus plants belong to the Lamiaceae family, otherwise known as our favorite herb – the mint. These plants gained fame in the 19th century as bedding plants for Victorian gardens. Even then, they had the color and variety to be perfect accents for sprawling gardens.
Today, breeders are coming up with newer color combinations as fanciful as one can imagine. Now there are coleus plants with bigger leaves, crazier patterns, and better characteristics that make them easier to grow in the US.
Coleus plants are now also grown easily in pots. Some have successfully grown them indoors. During the summer, coleus in containers is the perfect decor for your porches, terraces, or patios.
Botanical Name: Plectranthus scutellarioides
Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial (May also be grown as annuals)
Size: Grows 6 to 36 inches tall and wide
Sunlight: Most coleus thrive on a partial shade to full shade
Soil: Slightly acidic soil. Moist, loose soil.
Native To: Asia
How To Plant & Care For Coleus
Because they are native to Asia, the coleus cannot withstand frost. They are tender tropical plants that love the heat. They can tolerate cold conditions, with a little help.
You can start the coleus from seeds indoors 10 weeks before the last frost date of your area. Wait until the temperatures are consistently above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This is to make sure that all the danger of frost is no more. When the heat is up, you can then move your coleus plants to your garden.
Soil is always crucial for our plants, and even though the coleus isn’t dramatic, it still requires rich, loose soil. Amend your soil with compost or peat moss before you plant them in your garden. Always water thoroughly, and during their first week in your garden, keep the root ball moist.
If you plan to keep your coleus in a container, always start with one that is large enough for your plant to grow into. If you don’t do this, you’ll be spending a lot of time repotting the plant. Coleus is fast-growing in width and height! When gardeners mix and match for container gardening, the coleus is often at the center of the container surrounded by filler plants.
With different coleus cultivars developed every year, care requirements can vary from plant to plant. The classic seed-grown coleus plants need a partial or fully shaded light exposure. New cultivars with more colorful leaves grow best when they receive full sun.
If you live in cooler parts of the country, you will need to provide more sun exposure to your coleus. Areas that are more dry, hot, and get more sun should provide more shade to their coleus babies.
If you are growing coleus indoors, make sure you’ve placed your pots where there is bright, indirect sun. During the colder season, provide some filtered sun.
For the coleus to really thrive and dazzle with her foliage, you need to keep an eye on your watering. Coleus needs moist but not soggy soil. That means it shouldn’t be wet all the time, but there shouldn’t be any long dry spells that drain the plant’s energy. If you see a leaf going brown around the edge, that’s a sign something is wrong!
For planting in containers, water twice a day during the hot season. For indoors, water once every other day or three days.
Temperature and Humidity
Coleus is a tender plant, so don’t place it in a spot that gets cold drafts or gusts of strong wind. If your home is dry, set up a humidifier to help your coleus thrive.
If you can give your coleus the perfect soil conditions, you need not feed the plant. But feeding is also a good alternative, especially if you want the colorful leaves to really pop. Give the plants a monthly feeding of a complete fertilizer mixed at half strength. For potted plants, coleus can be fed slow-release fertilizer.
If you want your coleus stems to look leggy, you need to pinch out growing tips. Do this before any flower produce. When your coleus is about 6 inches tall, pinch the tips. Faithful pruning will be rewarded with compact, nicely shaped plants with dense foliage.
Burgundy sun – coleus from Texas. Has large leaves in deep, rich burgundy.
Alabama Sunset – brick-red leaves with yellow edges.
Pineapple – bright lime-gold leaves with burgundy stems.
Redhead Coleus – one of the rapid-growers, has bright red foliage.
Solar Sunrise – deep dark purple leaves, with a bright green edge.
Kong series – large assortment of colorful leaves.
Red Ruffles – red, wavy leaves with green margins.
Mardi Gras – compact with red, green, and yellow leaves.
Fishnet Stockings – dark purple veins with lime-green leaves.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Can I grow coleus in containers?
Coleus is a favorite container plant grown in the garden. To grow in pots, always start with a large pot because coleus is a fast-grower. Use well-draining soil and water frequently.
Does coleus like sun or shade?
What makes coleus a perfect plant for your garden is that it has cultivars that can thrive either under the sun or in shade.
Classically, coleus needs part-shade to full-shade for maximum growth. In planting your garden, pay attention to your climate. During the summer, provide shade to your coleus. During the winter, bring your plant inside. (And do reserve stem cuttings in case your plants won’t make it)
Are coleus annuals or perennials?
Technically, coleus plants are perennials – evergreen perennials. But because they are tender, frost-intolerant, tropical plants, they are better off grown as an annual. They are hardy to Zone 10.
Do coleus come back every year?
In tropical climates and in their native environment, Coleus is a perennial plant that can come back every year. During the cold season, the stems die back but the roots don’t. This allows perennials to regenerate the following year. However, in many parts of the US, coleus is grown as an annual and is expected to die in the winter season. You must replant them every year.
Where is the best place to plant coleus?
With more coleus cultivars, you are given the option to grow coleus either in shaded spots or under direct sun. To achieve the best leaf color, give your coleus morning sun exposure. But be careful not to dry the plants out.
You can choose to plant them on your lawn or in containers. Container planting is most ideal if you have experience different degrees of heat or coldness. This allows you to move the plants around to protect them from the elements when needed.