Growing Coleus Plants

Coleus blumei

Growing coleus plants indoors or out. How to grow coleus from seed or propagate cuttings. Annual coleus hybrid care tips. Varieties you can buy.

Common Names for Coleus:

  • Flame Nettle
  • Painted Leaves
  • Painted Nettle

The beautifully textured leaves of the Coleus plant appear in an astonishing variety of color combinations.  Solid colors like neon green 'Life Lime'  or 'Dark Star', a purple so dark it looks black, may be juxtaposed against one another--each acting as a foil for the other's ravishing attractiveness.

Color mixes like 'Pink Chaos', where no two leaves are exactly alike but seem to have been hand painted, provide unceasing interest no matter where they are planted.

Traditionally used in moist shade, newer Coleus hybrids have been bred to withstand all but the brightest, hottest sun.  This expands their situational versatility markedly. 

Still, these are thirsty plants that perform best where they get some protection from the late afternoon rays.

Coleus - Sedona

Coleus - Dipt in Wine

Coleus - Life Lime

Growing Coleus from Seed

Coleus, Fuseables Under the Sun

Coleus, Wizard Mixed Colors 1 Pkt. (50 seeds)

Coleus, Chocolate Covered Cherry

Coleus seed germinates in about a week. Seedlings grow rapidly and will be ready to pot up in another two weeks.

Sow the seeds on the surface of a sterile potting mix and do not cover them.  They need light in order to sprout.

Seedlings may be kept in pots and raised as houseplants or planted out into rich, moisture-retentive soil in full shade to part sun locations after all danger of frost has passed.

Sow seed for outdoor bedding indoors 6-8 weeks before your last frost date.

Growing Coleus Plants from Cuttings

Coleus - Fishnet Stocking

Coleus - Dark Star

Coleus - Chocolate Drop

This is just as easy as raising plants from seed.  Pinch or clip off 3" long pieces of the stems of healthy plants.  Remove the lowest leaves and any flowers or flower buds.  Place the denuded portion of the cutting into a sterile rooting mixture, sand, vermeculite, or even a glass of water.

Stem cuttings root very quickly.  Late summer through fall is the best time to take cuttings from garden plants.  Cuttings may also be taken from houseplants during the winter.

To prevent damping off: water rooted cuttings only when the top two inches of the soil they are growing in feels dry.

Outdoor Coleus Care

Coleus - Kingswood Torch

Coleus - Pink Chaos

Coleus - Merlins Magic

Although they are not showy, flowers will form during the growing season.  Some gardeners feel that the bloom spikes, which resemble those of the herb basil, detract from the beauty of the foliage and should be removed.

Others feel that the dainty blossoms add to the plant's attractiveness and leave them on.

If you remove the flowers, the plants tend to remain healthy and colorful for a longer time.   C. blumei plants are tender perennials that are most often treated like annuals.  Like most annual plants, they tend to deteriorate after setting seed.

Pinching out the growing tips of the plants every few weeks will promote bushy growth.

Growing Coleus as a Houseplant

Coleus, Rainbow Mixed Colors

Growing Tip:

Coleus does not like to be root-bound.  Pot vigorous plants up into larger pots as they grow.

Grow indoor plants in the brightest location possible--direct sun for several hours per day is ideal.  You will know if your Coleus is not getting enough light by its spindly, untidy growth habit.  Plants grown in adequate light will grow compactly to a height of two feet.

A warm, humid room is the best environment.  At temps below 55 degrees F., the plants may drop their leaves.

Keep the potting mix moist at all times as plants growing in dry soil tend to lose their lower leaves.

Fertilize potted Coleus plants every two weeks with any liquid plant food meant for foliage plants.  Follow the directions on the package as to dose.  Feed only while the plants are actively growing.

More Color For Shade:


Gold Dust Bush

Cat Whiskers

Shade Perennial Gardens

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Annual Plants & Seeds

Candy bouquets make inexpensive gifts.

Candy Bouquets Make Beautiful, Tasty Gifts

Coleus Posters