Caring for Your Coleus Plants

tips for caring for coleus

The Coleus plant is, by far, one of the most popular house plants ever, but is also fast becoming a sought-after annual, one that provides amazing color and contrast for perennial beds past their bloom and for those partially shaded areas for which color is hard to come by. However, Coleus is a somewhat fragile annual; one that requires a bit of TLC in order to reap its colorfully impressive rewards.

Transplanting Your Coleus

If transplanting to a permanent pot or container, the process is quite simple. Choose a pot with a drainage hole in the bottom. One or two coleus will fit well in a 6 to 8 diameter pot, while a larger pot may hold three or four. The best potting soil will have lots of organic material and may even contain a slow-release fertilizer. If you live in a particularly hot area and your coleus plant(s) will be hung or placed outside, you may also want to consider adding water crystals to the soil. They expand, holding 100s times their weight in water, releasing it as the soil starts to dry. Using these will reduce your household water bill and keep your coleus hydrated, even on the hottest days.

And never place your Coleus plant where it will have all day direct sunlight! The newer cultivars are much more sun-resistant, but Coleus will not thrive well in all day sun throughout the summer. The best combination is full morning sun, as sun seems to produce more colorful plants, and then afternoon partial shade, especially in the heat of the summer. If you have your plants in pots, you can even move them in and out of the sun as necessary, most easily accomplished if you have them on a rolling cart or trolley. You will know that your coleus plant is getting too hot when its colors seem to fade and it wilts, even when well hydrated. Coleus recovers quickly from wilting once watered, but too much repeated water deprivation will result in a faded, unhealthy plant over time.

Garden Bed Coleus Plants

How to grow Coleus plantsFor your Coleus plants that will be going directly into the ground location is important. If you are not quite sure that an area is suitable (morning sun and afternoon partial shade), you can either monitor your planned area throughout a couple of days, or get an inexpensive light tester to measure the amount of sunlight an area receives, even if indoors. Also keep in mind your geographic location. Full sun in Texas or Arizona is much stronger than full sun in northern climes.

Planting your Coleus plants into a peat or organic material pot will preclude your having to stress the plant further when transplanting, though once you’ve given them a couple of weeks in a pot and have hardened them off properly, this shouldn’t be an issue. The choice, of course, is totally yours. Many people save their nursery plastic pots, just for a purpose such as this, which makes perfect sense. You have re-purposed the pot without spending any more money, and have probably also proven to your significant other that you weren’t at all out of your mind when you decided to save them in the first place!

Additional Care for Your Coleus Plants

Amazingly, Coleus plants don’t respond well to over feeding. Besides adequate moisture, you will find that your Coleus’ colors are much more vivid when the plants are just a little neglected. If you fertilize, use a slow release or feed at half the recommended strength. We also highly recommend mulching your Coleus plants if planting in the ground, especially in hotter climates. This not only retains life-giving moisture, but will inhibit the growth of weeds and grasses. If you water with a sprinkler or hand-held nozzle, make sure to water after the full sun has left your plants, but with enough time for the leaves to dry before it turns dark. Wet nighttime foliage on any plants can lead to fungal diseases, mold or mildew occurring and wet leaves in full sun can burn the plant.

Finally, pinching the growing tips of your Coleus plants will encourage fuller and bushier growth. For blooming Coleus, you can pinch the bloom or allow it to remain, though Coleus blossoms are mostly insignificant and will not noticeably add or detract from the beauty of the plant. You may find that in mid-summer pinching will help the plant to maintain its bushy appearance and keep its shape, but that is largely a personal preference as well, just as are the colors you have chosen.

Speaking of colors, these annual plants are available in just about every color of the rainbow! Though it may be tempting to buy some of every color, planning in your head for the mixture of textures and colors will result in the most beautiful indoor and outdoor decorating and the personal satisfaction that comes from a job well done!

Happy Planting!

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