Caring for Your Coleus Plants

two vibrant coleus plants

Coleus plants are one of the most popular house plants ever. But they’re 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 where color is hard to come by. But it’s important to remember that coleus is a somewhat fragile annual. One that requires a bit of TLC in order to reap its colorful, 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 inch (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 plants will be hung or placed outside, you may also want to consider adding water crystals to the soil. They expand, holding hundreds of 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.

Never place your coleus plant where it will have direct sunlight all day long! The newer cultivars are much more sun-resistant. But coleus plants will not thrive well in all day sun throughout the summer. The best combination is full morning sun, and then afternoon partial shade, especially in the heat of the summer. Sun seems to produce more colorful plants. If your plants are in pots, you can move them in and out of the sun as necessary. Which is easier if you have them on a rolling cart or trolley. How to tell when your coleus plant is getting too hot? Its colors seem to fade and it wilts (even when well hydrated.) Coleus recovers 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 coleus plants that will be going 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. Although once you’ve given them a couple of weeks in a pot and have hardened them off , this shouldn’t be an issue. The choice, of course, is yours. Many people save their nursery plastic pots for this, which is a great way to repurpose them.

More Coleus Care Tips

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 a little neglected. If you fertilize, use a slow release or feed at half the recommended strength. If your coleus plants are in the ground in a hot area, you should mulch them. This not only retains life-giving moisture, but inhibits 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. 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 leave it on the plant. But coleus flowers are insignificant and will not add or detract from its beauty. You may find that in mid-summer pinching will help the plant to maintain its bushy appearance and keep its shape. But that’s as personal a choice as the colors you choose. And if saying goodbye is too hard once the cooler weather hits, you can try overwintering them indoors

Speaking of colors, these annual plants are available in almost 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. Not to mention the personal satisfaction that comes from a job well done!

Happy planting!

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Taher Rasheed
    January 8, 2021 at 10:59 am

    Does this plant bloom in Michigan Winter?

    • Reply
      GrowJoy
      January 8, 2021 at 1:20 pm

      Taher, coleus are annuals, which means that they will die in winter. But if you plant your coleus in containers, you can try overwintering them indoors, we have information on how to do that here.

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