How to Plant and Grow a Coleus

Coleus is a tropical plant with beautifully patterned leaves with serrated or frilled edges. Its leaves can have multiple colors, including orange, red, maroon, purple, green, lime, yellow, beige, salmon or brown. Coleus can grow either indoors or outdoors and stands out in borders, containers and hanging baskets, or as a highlight plant in the garden.

How to Plant a Coleus

Plant coleus in a part-shade or filtered sun area in your garden after the danger of frost is past. If the coleus is growing indoors in a container, it will do best in bright, indirect light and may be planted anytime. If it is planted in too strong sun, the colors on its leaves will fade or look washed out.

Coleus likes quick-draining, nutrient-rich soil. Depending on the type you have, plants can range in size from 8 to 12 inches to 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall. Find an area in the garden or a container that fits the size of your plant and place your coleus in new, rich soil.

Coleus can be easily grown from cuttings or seeds. If you already have coleus plants, take cuttings with sharp scissors. Place the cuttings in water and they should root within a few days. Make 1 to 2 inch deep holes in your soil, place a single cutting in the hole and fill the hole. Press down gently on the top of the soil to seat the plant.

If you are growing coleus from seeds, sow them on the soil and press them gently in. Keep the soil moist and plant the seedlings when they are 2 to 3 inches tall, following the steps above. Water all new plantings thoroughly and apply mulch to the top of the soil to retain moisture.

How to Grow a Coleus

Many grow coleus as an annual every spring, but coleus is actually a tender perennial. Over time, coleus can get leggy and its colors may fade. However, with good care, coleus can last several seasons.

Coleus is a tropical plant, so it needs regular water to keep it happy and healthy. Keep the soil damp but not soggy. If the soil dries out or it gets too much sun, just water coleus and it should come back. Fertilize coleus monthly with a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen.

Coleus can live outdoors in frost-free areas, but will not survive if it is too cold. If it is living indoors in a container, check regularly to make sure the soil does not dry out. You can spray its leaves with the hose or a spray bottle indoors, which simulates a tropical environment.

To promote full, bushy growth and minimize legginess, pinch off its blue flower spikes. Also pinch out the center stems with your fingers to encourage the growth of more leaves and branching from the sides. The plant can also be evenly cut back if any stems are damaged by sun or frost, and it will grow back fuller.

Grow coleus in a warm, moist, nutritious environment and it will reward you with added beauty in your garden or home.