Coleus Plants: How To Grow and Care For Coleus

May 23rd, 2022 | Post By Trilock
coleus plants

Coleus is a bright, beautiful and colourful foliage plant. The plant can add colours to your balcony or terrace all through the year. Whether you keep it in full sun or partial shade, it will keep the place lively.

Formerly, it is known as the bedding plant as the shrub loves to spread on the ground. The botanical name of the  Coleus is Coleus scutellarioides. It is a species of flowering plant that belongs to the Lamiaceae family.

For the plant lovers who want colours in their garden; thankfully they don’t need to wait for the blooms when they have coleus plants. It is also used to create a border in the garden.

Though it is famous for the bold variegated foliage, coleus has flower spikes as well. Many gardeners pinch the flower head to make the plant bushier but a few of them preserve the coleus seeds produced by the flowers.

Coleus in Earlier Days:

Coleus is a very popular foliage for many centuries. Though it may lose popularity for few times in the past, it regains them quickly. Research is coming up with new varieties with brighter colour combinations on the leaves.

Moreover, primarily, it was a shade plant but with time, the new varieties come with sun tolerance abilities. However, these plants still cannot handle the slightest frost.

Development of Coleus:

With time, the colour combinations of coleus leaves are also changed. Now you can easily get purple coleus or red coleus or even rainbow coleus in the market or from the online plant nursery.

Along with the colours, the plant cultivators have brought many other factors like delayed flowering, sun tolerance, prolific branches and compact growth.

The breeders are continuously working on this plant and occasionally bring out new varieties with more vibrant colours and leaf patterns.

leaves of a coleus plant

Colours of Coleus:

Coleus comes in different vibrant colours. The patterns of the coleus leaf also differ from plant to plant. You can mix and match different colours and patterns to create a beautiful landscape in your garden.

Some beautiful colours of Coleus Plant:

  1.  – Purple Coleus
  2.  – Red Coleus
  3.  – Rainbow Mix Coleus
  4.  – Green Coleus
  5.  – Pink Coleus
  6.  – Campfire Coleus
  7.  – Indian Summer Coleus


red coleus plants annual plants foliage


Though you may find images of Blue Coleus circulated on various online websites and social media, it is fake.

Coleus Varieties:

For shade and semi-sun locations, the following coleus varieties are the best choice. 

  1.  – Superfine Rainbow Coleus
  2.  – Fairway Series
  3.  – ColorBlaze Coleus
  4.  – Main street Coleus
  5.  – Kong Series Coleus


The following coleuses can tolerate full sun. 

  1.  – Versa Series Coleus
  2.  – Wizard Series Coleus
  3.  – Stained Glassworks Coleus
  4.  – Marquee Coleus


coleus plant butterfly nature

How to Plant Coleus:

From Seeds:

If you want to start planting coleus seeds outdoor, then you have to plant them in autumn.

You can buy a packet of coleus seeds or mixed colours. Sprinkle the tiny seeds on the seedbed prepared by cocopeat. Now lightly cover it with some more potting mix. Now cover the tray with a plastic sheet and keep it in a warm spot until you can see the saplings.

After the winter, you have to transplant them to the bigger pot unless you don’t want to grow them on the ground. Keep it indoors or shade area before you repot the plant. The repotting before spring can damage the sapling. Make sure the saplings are sturdy enough to sustain the repotting stress and outdoor atmosphere.

From Cutting:

You can also propagate coleus from cutting. It is the most popular and easiest way to propagate coleus.

You need to select a healthy stem that has 3-5 leaves. Take a sharp scissor and cut at least a 4-inch stem. Now remove a few leaves from the lower part. Take a little rooting hormone and dip the end of the stem in it.

You can plant it either in cocopeat or in water. If you place it in a pot, cover it with plastic to give a greenhouse effect Within a few days the roots will come. You have to re-pot it after 6 weeks.

You can take lots of cuttings at once so that you will have many plants.


The lighting condition plays an important role in the size and colour of the leaves. Morning sunlight is very good for this plant.

If the plant gets only morning sun and shade in the afternoon, you will get the best result as the plant will thrive. The darker leaves of coleus plants can handle more sunlight.

The shade spots are best for the plants that come with lighter colour leaves. It is very important to save the plant from heavy winds as it can break easily.

Planting Tips:

While repotting the grown-up coleus plant, make sure it is hardened well so that it can survive harsh weather and light.

Prepare the soil with normal garden mix and organic compost. Dig a little deep hole in the soil so that the root balls stay intact. If the roots are potbound, then tease them a little.

The base of the stem should be at the same level as the pot. Add the soil a little around the plant and push softly to remove the air pockets. Now water thoroughly.

red coleus plants garden botany

How to Care for Coleus:

Care for the Coleus plant is quite easy. You can directly plant it on garden soil or pot or patio planter. It looks good in a hanging basket too. You can mix and match the colours of coleus leaves so that people will love to see them.

Here are some maintenance tips that will help you to grow healthy and bushy coleus.


Coleus does not have much demand for high-quality soil. The average garden soil will do good for it. However, make sure that the soil must be well-draining. You can add garden soil and organic compost in equal parts and blend them well to make the soil. There must be a potting hole in the planter.


Coleus is a tropical plant that thrives in warm areas. If the area is humid and hot, the coleus leaves will be vibrant in colour. They just need morning sun to make this plant sturdy.

If you stay in a dry and hot region, then you must keep it in a semi-shade. Cold temperature is not liked by coleus. It loves moisture in the soil but should not be soggy. Add lots of water only when the soil is well-draining.


To grow coleus vigorously, you need to add a good amount of fertilizer. You need to add chemical fertilizer which is high in nitrogen. You can also add liquid water-soluble fertilizer as well.

If you love organic compost, then add cow dung manure. If the particular fertilizer comes with any direction from the manufacturer then follow them. Add the fertilizer twice a year, preferably in March and November. All through the year, you can spray some liquid fertilizer as well.

coleus foliage leaves plant garden


The watering routine for coleus must be constant. The best soil for coleus must be moist every time, however, it should not be soggy.

If the soil is not wet all the time, then it is not a problem unless the dry period will be longer. The long dry period slows down the growth of the plant. If the plant starts to dry out, the leaves start to turn brown. If you notice the brown spot on the coleus leaf, then increase the watering.

Before watering check the soil. If the topsoil is dry, you are free to add water. If you stay in dry areas, try to add mulch to keep the moisture locked in the soil. However, make sure you should not add cedar mulch as they are harmful to coleus.

On hot and dry days, add water twice a day while keeping it outdoor.


For the best growth of the coleus plant, you have to pinch the flower so that the plant gets all the nutrients.

Start the pruning of the plant when the plant is about 6 inches long. For that, you have to pinch the growing tips of the plant. If you don’t want coleus seeds, then it is good to avoid flowering so that the plant uses all the energy in its leaves.

If you don’t prune the coleus plant regularly, it will grow leggy.

Coleus plants leaves

Common pests and diseases:

You need to take care of the plant if you are growing them in the ground. For pests, mealybugs are the main problem for this plant. You need to keep a close look at the plant to check for the white bugs, especially during mid-summer.

If you find mealybugs on coleus, drop cotton in alcohol and remove them with it. If the weather is hot and dry, then spider mites can also become a huge problem. Apart from these two bugs, aphids, whiteflies and slugs are also threat to coleus.

During summer, coleus tends to stay healthy. It is the winter when the plant can be affected by a fungal attack if the weather is cool and damp. Make sure there is good drainage in the pot. Downy mildew is the main fungal infection that affects the growth of the plant. This fungal infection has the symptoms like dropping the leaves, brown spots and stunted seedlings.

leaves-coleus flora nature foliage

Growing Coleus In Pot:

Coleus can be grown in a pot.

You just need to check that it has a good drainage hole. You have to add proper fertilizer on a regular basis. Make sure the place has enough amount of sun which is just right for the coleus.

It is better to keep the coleus away from the windy location as it may tend to break. However, you should not over-fertilize the plant as it can lose the colours of the leaves under such circumstances.

You can plant the coleus in a hanging basket. You have to prune it frequently to make it bushier. If maintained well, it can be grown into a beautiful centrepiece.

coleus plants in pot

Designing Ideas with Coleus Plant:

You can make a beautiful landscape with a coleus plant. The vibrant and beautiful colours of the leaves will help you to make any place alluring; if designed properly. Though this plant is most of the time recognized as a container plant, you can also grow them in the garden to create something mesmerizing.

If you want to create the border with a coleus plant, go for solid colours like Lime Delight or Redhead. It will make a bold appearance of the place. You can also make multicolour varieties to complement the border. It will create a contrasting yet harmonious look. The burst of colours will make your garden a unique and attractive part of the house. You can also create a contrasting landscape by mixing light-coloured coleus with dark ones.

Apart from garden landscaping, here are some more design ideas with coleus:

  1.  – There are some trailing types of coleus like ColorBlaze, Strawberry Drop and Chocolate Drop that you can use in the hanging basket or drape the edges.
  2.  – You can make some bold versions by planting a single variety
  3.  – Make a contrast with the nearby plants or flowers
  4.  – Brighten the shady corner with bright coloured coleus
  5.  – Use a plain container for vibrant leaf colours

coleus plant

Coleus Plant Facts

Let’s check some interesting facts about Coleus Plants

  1.  – Coleus plants bloom tiny white or blue flowers but those are quite insignificant as the growers often pinch them.
  2.  – The coleus plants grow from cutting and don’t have flowers very often
  3. – The colour variety of coleus is endless. They come in different combinations like hot pink and green.
  4.  – The shape and size of the leaf also differ in the coleus varieties.
  5.  – The stem of the coleus is quite unique and it is square in shape
  6.  – Coleus is non-toxic for humans but it is slightly toxic for the pet. It contains certain essential oil which is poisonous to cats, dogs and other animals.



Coleus plants can mix well with other plants. You can create a beautiful garden, even on your balcony and enjoy the burst of colours throughout.


Author: Trilock

Trilock Chand Saini, a green thought leader loves to pen his experience to help the urban plant parents. His aim is to reduce the carbon footprints on this earth by encouraging people to take up gardening as a hobby. He comes up with tips and tricks that he has curated by his years of experience in gardening. He deals with different houseplants, edible gardening, and flower gardening all through the year.

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