Can coleus be grown indoors

Indoor Coleus Care: How To Grow A Coleus Houseplant

Can I grow coleus indoors? Sure, why not? Although coleus is typically grown outdoors as an annual, its vibrant leaves provide many months of enjoyment indoors if growing conditions are just right. In fact, coleus plants respond well to potted environments. Read on to learn more about growing coleus as an indoor plant.

How to Grow a Coleus Houseplant

Growing coleus plants indoors isn’t at all difficult but does require a few basic needs when it comes to light and temperature.

Coleus likes bright light, but be careful of intense sunlight. Look for a spot where the plant gets bright morning sunlight but indirect light during the afternoon.

You may need to supplement available light with artificial lights during the winter. Watch the plant closely. If the leaves fade and lose color, the plant is probably getting too much sunlight. However, if the plant is lackluster and drops its leaves, try giving it a little more light.

Coleus as an indoor plant performs best in temperatures between 60 and 75 F. (16-24 C). Winter temperatures should be cooler, but don’t expose the plant to temperatures below 50 F. (10 C).

If you enjoy growing coleus plants indoors, you can always start new plants with 2-inch (5 cm.) cuttings taken from a healthy, mature plant. Plant cuttings in moist potting soil, then keep them moist and warm until the new plants are established. At this point, resume normal care.

Indoor Coleus Care

Once you begin growing coleus as an indoor plant, its continued care is important in keeping the plant healthy. Here are some tips to help with that:

  • Water regularly to keep the soil slightly moist – never bone dry and never soggy.
  • Feed the plant once every week or two during spring and summer, using a water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half-strength.
  • Place the pot on a tray with a layer of wet pebbles if the air in your home is dry. (Never let the bottom of the pot stand directly in water.)
  • Pinch the tips of the plant frequently to keep it bushy. Feel free to remove up to one-third of growth if the plant becomes long and leggy.
  • Remove blooms as soon as they appear, as they draw energy from the colorful foliage. If you allow blooming to continue, the plant will go to seed and die.
  • If the plant gets too scraggly, it may be time to start fresh with a new plant.

How to Grow Coleus Indoors

Known for their unique foliage, coleus is an annual plant that has a life cycle of one year. Mostly grown for its colorful leaves, coleus has the power to turn any home garden into a visual treat. While this vibrant and leafy plant is usually grown outdoors, coleus can also be easily grown inside your home. This stunning plant can act as a beautiful border to your home garden, an inviting plant hanging on your porch, or just an elegant novelty incorporated into your décor. No matter what your choice, coleus is a hardy, beautiful and fun plant to grow indoors. Here is your guide to growing coleus indoors.Â

Sowing Your Seeds

You can start growing coleus indoors by adopting three different methods: with a seed, with a seedling, or using cuttings.Â

If you want to sow a coleus seed, you can buy high quality coleus seeds at a nursery or online. To stimulate germination, take 2 – 3 seeds and place them on the surface of the soil. Leave even spaces between each seed before covering them with a thin layer of soil. Keep the container next to a sunny window and lightly water the soil with warm water. Keep misting the soil with water for the next 2 – 3 days and check back to notice if the seeds have started germinating. Once the germination process finishes, start watering just enough to wet the soil. During this process keeping the soil warm can also help speed up the process.Â

If you wish to sow a coleus seedling, you can buy high quality coleus seedlings at a nursery or other store. Trim unhealthy roots and dig 3 – 4 inches in the center of the container to carefully place the seedling. Ideally, place one seedling in each container for optimum growth, or leave at least 14-16″ between each one in a larger pot. Cover the roots with soil and water just enough to wet the soil.

The third and quicker method is to use coleus cuttings. Choose a healthy coleus stem that is 2 – 6 inches long and contains nodes. Cut the bottom half and coat the lower end in rooting hormone. To help in propagation, place the stem in a container filled with water in a way that ensures the nodes are submerged. Once you see strong roots, sow it into moist potting soil at a depth of 4 – 6 inches. Gently pat the soil over it and spray water. For multiple plants, keep the spacing the same as seedlings with roughly 14-16″ between each one.

Container and Soil

Coleus needs soil that retains moisture. So, if you are using terracotta or any other porous material for a container, you can line it with plastic to keep the soil moist. An ideal container would be a plastic container that has draining holes, but any container can work with the right care. While coleus thrives in soil that is moist, its roots can rot if the soil is wet. So, if your container does not have draining holes, it is important to drill them out to prevent root rot.Â

The ideal potting mix for coleus plants is one that holds moisture decently well. You do not want to go with too well of a draining soil. Choose a high quality soil from any nursery or home improvement store.


Coleus thrives in warm climate. So, it needs a minimum of 6 – 8 hours of sunlight to achieve lush growth. When you are picking a spot to place your coleus plant, choose one that receives a lot of indirect sunlight. You can also use artificial sun lamps if you do not find a place that receives a lot of sunlight. Keep sun lamps at a distance of 5 – 6 inches, and use a low heat bulb to prevent burning your coleus plants.Â

Coleus plants can die very soon if it catches frost. So, during the winter months, keep your coleus warm with sun lamps or fluorescent lamps. As the intensity of the sun will be minimum during cooler months, keep your coleus exposed to artificial light for a longer amount of time.

Also, make sure to keep them away from any sort of drafting windows or places they might be exposed to the cold. This also goes for air conditioning vents in the summer which can have a similar negative effect on your plant.


While coleus is a hardy plant, it is not very drought tolerant. It also cannot grow in wet soil as the roots tend to rot. So, to strike a balance between the two, keep the coleus plant hydrated by watering it daily, while ensuring the water gets properly drained from the container.

As water needs to be drained frequently, which can wash away soil nutrients, you can add a liquid water-soluble fertilizer every month to keep the plant nourished. Once the coleus grows out of the seedling phase, start watering it only when the soil starts to feels dry to the touch.Â


While the lifespan of an average coleus plant is one year, you can prolong its life by pruning. Watch out for any small flower buds and prune it before the flower buds bloom. This is because once the plant starts producing flowers and seeds, they will soon die. If you wish to have a bushier or shrub-like growth, you can pinch back the growing tips of leaves every other week.Â

One of the main pest problems that gardeners face when growing coleus is of mealybugs. A good way to combat the mealybug pest problem is to take a brush and scrub it off with water. You can also kill the pests by taking cotton balls dipped in alcohol and wiping the plant with it.Â

Lastly, coleus grows best in humid environments. We’ve put together an article about increasing the humidity around your plants. Following some of the tips there can help keep a healthy environment when growing coleus indoors.

Growing Coleus Indoors

Coleus is a vividly breathtaking plant that adds beauty, no matter where it grows. Apart from its attractive foliage, coleus is a tough plant that can easily grow into a lush shrub inside your home. Available in a wide variety of colors and patterns, you can easily bring any dull corner of your home to life with a potted coleus plant.


What color should coleus seedlings have?

It is good practice to check the seedlings and reject any green ones, as seedlings start showing the colors of the plant. This is because coleus is grown mainly for its colors and green seedlings will not grow up to have colorful foliage.Â

How do I know if my plant has been over-watered or under-watered?

A good indicator of over-watering a plant is when the leaves turn yellow. Alternatively, if you have under-watered a plant, the leaves will start to droop.Â

Why are the colors on my coleus plant looking faded?

While coleus needs a lot of sunlight to achieve healthy growth, its colors can become less vibrant if you place it under harsh sunlight. Keep it in a spot that gets 6-8 hours of indirect light.

What’s the best tip for growing coleus indoors?

An often overlooked aspect of coleus care is the humidity. Coleus love warm, humid environments, so make sure that they retain moisture. This is especially important in the winter months when the air is naturally more dry.

It’s only fair to share…

Coleus plants with their bright colors, a wide variety of foliage colors, leaf shapes and forms are easy to grow and durable.

Many grow coleus in garden beds as annuals or planted in pots to create dramatic, colorful borders in full sun, bright light and some in partial shade.

Previously, Coleus belonged to the mint family Lamiaceae. It’s been reclassified in the genera Plectranthus and Solenostemon. source

Learn more about –> Annual Flowers for Shade

Coleus is ideal for anyone who wants color in a hurry – in the garden, around the patio or as an indoor plant.

There’s no need to wait for flowers; the leaf color of the foliage is the coleus calling card.

Most gardeners pinch off the non-spectacular flower spikes to help keep plants bushy and vigorous. The flowering cycle takes lots of plant energy away from the plant.

Coleus plant varieties come in a wide range of cultivars, colorful foliage combinations and leaf patterns such as the purple coleus or coleus rainbow mix. They are excellent container gardening multi-colored leaf plants.

Some popular varieties/colors include:

  • Coleus Rainbox Mix
  • Purple Coleus
  • Coleus Watermelon
  • Campfire Coleus
  • Green Coleus
  • Coleus Indian Summer
  • Pink Coleus

Some are green marked with ivory, ochre, apricot, brown, pink, red, or purple. A few are of solid color; most have two-tone borders or speckles.

Coleus For Pots, Planters and Borders

Coleus adjusts beautifully to life in pots and planters, or in flower beds or borders. If you keep a plant in a small container it will stay quite small.

But, transfer it to a larger pot or into the open garden and it may grow over 2 feet tall during warm weather if it is well fed.

Full Sun Coleus For A Blast Of Color

Coleus Care – Pinch To Control Size and Fullness

If you don’t want coleus to grow tall, you can control its size by pruning. Take coleus leaf tips off the main stems and the plant will branch out.

New leaves and then branches will form from the bud above almost every leaf.

The more tips you pinch off, the more branches there will be, although the leaves will be smaller than on a plant with fewer branches.

Remove the inner branches and the leaves will grow larger. Remove the lower branches to create a plant shaped like a tree.

How To Take Coleus Cuttings

You can multiply your plants as much as you want. Color and leaf patterns of plants started from cuttings will be the same as that of the original plant.

The 2 to 4-inch tips you prune off can be used to start new plants.

Nip off the lower leaves of these cuttings and cut the base of the stem with a clean slant.

Set the cutting at least an inch deep in a growing medium like soil, sand, peatmoss, vermiculite, or even water.

Keep the medium moist (or the water fresh) but add no fertilizer. Roots will begin to develop in a few days. In summer, these cuttings can be rooted right in a shaded garden bed.

After two or three weeks, take hold of a cutting and pull it upward gently. If it resists your pull, the young plant has a good root system and ready for transplanting.

This video gives very complete and simple to follow instructions on taking cuttings from your Coleus so you can overwinter your coleus indoors until the next season.

mrBrownThumb explains the procedure in a very easy to understand way, while demonstrating the technique to show that anyone would be able to do it. Watch the video below.

Starting Coleus From Seed

Plants started from a packet of coleus seed vary greatly in color and leaf pattern. Many offerings are a rainbow mixture which yields a wide selection of plants.

When growing coleus seeds, you can select your favorites to propagate more from cuttings.

Some coleus strains are predominantly one color or tend to have small or large leaves.

Try separating them into fringed, striped, spotted or plain-leaved strains. These strains were through hybridization and seed selection.

Some of the newest and most interesting coleus hybrids come from Hort Couture and their Coleus Under the Sea® series.

Sow seed indoors at any time or outdoors when the temperature is about 60° or 70′. Coleus in seed starter kits are as easy to grow as baking a package cake mix. All you need to do is add water.

Video: University Of Florida’s Coleus Breeding Program

Many Uses For Coleus

Small coleus plants make good garden border edging plants if you keep them pruned low.

Create dramatic effects by planting a single variety like this “redhead coleus” at Epcot.

Larger plants look attractive when used in geometric designs or when scattered informally in groups in tender perennial borders.

Use coleus in direct sunlight in terrace boxes or patio planters, too.

Combine them with annuals like petunias or with other foliage plants like philodendron or ferns. Coleus can even be grown and trained into a tree.

Learn How To Grow a Coleus Standard — Step-By-Step

Large pot of Coleus used for color – Legoland Winter Haven Florida Sept 2016 Large potted Coleus used for color at the Legoland theme park – Winter Haven Florida Sept 2016

7 Steps To Make A Colorful Coleus Frame

Instead of growing coleus outdoors in a bed or a container with a few varieties, how about a picture frame of coleus?

The folks over at Garden Gate Magazine show you how to create a frame filled with coleus in 7 steps.

Think of all the ways you could display this unique planting! Check it out via Garden Gate Magazine

The video below shows how to make a succulent picture frame. Making a coleus picture frame is basically the same, except you are using coleus. Enjoy!

Growing Coleus Plants – Climate Counts

Plant coleus in the sun or shade, depending on your climate. If you live in a cool, humid area, full sun will bring out the best foliage color and the sturdiest plants.

If you are in a hot, dry region, partial shade is preferable.

Coleus grows best at temperatures above 70° degrees Fahrenheit. Plants should have lots of water, so they need well-drained soil, not one where their roots stand in soggy soil.

Even though plants will grow well in water alone, soil that is always wet is quite another thing, and in this case, the roots will rot.

In pots or other containers, provide well-drained soil and give enough water to keep the soil moist. In containers without drainage holes, let the surface soil dry out a little just before watering.

Outdoors, water coleus about as often as you water garden annuals. The condition of the coleus leaves is a good soil-moisture indicator.

Leaves of dry plants droop. Leaves of plants that are too wet turn yellow.

Good Coleus Care Means Feeding Coleus Well

Fertilizer is necessary for vigorous growth. Either cow manure, a chemical fertilizer high in nitrogen or liquid water-soluble fertilizer (which they love) is satisfactory.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions for feeding annuals or houseplants. If you want to keep the plants small, pinch the tips and give them a little liquid fertilizer.

Coleus Care Pest and Disease

Mealybug sometimes makes its home on this succulent plant indoors. but a regular shower of cold water usually keeps mealybug insects away.

A bit of cotton on a matchstick dipped in alcohol will kill those pests who do appear.

Take it easy when applying sprays during the heat of the day. Always follow the label of the applied product.

During hot, dry months, spider mite colonies can become a problem.

For help on controlling spider mites read this article –

Because coleus grows so well, sometimes the easiest control is to cut the plants down, throw away all debris and apply an insecticidal soap.

Downy Mildew

Downy mildew is a relatively “new” disease on coleus. “It was first observed in New York and Louisiana in 2005. By 2006, it was found throughout most of the United States. Symptoms include leaves dropping off of plants, brown blotches on leaves, and stunted seedlings. Both seed and vegetatively propagated types are susceptible.”

A Michigan State University study found sprays with the active ingredient called mandipropamid helped control the downy Mildew. Another trial found success with “Stature DM 50WP, Pentathlon LF (mancozeb), Subdue MAXX EC, Insignia (pyraclostrobin).” Treatment with Terrazole 35WP (etridiazole) did not fair as well.

Coleus Plant Care – Questions and Answers

Question: Why are my coleus losing color after I have them a while.

I’ve tried them in east and south windows, and also out of the direct sun, but they still fade. Is there a plant food that would correct this loss of color?

Answer: Coleus to retain its bright color must have three things.

#1 – It should have some direct sunlight for at least part of the day and as much indirect light as possible all of the time. These flowers grow in the sun very well!

#2 – It should have heat, 60° degrees or more, at all times and planted in rich, well-drained soil that promotes rapid growth.

#3 – Soil containing good rich loam, sand, and some manure should maintain the brilliant colors.

If your coleus has been potted for some time, a regular feeding of high nitrogen liquid fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro will help to keep the leaves bright.

More On Coleus – Questions and Answers

Question: My houseplants, especially my coleus has masses of white, cottony insects on them. How can I rid the plants of these? JO, Indiana

Answer: One common coleus enemy is the mealybug.

One way of dealing with mealybugs is to lay the plants in the tub or sink and wash them off with a forceful spray of water. The cottony masses may also be removed with a small soft brush dipped in alcohol.

Another control method is to repeatedly spray plants with neem insecticide oil or malathion until there are no mealy bugs. This is also the best method to control mealybug on hairy-leaved plants like African violets.

Question: How should one go about keeping coleus plants from the garden indoors over the winter?

Answer: In the fall, just before frost, take slips from the coleus and place them in good soil in pots and boxes indoors. Keep the slips watered, out of drafts, in a light warm place and in about two weeks they will be rooted, growing plants.

A few plants of coleus in the fall will usually give all the new plants you need. Taking cutting is easier, better and simpler than trying to take up the old plants.

Learn More in the section on Taking Coleus Cuttings

Question: Why do some coleus grow straight up instead of branching out? I wish mine were bushier.

Answer: Coleus plants to be bushy need pinching. Do not hesitate to pinch the tip out of a coleus.

Pinch it as soon as it has three sets of leaves and keep pinching the side shoots as often as they get too long, up until the last of July.

Learn: How To Grow Coleus As A Tree: Step By Step

Question: Please tell me where and how you get seeds from coleus.

Answer: Coleus plants bloom and set seeds as any other annuals do. To keep the plants bushy and vigorous pinch flower stem off. It’s not considered attractive anyway.

A better plan than growing coleus seeds would be to purchase them, either locally or by mail. One would be likely to get more variety and more color from seed purchased than from seed saved from one or two plants.

Related Reading: Growing Coleus From Seeds

Coleus should be sown indoors early to get sizeable seedlings for spring planting outdoors. The seed comes up quickly and eight weeks of growing indoors should produce bedding size plants.

Question: Is Coleus poisonous?

Answer: Read our article titled – Are Coleus Poisonous To People, Dogs, Cats, Horses?

Coleus Plant Facts

Forskolin is an herbal extract from Coleus forskohlii, a plant belonging to the mint family. It’s mechanism of action? It increases the production of cyclic AMP, which increases the contractility of heart muscle.

Evidence for other actions is preliminary and inconclusive: there is speculation that it may have effects in other cells of the body such as platelet and thyroid cells, it may prevent platelet aggregation and adhesions, and it might even prevent tumor cell growth and cancer metastasis. So far, there is no evidence that it is clinically useful or safe for those purposes.

Closing Thoughts on Coleus

Coleus is a versatile plant and can be enjoyed year round.

Use red coleus flowers inside in foliage arrangements or planted in soil living in the same jardiniere in the house for winter and as it did on the terrace in summer.

In either location, it will provide branches of multicolored foliage for bouquets and more plants. The big requirement is sunshine to keep the leaves bright in color.

Select your first plants carefully, choosing those that are quite different in form and color. Don’t overlook the smallest seedlings… they are often the prettiest.

images: source

Growing Coleus Plant Indoors

Botanical Name: Coleus blumei (aka Solenostemon scutellarioides)

Coleus plant, also known as Painted Nettle, is often grown outdoors as an annual because it is frost-tender. But it’s easy to grow indoors if you can provide bright light.

Distinctive leaf shapes, intricate patterns, and rich colors rival some of the showiest foliage plants.

Pinch your plant. Coleus plants can get leggy. Pinch growing tips often to encourage them to branch out and stay bushy and full. Also pinch off flower spikes as soon as you notice them because they will detract from the beautiful foliage.

Keep it moist. Coleus leaves will wilt and may fall off if the soil is too dry. You’ll have a much healthier-looking plant if you keep the soil moist at all times. Use a pot with drainage holes and water thoroughly. Need a container? Check out the stylish self-watering pots available now. It’s just the thing to keep your coleus from wilting this summer.

Dropped leaves? Low light, dry soil or cold air can cause leaves to drop. Don’t worry — this vigorous plant will replace them when it gets what it wants.

Something bugging your plant? Aphids like to attack new growth. Treat your plant right away and isolate it to avoid contaminating your other plants.

Coleus Varieties

Boundless varieties of coleus are available. Foliage colors include red, maroon, brown, cream, yellow, orange and green in dramatic combinations and designs. Leaf edges may be scalloped or ruffled and have a contrasting color.

Stunning new hybrids make choosing just one nearly impossible. Fortunately, we don’t have to choose. Coleus plant is easy to find in garden centers, and a cinch to grow from seed. It’s also practically foolproof to propagate from a plant — just cut off a stem and stick it in a glass of water.

There’s no need to over-winter them. I replace my coleus plants when they get tall and leggy. This garden favorite is inexpensive. Besides, I like to try new varieties each year.

Coleus Plant Care Tips

Origin: Southeast Asia

Height: Up to 2 ft (60 cm)

Light: Bright light. Some direct sun is okay, except intense summer sun which will scorch the leaves. Too little light dulls leaf colors and may cause leaves to drop.

Water: Keep soil evenly moist. Leaves will wilt if thirsty. Avoid getting the velvety leaves wet. Hard water will cause white spots and they won’t come off. Always use room-temperature water when watering houseplants.

Humidity: Moderate humidity. Check out these easy ways to increase humidity for your tropical house plants. Don’t mist coleus leaves because tap water will leave spots.

Temperature: Average room temperatures 65-75°F/18-24°C. Leaves may wilt or fall off if the plant is exposed to temperatures below 55°F/13°C.

Soil: Any good-quality potting mix

Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks spring and summer with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half.

Propagation: Sow coleus seeds in spring. Take 3 in (7 cm) coleus stem tip cuttings in spring or summer. Stem tip cuttings root easily in water or moist soil.

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Plectranthus scutellarioides (Coleus blumei)

Coleus Care Guide


Coleus plants need an excellent light source without scorching sun to retain the markings and because the leaf markings are the sole point to this attractive plant, it’s essential that you get the light requirements correct. Sitting directly in a North, East or West facing window will be perfect, you may get away with a South facing window if the sunlight is filtered.

For perfect results chose a bright light spot which is warmed by the sun. Then water frequently.

We’ll pretend you’ve followed our instructions above and chosen a bright spot which will therefore be warmed naturally by the sun. Such a placement will require you to keep the soil moist at all times, potentially meaning you’ll be pulling out your watering can once or twice a week. Reduce watering in Winter and allow the soil to dry out a little.

If you’ve ignored our light recommendation and chosen somewhere darker you’ll still need to keep things moist, but achieving this will require you to water much less frequently to prevent things becoming too wet.


Misting the leaves frequently is an ideal way to increase humidity around your Coleus and to keep the leaves looking wonderfully clean. That said, humidity in general is not often a big concern when it comes to these houseplants, so if you’re not a “mister” don’t fret about it.


There is no need to feed these plants on a regular or heavy basis because Coleus tends not to be a flowering houseplant, nor do you want it to grow to large proportions. Using a standard fertilizer feed four times a year (twice in Spring, twice in Summer) is usually enough.


Provide average warmth no cooler than 10°C (50°F), otherwise you will risk your Coleus dying off.


If you plan to keep the plant alive over Winter, in the following Spring prune everything back quite sharply and repot using fresh standard potting soil. You can keep the previous pot because a size upgrade is not normally needed unless you want to increases its overall size.


As the cultivars are so distinctive and varied it may be hard to replace your previous plant with an exact copy if you lose it, alternatively your family or friends might take a fancy to the pattern and style on yours and want a cutting or you might just want more around your home. Fortunately for you, Coleus is really easy to propagate.

Basically all you need to do is cut off one of the stems, to create a Coleus cutting then dip it in a rooting hormone before pushing gently into potting soil, keeping it moist and in a warm spot until rooting has taken place. This takes a few weeks and the tell tale sign a cutting has “taken” is when you notice new leaves forming.

If you want a visual guide to this propagation method check out the YouTube video below which is pretty good (personally though we would take off a few of the leaves to give the cuttings a greater chance of surviving. This is because there are no roots to support all of those leaves she has left in place which places the cutting under a lot of stress).

Speed of Growth

The growth rate is often quite fast in ideal conditions so you must prune regularly to keep it compact and neat.

Height / Spread

Unchecked, the stems can grow to 1ft – 2ft / 30cm – 60cm. This may be what you are looking for, but it can be kept shorter by pinching out the growing tips on a frequent basis.


Rather modest in appearance and certainly not capable of competing with the foliage the flowers are very similar to those found on stinging nettles, because, well they’re related!

Coleus plants will often die if you allow the flowers to set seed. With this in mind it’s normally best to remove any flower buds when they appear.

Is Coleus Poisonous?

A lot of the hybrids are okay to have around both people and pets, however some varieties still have more of the “natural” qualities from the older plants. These tend to have higher levels of essential oils within the leaves, which when consumed in large quantities can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Anything else?

If you can’t be bothered with the maintenance required, you can just allow the plant to grow naturally and flower, but then in Winter take cuttings from your dying plant to propagate new ones ready for the following Spring.

Caring for Coleus Summary

  1. Moderate Light Levels Avoid direct sunlight and shady areas. The plant needs good light to retain the markings.

  2. Moderate to Heavy Watering The soil needs to be moist, not dry or soggy. Big plants will drink more.

  3. Warm Temperatures Normal indoor room temperatures. No lower than 10°C (50°F)

  4. Feeding Try to fertilise once every month or so when it’s growing.

  • Doesn’t like shady places
  • Won’t tolerate very cold temperatures
  • Do not let the plant flower – Pinch out the flower stems if any appear

Coleus Problems

Leaf fall

Several things can cause the leaves on the Coleus to drop off suddenly. This is normally a result of not watering enough, cool draughts or cold temperatures in general.

Stem rot

Moist soil is essential for a healthy Coleus, but this is not the same as wet soil which will encourage the roots and stems to rot. You mustn’t drown your plant and for many newbies this is too easy to do and is therefore the number one reason house plants die.

The best thing for these plants is to wait until the top of the soil becomes dry and then water well, ensuring no water remains in the drip tray after half an hour or so has past.

Leggy Growth

This is normally a combination of too little light and poor maintenance. You must provide good light and pinch out new growth tips every month to create a compact and bushy looking plant. If it’s too late, then cut the plant back hard to encourage new growth.


All the usual pests that afflict houseplants may decide to set up home on your Coleus, if this happens identify what pest has arrived and treat accordingly.

Leaves turning yellow

Old leaves will yellow and drop off over time, normally replaced by bigger ones. If lots of leaves are going yellow at once and the plant looks very sickly then you may have been watering too much.

Often if this stage is reached it’s too late to save the plant as the damage has already been done. If any part of the plant looks okay create Coleus cuttings for a propagation attempt.

About the Author

Tom Knight

Over the last 20 years Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the Ourhouseplants Team.

Also on

(Article / Gallery) Photo credit of the Coleus in the window to Carlos Gustavo Gonzalez
(Article / Gallery) Photo credit of the Coleus in flower to 4028mdk09
(Article / Gallery) Photo credit of the green Coleus plants to Ren Ran
(Gallery) Photo credit of the ruffled Coleus to KENPEI
(Gallery) Photo credit Coleus Blumei Hybrid to Hedwig Storch

Community Comments

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Solenostemon ‘Pineapple Queen’ looks small but grows up to be a large plant requiring a wide space, even inside.

It seems pedestrian to describe coleus as the quintessential houseplant. But for its frequent reemergence in history, dating from the Victorian era, it must be. Gardeners grow coleus for many reasons, but above all for the plant’s color brightening our home’s interior.

Without a doubt, coleus is a favorite because of the plant’s leaves. Especially in the current breeding climate, coleus are rarely grown for the flowers and, in fact, many modern Solenostemon scutellarioides cultivars are so slow to develop blooms, if ever, the most dedicated coleus lover’s patience would be sorely tested.

Best Coleus Characteristics for a Houseplant

From the vast numbers of coleus cultivars, houseplant gardeners will have the most success with plant characteristics that take advantage of the indoor environment. The coleus inside will want bright indoor light, but not hot sun, for the plant to develop strong stems and keep substantial foliage color.

A bit of experimenting with one’s indoor lighting will reveal spaces most useful to growing coleus. Plants able to maintain good color with lower light, usually labeled for shade outside, will be successful inside. Remember coleus plants with dark-colored foliage need more morning sun over their pale-colored cousins. Gardeners will notice outside, coleus with a mix of dark and light colors on one leaf receiving too much sun will likely burn the lighter sections, turning the color almost brown as happens with ‘Henna’ and ‘Peter’s Wonder’.

Solenostemon ‘Redhead’ was tested outside at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio, in 2009. Coleus with velvety foliage contrast well with glossy leaved houseplants.

Variegated coleus leaves receiving less than minimal light to maintain colors gradually turn greener. Solenostemon ‘Cantigny Royale’ is a duck-foot type coleus growing up to 15 inches tall and useful for filling in the empty space beneath taller plants in an indoor planter. Like Solenostemon ‘Plum Frost’, a large coleus, they must have bright light to develop and maintain the dark purplish hue through even the dark days of winter. If light intensity is lessened, plants will color up once again when proper light exposure resumes, all other plant culture being equal. Houseplant growers who love coleus will have to decide their level of tolerance for off coloring in low light and need to correct sited plants found wanting.

Size and space is always a consideration for houseplant gardeners of any persuasion. It is possible to find coleus that remains relatively small. Solenostemon ‘Rob Roy’ is a short plant excellent for hanging baskets or to use as filler with tropicals. ‘Rob Roy’ would make an excellent indoor plant as high heat or bright light is not appreciated by this small-leaved coleus. Other compact plants with smaller leaves include ‘Butter Kutter’, which will brighten up an indoor space with its lime green and cream coloring, and ‘Indian Frills’, a small duck-foot coleus.

Tall colorful coleus worth exploring include ‘Duke of Swirl’, a 2-foot upright plant with red and purple blotches appearing as thrown all over the lime-green background. ‘Grenadine’ is another short plant but with dark-red leaves, purple veining and green margins. The ‘Gold Giant’ has purple stems and a golden burgundy undersides and tolerates sun exposure as in a west-facing window. Coleus plants that are allowed to grow large indoors will need bright light that reaches the understory level, too.

As Many Coleus Enthusiasts as are Solenostemon Cultivars

‘Plum Frost’ grows into a large upright form. Said to grow in sun or shade, ‘Plum Frost’ liked bright light in the form of early morning sun to bring out the purple color.

There are as many coleus enthusiasts and reasons to grow the colorful foliage as there are Solenostmon scutellarioides cultivars. For new gardeners, coleus may be the first plant grown because initially it is very inexpensive and easy to grow. But be forewarned, once hooked, motivations become convoluted and passion is in danger of turning into obsession.

Growing coleus year round means gardeners can eventually expect big-sized houseplants with woody stems. Gardeners only growing their plants indoors will have coleus never deviating from the home environment. When new selections are out at garden centers in spring, coleus collectors will join their outdoor counterparts and go looking for one or two to add to their gardens inside.

Gardeners, who grow plants outside and within their home, see value in coleus for a variety of reasons, as well. Coleus outside can be located in a big landscape; used as a bedding plant planted en masse or individually, to focus attention, or in a container combination for height and color.

More Coleus for Indoors or Outside

Whether it is for economic reasons, for the love of growing a particular cultivar or because it is just that easy, where temperatures have fallen well below the 50 F minimum outside for coleus, winter is a good time to take cuttings of the favorites. The coleus transplants become new plants moved outside as temperatures warm, and back indoors, some to stay their entire life. So the coleus garden starts again.

After overwintering indoors, the same ‘Alligator Tears’ plant emerged to grow with Gerbera daisy (Gerbera ‘Jaguar Mix’) and purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) in a large pot.

In 2010, ColorBlaze Alligator Tears™ (Solenostemon ‘Alligator Tears’) grew outside almost as tall as the boxwood (Buxus sp.) next to it, but in a large metal bucket.

A collection of coleus chosen for different foliage shapes and sizes. The planter contains (left to right) Solenostemon ‘Plum Frost’, Solenostemon ‘Cantigny Royale’ and Solenostemon ‘Kiwi Herman’.

(Photography by Chris Eirschele.)

Posted September 2011 Chris Eirschele began gardening in 1973, among her first plants was a coleus with big red leaves, it grew indoors for three years. She is the topic editor and feature writer of Flower Gardens at

Healthy Houseplants

Coleus: Tropical Beauty Decorates Your Indoors-You Can Grow That!

Coleus and I go way back—to the beginning of my fascination with indoor gardening. I was seven, and it was the 1970s when houseplants and macramé hangers could be bought just about anywhere, including the drugstore where I discovered my first coleus.

(All Photos this page, Ball Horticultural Co.)

Fascinated with the velvety, burgundy foliage edged by forest green, I bought the plant with change from my piggybank and cradled it all of the way home. It took center stage on my window ledge, while I held my breath and watched to see if it would survive. In the meantime, I researched the needs of coleus and houseplants in general at the local library, soon discovering how to propagate the plant from cuttings and seed. Twelve coleuses later, I branched out and began growing other houseplants.

The rest, as they say, is history.

If you haven’t tried growing coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) in your indoor garden, you’re in for a real treat. Since I grew my first coleus years ago, hybridizers like Ball Horticultural Company have created a plethora of stunning selections in a wide variety of color combinations that are sure to light up your interior. These beauties that are native to Southeast Asia and Malaysia thrive indoors under the right conditions.

Lighting for coleus

Sufficient lighting is critical to keeping coleus leaf colors vibrant and to prevent the plant from getting spindly and etiolating (reaching for light.) Place coleus in a location of the home that receives bright light, such as in an unobstructed eastern or southern window. Or put the plant under or near full-spectrum lighting.

Provide warm conditions for coleus

If you’ve ever grown coleus in your outdoor garden in the summer months, you’ve probably noticed that once cold weather hits the plant soon defoliates and dies. They are tropical plants that require temperatures of 65 degrees Fahrenheit or above. During the winter months, avoid letting coleus leaves touch windows, as this can result in damaged foliage.

Coleus watering tips

Keep coleus soil moist but not soggy. Spring through fall, water when the top ½ inch of soil has dried out. Drought coleus, and their leaves will drop off. Always water coleus with warm water, as cold can damage roots. Cut back on watering in the winter months when growth slows. Water at that time when the top 1 ½ inches of soil dries out.

Fertilizing coleus

Feed coleus with an organic liquid fertilizer monthly spring through fall.

Pinch/prune coleus regularly

Coleuses are notorious for producing small blue or purple flower spikes. These pale in comparison to the showy foliage and will make the plant grow rangy, so pinch them out as soon as they appear. If the plant becomes leggy over the winter, prune it back by one-third in early spring.

Repotting coleus

Coleus is a fast-grower and requires sufficient root room to thrive. Repot every six months to a pot that is two sizes larger. Use a high-quality potting soil with added vermicompost.

How to grow solenostemon (coleus)

Solenostemon or coleus is usually grown as a flamboyant bedding plant or conservatory houseplant.


It comes in lots variations and colours, with dramatic foliage being its show stopping feature. The flowers are not very significant, but the leaf colour ranges from bright reds, yellows, greens, bronzes, pinks and browns. Solenostemon is actually an ornamental member of the mint family, native to Indonesia. It looks good in bedding schemes or as filler at the front of a summer border or in pots and containers.

All species formerly placed in the Coleus genus have now been split into either Plectranthus or Solenostemon.

More Grow Guides:

  • How to grow hostas
  • How to grow peonies
  • How to grow tomatoes

Follow the advice in this start-to-finish guide to growing solenostemon.

Where to grow solenostemon

Planting solenostemon as a bedding plant

Given its exotic origins, solenostemon is a tender perennial, but is most typically grown as an annual in the UK in borders or containers. Choose a sheltered spot outdoors, with moist but well-drained soil in full sun or part shade at the front of a border, on a patio or in a window box.

Planting solenostemon

Planting solenostemon with lantana and impatiens

Plant into well-worked soil with added compost and a slow release fertiliser, after all risk of frost has passed. Try this planting combination with solenostemon, for a shady window box.

Propagating solenostemon

Taking solenostemon cuttings

Take cuttings from solenostemon plants in summer to increase your supply of plants and grow on for next season – overwinter in a greenhouse or conservatory. Watch our video for advice on how to take cuttings.

Solenostemon: problem solving

Solenostemon has no problem with diseases, but if grown in a conservatory or indoors, look out for pests such as whitefly, mealybugs and scale insects.

Caring for solenostemon

Frost damage to solenostemon foliage

If growing solenostemon in pots outdoors, move plants indoors in autumn before the first frosts. If using as bedding plants, you could transfer to pots and move to a sheltered indoor area. Alternatively, grow as a conservatory houseplant.


Solenostemon varieties to try

  • Solenostemon ‘Chocolate Mint’ – the semi-succulent stems bear velvety, maroon leaves edged with bright green and prominent, rounded teeth. The pale blue flowers are insignificant and can appear at any time of year
  • Solenostemon ‘Trusty Rusty’ – the stems are semi-succulent stems and bear velvety, rust-colored leaves with a serrated, golden outer edge
  • Solenostemon ‘Olympic Torch’ – the dark burgundy leaves are edged with a thin border of yellow-green
  • Solenostemon ‘Saturn’ – the deep burgundy foliage has a central splash of bright lime green

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