When to plant coleus?

Coleus – Growing, Care Tips & Varieties

Colorful coleus varieties add pizzazz to shady beds, sunny borders and containers By Ray Rogers and Linda Hagen


ColorBlaze® Dipt in Wine coleus. Photo by Proven Winners.

Easy-to-grow coleus plants aren’t just for shade anymore. Heat and sun-tolerant varieties are widely available, making them a popular choice for many areas, and their bold and beautiful foliage make them the center of attention no matter where they’re planted. Although technically an evergreen perennial, coleus are usually grown as annuals because these tender tropicals can’t handle even the slightest frost.



Hardy to Zone 10, but can be overwintered indoors in colder areas.


Varieties 6 inches to 3-1/2 feet tall and 1 to 3 feet wide.


Full sun to shade, depending on variety.

Bloom time:

Coleus plants will bloom with racemes of tiny white or bluish flowers any time of the year. However, plants that have been propagated from cuttings won’t flower as often, if at all.

Color & characteristics:

Coleus plants have an incredible range of natural color variation, but enthusiasts and breeders have taken them a step further with colors from bright chartreuse to hot pink to velvety near-black, and any number of combinations. There are plants with solid-colored foliage, and ones with heavily contrasted veining, stripes or splotches. Coleus leaves range from one to six-inches long, and also come in many different shapes and sizes. Coleus plants also have unique, square semi-succulent stems.


Coleus are non-toxic to humans, but the sap can cause minor skin irritation. The essential oils they contain are toxic to dogs, cats and other animals.

Planting ColorBlaze® Dipt in Wine


When to plant:

Start coleus seeds indoors, 8 to 12 weeks before last frost date. Transplants should only be planted long after the danger of frost has passed and soil has warmed to at least 60 degrees. Any amount of frost will damage coleus plants.

Where to plant:

The amount of light can have a dramatic impact on plant size and leaf color. For the best leaf color, a location that receives morning sun and dappled afternoon shade is best. Darker-leaved varieties tend to handle more sunlight better than those with lighter-colored leaves. Also, choose a wind-protected area, as their semi-succulent stems are prone to breakage.



Keep plants looking tidy and maintain their size and shape by pinching or trimming stem tips. To promote denser and more compact growth, pinch out flower spikes before they elongate. Since coleus are mainly grown for their colorful foliage, there’s no need to waste the plant’s energy on flowering or setting seed.


Any average, moist, but well-drained soil suits them.

Amendments & fertilizer:

Feed regularly with a water-soluble or liquid fertilizer — about every 2 weeks for container-grown and every month for in-ground plants — to promote lusher growth and richer leaf colors.


Water regularly. Coleus are thirsty plants, so keep the soil moist. However, avoid overly damp soil, as this can cause leaf drop. We recommend using self-watering containers.

Growing indoors:

Coleus do quite well when overwintered indoors as a houseplant. Place them in a sunny windowsill and rotate occasionally to provide even lighting. Provide supplement light with grow lights if needed.


Take cuttings in early fall and start them indoors over winter. Cuttings root easily in water or in a loose potting medium for overwintering, and they’ll be ready to move to the garden in spring.

Diseases & pests:

Keep an eye out for mealybugs and spider mites. Rutgers gives coleus plants as ‘C’ rating on their deer resistance list, stating they’re occasionally severely damaged.

Deer resistance:

Rutgers gives coleus plants as ‘C’ rating on their deer resistance list, stating they’re occasionally severely damaged.


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Photo by: Proven Winners

ColorBlaze® Rediculous™ — Buy now from Proven Winners
Solenostemon scutellarioides


10-11, grown as an annual in other areas


24 to 40 inches tall, 18 to 36 inches wide


Sun or shade


Red foliage

This red coleus brings bold contrast to container combinations and also works well in landscape applications.

Photo by: Proven Winners

Fishnet Stockings — Buy now from Proven Winners
Solenostemon scutellarioides

10-11, grown as an annual in other areas

24 to 36 inches tall, 12 to 16 inches wide

Partial shade to shade

Green and burgundy variegation

This award-winner is heat tolerant and perfect for use in baskets, beds and borders.

Photo by: Proven Winners

ColorBlaze® Dark Star — Buy now from Proven Winners
Solenostemon scutellarioides

10-11, grown as an annual in other areas

12 to 24 inches tall, 12 to 16 inches wide

Sun or shade

Dark purple

An easy-care coleus with stunning, dark purple foliage that holds its color all summer.

Photo by: Proven Winners

ColorBlaze® Lime Time™ — Buy now from Proven Winners
Solenostemon scutellarioides

10-11, grown as an annual in other areas

24 to 40 inches tall, 18 to 30 inches wide

Sun or shade


Bright, electric lime color will brighten up shady corners from spring until fall.

Photo by: Proven Winners

ColorBlaze® Dipt in Wine — Buy now from Proven Winners
Solenostemon scutellarioides

10-11, grown as an annual in other areas

24 to 40 inches tall, 20 to 24 inches wide

Sun or shade

Crimson leaves with yellow center and lime green edges

Another award-winning, heat-tolerant coleus that is bound to make an impression.

Photo by: Proven Winners

Gays Delight — Buy now from Proven Winners
Solenostemon scutellarioides

10-11, grown as an annual in other areas

24 to 36 inches tall, 12 to 16 inches wide

Sun or shade

Lime green with black veining

A unique accent that will garner attention in any basket or planter combination.

Photo by: Kallayanee Naloka /

‘Kong Rose’
Solenostemon scutellarioides

10-11, grown as an annual in other areas

18 to 20 inches tall, 15 to 18 inches wide

Partial shade to shade

Shades of red framed with bright green edges

Large leaves with unique patterning, prefers full shade.

Photo by: Feng Yu /

Solenostemon scutellarioides

10-11, grown as an annual in other areas

14 to 28 inches tall, 14 to 24 inches wide

Sun or shade

Shades of orange

Dark orange foliage that stays vibrant in both sun and shade makes a big impact in mass plantings.

Photo by: Jaimie Tuchman /

Solenostemon scutellarioides

10-11, grown as an annual in other areas

18 to 28 inches tall, 16 to 28 inches wide

Partial shade to shade

Shades of red framed with bright green edges

Add contrast and a punch of color to partially shady areas.

Photo by: ESB Essentials /

Solenostemon scutellarioides

10-11, grown as an annual in other areas

18 to 28 inches tall, 16 to 28 inches wide

Sun to partial shade


Add some spice to sunny or shady containers, beds or landscape border.


The sheer assortment of colors, shapes and textures available makes coleus a much appreciated plant for containers, beds and borders.

Container featuring ColorBlaze® ‘Sedona’, ColorBlaze® Dipt in Wine, and ColorBlaze® Dark Star. Photo by Proven Winners.

  • Use trailing varieties like ColorBlaze® Chocolate Drop or Strawberry Drop to drape over the edges of hanging baskets.
  • Make a bold statement with a mass planting of a single variety.
  • Choose colors that compliment or add contrast to nearby plants or flowers.
  • Brighten a shady corner with light and bright colored foliage, like ColorBlaze® Lime Time™.
  • Give a big punch of color to a plain container with a vibrant, multi-colored coleus.
  • Use upright-growing types as a thriller and trailing types as a spiller for containers. (For more on container design, see the video Thriller, Filler, Spiller.)

Foliage Plants
Annual Plants

These easy-to-care-for plants feature attractive leaves in many varieties and are great for adding color to your house or garden dark corners.

As their name implies, Coleus plants are very gorgeous with their leave colors; they can be grown either outdoors and indoors and are too stunning not to notice. Let’s dive into this plant.

Coleus Plant Overview

Quick Facts

Origin Asia and Australasia
Scientific Name Plectranthus scutellarioides
Family Lamiaceae
Type Evergreen perennial
Common Names Coleus, Painted Nettle
Ideal Temperature 70-100° F

Light Bright, indirect light and plenty of shade
Watering Allow soil to dry between waterings
Humidity Moderate to high humidity

Caring for Your Coleus Plant


When you first plant your Coleus, whether it be in a container pot or directly into the ground, give it a good soaking of water to saturate the soil. For waterings following this, only water once the soil has started to go dry. Aim to keep the soil moist but not wet, avoiding watering too heavily, as the plant is susceptible to root rot.

Coleus plants in containers will need more frequent watering than those grown in the ground. During hot and dry summer months, Coleus container plants will need watering at least once a day, sometimes twice. However, always be careful not to overwater, as too much water will destroy the roots and leave the plant unable to absorb any water or nutrients.


The Coleus plant loves the shade, making it an ideal plant for bringing some bright and vibrant color to darker corners of your garden. This plant would have lots of shade in its natural tropical habitat, where tall trees would protect it from the sun, so try to replicate this at home by providing the Coleus with ample protection from the sun’s harsh rays. Bright, direct light will scorch the leaves, causing the vibrant colors to fade or become bleached, or resulting in browned edges or transparent patches.

The ideal spot for this plant is one that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. This is because the sun is much stronger in the afternoon and will cause damage to the plant, so it’s best for it to be in the protection of the shade during this time. Allowing the plant to get some natural light but giving it shade during the heat of the day will result in the best color on the foliage of the plant. If you don’t have an appropriate spot with afternoon shade, there are some Coleus varieties that can tolerate afternoon sun, but be sure to research your variety before you buy it and ensure you have an ideal area for it to thrive.


This tropical plant likes it hot, with an ideal temperature range of 70 to 100° F. It can tolerate very warm weather, but the same cannot be said of the cold. When overnight temperatures drop to below 50° F, the Coleus plant can run into trouble. If you have grown your Coleus in a container pot, then the ideal scenario would be to bring it inside when the colder weather sets in, putting it in a warm place with bright but indirect light. It can return outside once the weather warms up in the spring, and temperatures consistently exceed 50° F.


This plant can tolerate high humidity, as it would ordinarily experience this in its natural tropical habitat. However, the Coleus does not rely on high humidity to thrive and will do just fine in average humidity levels.


If you are growing your Coleus in a container pot, then a time will come when it outgrows the space and needs to be repotted in a larger container. A root-bound plant will stop growing, so if you want to your Coleus at its current size, then you can keep it in its pot for an extended period, but eventually, its health will suffer, and you will need to give it more space to spread out its roots.

To repot the plant, gently pull it out of its current pot and remove as much of the soil as you can without harming the roots. If the plant was particularly pot bound, then you can gently massage the roots between your fingers to encourage them to spread out in the new pot and continue healthy growth. Select a new container that is around two inches in height and diameter larger than the previous pot, and put enough potting soil in the bottom so that the plant will be at the same level in the pot as it was before. Gently place the plant into the center of the container and fill the edges with new soil.

Coleus plants prefer well-draining soil to help prevent overwatering and root rot. Use a mixture that contains plenty of perlite, which will help to ensure the soil drains well as well as aerating it. Once you have completed repotting the plant, give it a heavy watering and then, continue care as normal.

The best time to repot your Coleus is in early spring, and as a moisture-loving plant, you may want to think carefully about the construction of the container you are using. Terracotta pots have a tendency to absorb moisture, so if you’re using a pot such as this, then you should line it with plastic wrap so that the moisture is retained by the soil.


Coleus plants kept in containers can be fed a liquid fertilizer once a month throughout spring and summer. It isn’t necessary to feed the plants during fall and winter, as this is a period of minimal growth. If your Coleus plants are growing in the ground, then a slow release fertilizer may be a good option. To encourage abundant leaf growth and vibrant foliage, choose a fertilizer which has high levels of nitrogen.


This plant has a habit of becoming quite leggy. To encourage a fuller growth in a bushy style, you can prune the bottom stems of the plant. Snip off spindly stems with sharp shears, ideally a short distance above a leaf node. This should result in the stem forking out at the cut point, creating a denser plant. You can also prune the plant to keep it looking neat or to prevent it from overgrowing, though this isn’t essential.

Flowers will appear on the plant in the summer, but they pale in comparison to the beauty of the brightly colored foliage, so it is best to remove the flowers at the stem as soon as you notice buds appearing (Horticulture Magazine). The flowers do very little visually for the plant, and the energy that is spent producing the flowers means that energy is taken from elsewhere. By removing the flower buds in their infancy, the plant will redirect its energy to the continued production of colorful foliage.


The Coleus plant can easily be propagated with stem cuttings, or from seed (University of Florida- Gardening Solutions).

To grow a new Coleus, take a stem cutting from the mother plant of around five inches in length. The cut should be made just below a leaf node, and you can then remove all of the leaves from the stem except for the top pair. At this point, if you wish, you can dip the cut end in rooting hormone. This can help to encourage root growth, though it is really down to personal preference and isn’t essential to successful propagation.

You can propagate your stem cutting in water or in potting soil, and both work equally well. To propagate in water, simply place your stem cutting in a glass or jar, with enough water in so that the bottom half of the stem is submerged in water. Keep the cutting warm, ideally providing warmth from the bottom, and refresh the water when necessary to ensure it remains clean. Within several weeks, you should start to see roots appear from the bottom of the stem. When this happens, you can pot the plant into a small container and continue usual care, or plant it directly into a garden bed. If you are propagating in soil, you will follow a similar pattern, but using a small container of potting mix or propagation medium instead of a jar of water.

Use your little finger or the end of a pencil to make a hole in the soil in which to place your stem cutting. Push the soil up around the planted stem to help if stand up, and then, supply the cutting with warmth while maintaining a moist but not wet soil. When you notice new growth on the upper part of the cutting, it means that root growth is also happening. To check root growth, you can very gently tug on the stem cutting, and if you feel some resistance, then it means sufficient roots have formed. If the cutting is easily pulled from the soil, then it means roots are not present or are not advanced enough to repot. Once the cutting is ready, you can plant it up in a longer term home and continue usual Coleus care.

Growing Coleus plants from seed is also an easy process and generally results in success. The simplest method is to use a seedling tray full of potting soil and evenly spread seeds across it. Add another layer of potting soil on top so that the seeds are no longer visible. Put the tray in a bright and warm place such as a sunny windowsill, or a sunroom or conservatory, and maintain moist but not wet soil. Using a clear plastic covering over the tray can also be added, which will help to increase humidity and help the seedlings grow. You can expect to see seedlings emerge through the soil in around two weeks’ time. If you used a plastic cover, you can remove it at this point, but continue to allow the seedlings to grow until they start to become too large for their container. When watering the seedlings, add water to the bottom tray so that the roots can absorb it from underneath; this serves to protect the growing seedlings, which are not yet very strong. Once big enough, you can transplant them to a garden bed or planter.


The Coleus plant has a seemingly endless amount of varieties and cultivars to its name. Most are vibrantly colored and easy to care for, though some have slightly different growing requirements. Typically, most varieties enjoy a mix of plentiful shade and bright light, though some cultivars have now been developed that can withstand all-day sun (Home and Garden Information Center). Some of the many varieties available are listed below.

‘Inky Fingers’ and ‘Inky Toes’

Coleus ‘Inky Fingers’

These Coleus plants are aptly named after the hand and foot-like appearance of the leaves. They usually have green outer edges that appear to be an outline of the dark red interior. While the Inky Toes plant has leaves which are reminiscent of duck feet, the Inky Fingers plant has a wider spread on the rounded bumps of the leaf edges, giving it more of an impression of a hand shape. These popular varieties are often used as container plants, as they fare exceptionally well in pots.


Coleus ‘Wasabi’ – Credit to lesserresfortier

This is one variety of Coleus that doesn’t feature unusual coloring. The vivid green leaves have a dainty shape which gives a graceful look to the plant. The Wasabi variety is popular to mix with other types of Coleus, as the plain green foliage offsets nicely against more intense colored varieties.


Coleus ‘Watermelon’ – Credit to jcapaldi

This fun variety has semi-circular-shaped leaves that are outlined in green with a striking red center. Each individual leaf looks like a slice of watermelon; hence its name. A rapidly growing and vibrant plant, this Coleus would liven up any dull corners of your garden.


Coleus ‘Campfire’ – Credit to Cttc

If you love the autumnal colors of fall leaves and wish you could have them all year round, then this is the Coleus for you. It has deep orange foliage in an elegant leaf shape, which is sometimes outlined in a thin, darker orange or red edging, or veining.

‘Glory of Luxembourg’

This Coleus plant has rich brown leaves with a bright green edging. The outer edge of the leaves is an interesting zigzag shape, which is further illuminated by the contrasting colors. This plant sporadically blooms blue flowers throughout the year, but they are uninteresting compared to the plant’s foliage, and like most Coleus plants, it is recommended that the flowers be removed to preserve energy for leaf production and growth.

‘Florida Sun Rose’

Coleus ‘Florida Sun Rose’ – Credit to lesserresfortier

This Coleus variety has pink leaves in shades which are very unusual for plant foliage. The base color of the leaves varies from pale to bright pink, while the central part of the leaf is a very deep purple that almost looks black from a distance. This versatile variety can be either a trailing plant or an upright grower, making it suitable for a variety of different uses in the garden.

‘Black Dragon’

Coleus ‘Black Dragon’ – Credit toDavid Stang

The colors of the foliage on this Coleus are so vivid and unusual that it is often the prized possession of a gardener, being used as a centerpiece in the garden. The leaves have a very rich texture that is almost like velvet. Added to this unusual texture is the vivid red and burgundy coloring on the leaves, and the result is a very sultry and dramatic looking plant. The leaf shape is also somewhat uncommon, with the frilly edge of the leaves giving the appearance that it could almost be made from fabric. This variety is incredibly easy to grow and care for and looks striking when placed alongside paler colored plants.


This variety of Coleus has long and triangular-shaped leaves that reach a sharp point at the end. There is an equal balance in color of green on the outer edge of the leaves and a buttery yellow color on the central part of the leaves.


Coleus ‘Henna’ – Credit to lesserresfortier

This is another variety of Coleus that features autumnal shades. The leaves are predominantly yellow with red edging and some red speckling on the main part of the leaf. The spiked shape of the foliage is also reminiscent of common autumnal fallen leaves.

‘Pink Ruffles’

This popular variety of Coleus has large leaves featuring shades of yellow, green, and pink. The base color is a creamy colored yellow, with green segments in a feathered pattern. The leaf stems, as well as the leaf edges and veins, are a bright pink, which offers a stark contrast against the pale yellow and vivid green. With the impressive array of colors on the unusual frilly edges leaves, it’s not hard to see why this variety has long been a favorite among the Coleus plants.

‘Superfine Rainbow’

Coleus ‘Superfine Rainbow’ – Credit toDavid Stang

This cultivar series of Coleus plant includes several varieties that are all quite similar in appearance. The ‘Volcano’ and ‘Red Velvet’ varieties both have leaves which are mostly a bright red color with shocking pink veining, which is then contrasted with a very thin green or yellow outline. The ‘Festive Dance’ is another variety within this cultivar, which has the same red and green leaf pattern but also features magenta or orange detailing on the main bulk of the leaf. Another attractive feature of these cultivars is the texture of the leaves, which are soft to the touch.


Coleus ‘Kong’ – Credit toDavid Stang

This is another series of cultivars that feature several similarly styled plants with slight color variations. The general color pattern is a thick green edging that transforms inwards into shades of red and pink. Popular varieties of this cultivar are Kong Lime Sprite, Kong Rose, and Kong Scarlet, which all feature various color variations.

Do you have a Coleus? Let us know how it’s doing!

I usually don’t let it flower too much, if at all, but this year is different.

You all remember my Coleus “Dipped In Wine” don’t you? It’s now 6 years old, 4′ tall and wide, and seems to be showing no signs of slowing down. Let me start by saying that mine definitely is a perennial (coleus are classified as tender perennials by the way) but are most commonly sold in the trade as an annual.

I love coleus foliage and would have a whole garden full of them but then what would I do with all of my beloved succulents? I limit my coleus cravings to 3 plants and usually snip off most of their blooms. Read on to find out why I’m letting mine flower this year.

Here’s how it looks in mid-October. Most of the flowers are spent now & have been removed.

You’ve seen this coleus before when I blogged about propagating it & then later on some juicy coleus “stuff”. This particular plant grows happily in a pot that butts up against the front of my house – protection with a nice amount of sun and heat. Its offspring, from the cuttings that I take every Winter, grows in a pot in bright shade in my side garden. You can see the difference in the foliage in the photos below. This is one of those coleus’ that takes sun or shade – like a true beauty queen, it’s both beautiful and versatile!

Here’s the plant that is 6 years old & grows in the sun. As you can see, the foliage is quite red.

This Coleus “Dipped in Wine” was propagated in January & planted in March – it’s a baby. The foliage is bigger & much more chartreuse because of it’s shaded.

I keep my Coleus healthy and going strong by topdressing it with an 1″ or 2″ of worm castings late every Winter. I then put a couple of inches of compost over that. And, in Spring and Summer it gets a dose of manure tea combined with liquid seaweed. This whole routine, which is really pretty simple, keeps all my containers plants happy as can be.

Speaking of flowering, there are 2 schools of thought when it comes to coleus. 1 says always remove them and the other says no biggie, just leave them. The main reason to take the flowers off is because they take energy away from the foliage production. If you tip prune to remove the flowers then a bit of that new growth comes off too. This helps to control the size because they tend to get rangy. The bigger they get, the heavier those branches get and then they snap off.

I’m not 100% convinced that if the coleus is an annual removing the flowers is to advantage of the foliage. After all, they’re usually gone by the end of October. The growers, I’m sure, think otherwise. My Coleus “Dipped In Wine” is another story though.

I’m letting it heavily flower this year (this is its 3rd bloom this year by the way) because of the hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. They love feeding on the blooms. Because we’re in the middle of an exceptional drought and not as much is flowering, I want to give them as much food as possible. There’s a hummingbird, maybe different ones because they’re hard to tell apart, that comes to this coleus that’s right outside my dining room window every morning and afternoon much to the delight of my cat Riley. Pure bliss for an indoor kitty.

Coleus are great in containers and combine beautifully with other plants as you can see here from my melange. It happily resides with an Aeonium Autropurpereum & a Variegated Weeping Japanese Boxwood.

Whether I remove the flowers on mine or not, it seems to get the same size and grow into the same crazy form. I let it mingle through the aeonium but do prune it away from the boxwood. So far, it has survived 2 large pine trees that somewhat shaded it being removed, a 5 day cold spell 1 Winter (well, relatively cold for Santa Barbara) and a couple of very dry Winters. What next for my Coleus “Dipped in Wine”?

Oh by the way, you might see this listed as Coleus “Dipt In Wine”. One in the same – it’s a keeper in my book.

Here’s the video shot in my front yard:

By Denise Seghesio Levine, U.C. Master Gardener of Napa County

A seed packet of Rainbow Floral Strain Mix of coleus is on my table and that is pretty exciting. Better than a box of mixed chocolates, this non-caloric envelope of a potential rainbow of eye candy is waiting to be sown and nurtured. Living foliage kaleidoscopes will be my winter color project.

Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) is actually a member of the mint and dead nettle family. As I look at the shape and texture of the leaves, I can see the resemblance.

Coleus is considered a shade plant, but many darker colors can handle some sun and some varieties are very happy in bright light. Varieties that like sun are called sun coleus and include Premium Sun Crimson Gold, Lime Delight and Chocolate Symphony.

I recently returned from a trip to Louisiana where coleus in lime green, lemon yellow, flamingo pink and chocolate brown in wonderfully varied heights and shapes tumbled over each other in lush beds. They grew in bright, steamy sunlight throughout most of the day.

I do not know if coleus make it through the entire year in Louisiana, but in Napa Valley, coleus should be grown as an annual or dug up when temperatures get cold and brought inside to grow as a houseplant. In protected areas and some of Napa Valley’s banana belts, coleus may survive winter outdoors.

You will get the most vibrant color from coleus that receive morning sun and afternoon shade, but there are coleus choices for most light conditions. While most coleus like shade, too much shade can cause plants to become weak and spindly.

Coleus are easy to propagate from cuttings, but I like the grab-bag surprise of planting from mixed seed and seeing what I get. Coleus seeds need light and warmth to germinate. Sow seeds on top of damp soil or seed starting mix, press them gently into the soil and do not cover.

Place the pots on a heating pad, seed-starting mat or cozy window sill to get them started and keep between 70ºF and 75ºF. When your plants get two real leaves, gently transplant them into their own little pots if they are not in individual cells. As plants develop multiple leaves and branches, pinch them right above a branching junction to shape and stimulate growth. Transplant to larger containers as needed.

When I read reviews from other gardeners who have sown these seeds, it seems that one of the hardest tasks is deciding which seedlings to thin out when all the colors and patterns are so enticing. Planting individual seeds in their own cells eliminates the need to toss fragile thinnings.

Put plants near a sunny window for the winter or plug in grow lights if natural light is scarce. Cut coleus back when they begin to bloom to keep them compact. Leaving flowers depletes the energy of the plant, and besides, the foliage is the tar, not the flowers.

If you want to grow coleus outside, grow them through the winter as houseplants or in the greenhouse, harden them off and gradually get them used to outside temperatures. Transplant when the danger of frost is past and nighttime temperature are in the high 50s and 60s.

Coleus grown outdoors enjoy the same conditions as begonias and impatiens.

Because coleus like water and frequent watering can leach nutrients, feed coleus frequently with a water-soluble fertilizer such as fish emulsion. Follow dilution directions on the bottle. Too much fertilizer will suppress vivid colors so pay attention to how your plants look as you care for them.

Use a free-draining potting or soil mix for containers and plant pots or hanging baskets where coleus will be protected from wind. Coleus branches break easily.

Which brings us back to propagating plants from cuttings. Use a clean knife, pruners or scissors or just break off branches to root for cuttings in clean water or a soilless mixture. If you have a choice, choose cuttings from the top of the plant. Hormonal action is strongest there and your chances of a successful rooting will be increased. When roots have formed, pot up the cuttings and grow indoors or harden to transplant outside.

With coleus, there are just so many choices. Coleus can be upright, trailing or rounded. Leaf texture can be lobed, scalloped, frilled, twisted, elongated or duck footed. With a huge palette of colors from deep burgundy, vivid purple, chocolate brown and neon pink to fluorescent chartreuse, coleus provide you the opportunity to design a bed, pot or garden that ranges from subtle to shocking.

If you decide to try your hand at coleus from seed, you can find Rainbow Floral Strain Mix online at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Swallowtail Garden Seeds.

Workshop: U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County will hold a workshop on “Toxic and Carnivorous Plants” on Saturday, October 27, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., at the University of California Cooperative Extension, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Napa. Foxglove. Lily-of-the-valley. Wisteria. These common plants and many others are toxiix. Who knew? Sundew. Venus flytrap. Pitcher plant. Carnivorous, or so we’ve heard. Join the UC Master Gardeners and explore the fascinating properties that plants have to protect themselves and survive in inhospitable places.Online registration (credit card only);Mail-in/Walk-in registration (check only or drop off cash payment).

Master Gardeners are volunteers who help the University of California reach the gardening public with home gardening information. U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County ( http://ucanr.edu/ucmgnapa/) are available to answer gardening questions in person or by phone, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to Noon, at the U. C. Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, 707-253-4143, or from outside City of Napa toll-free at 877-279-3065. Or e-mail your garden questions by following the guidelines on our web site. Click on Napa, then on Have Garden Questions? Find us on Facebook under UC Master Gardeners of Napa County.

Coleus: Colorful, Leafy and Luxurious

Coleus plants are eye-dazzlers and easy-going with impossibly colorful leaves. They’re magnificent on their own in a flower pot, and the flash of their foliage lights up a flower bed.

Coleus (Coleus blumei) are tender tropical plants grown for their leaves, not for their flowers. The leaf patterns are distinctly on the wild side — spotted, splashed, and artistically edged in shades of color ranging from purple, yellow, pink, intense red, and luminous chartreuse. Coleus thrives in heat. For generations, rooted cuttings of fancy coleus plants were simply passed along from one gardener to another but the market opened up in recent years and the selection of coleus varieties is now bigger than ever.

Gardeners have always found creative ways to use coleus. In the 19th century, Coleus were the stars of Victorian bedding schemes: one older garden book contains tantalizing references to coleus mosaics, including a profile of George Washington in coleus at the Boston Public Gardens.

Today coleus are more often found in flower pots. Jimmy Turner, director of the Dallas Arboretum, shows off coleus in pots of all kinds at the 66-acre display garden. He favors combinations that capture the beauty of a complex flower arrangement, but he also likes simple combinations of just two or three plants. Coleus work well in both situations: they don’t get lost in a mixed planting with dramatic elephant’s ears, castor beans, trailing sweet-potato vines, or towering canna lilies, and they’re sophisticated enough to pair gracefully with ferns, heucheras, or luminous blue scaevola. Turner adds coleus to pots with silver, purple, blue, and pink flowers, and also uses them as bright spotlights, plopping a pot full of luxurious, chartreuse-leafed coleus in a bed that needs a jolt of color.

Few plants are more indulgent of novice gardeners than coleus. Coleus thrives in part shade and need little more than regular watering to flourish all summer long. If the plants send up flower spikes, pinch them off — its the leaves you’re after, and they are show-stoppers.

Pairing Up with Coleus Plants

There are dozens of different coleus plants, but they all have one thing in common: Coleus plants are easy to grow and flourish in summer heat. Some coleus are trailers, great for hanging baskets; most are just the right size to fill a pot on the porch or a spot in a perennial border. Here are some ideas and combinations to try:

  • Flouncy coleus makes a handsome counterpoint to the spiky leaves and bottle-brush flowers of fountain grass.
  • Pair inky-leaf coleus with Artemesia, Plectranthus, dusty Miller, and other silver-foliage plants.
  • White alyssum flowers makes a lacy edge around rosy pink or chocolate-leaf coleus varieties.
  • The green border around some coleus leaves matches perfectly with the chartreuse leaves of ornamental sweet potato ‘Marguerite’.
  • Try bold coleus with the yellow-striped leaves of canna ‘Pretoria’.
  • Go ahead, plant coleus with vegetables in pots: the purples, pinks, and greens in coleus leaves look great with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.


Coleus, any of several ornamental plants in the mint family (Lamiaceae), grown for the bright colours and patterns of their leaves. The plants were formerly grouped in the genus Coleus, but their taxonomy is contentious and molecular data suggest that the species are distributed across several genera.

common coleusCommon coleus, or flame nettle (Plectranthus scutellarioides), a popular ornamental plant in the mint family. Sven Samelius

Varieties of common coleus, or painted nettle (Plectranthus scutellarioides, formerly Coleus blumei), from Java, are well-known house and garden plants up to one metre (three feet) tall. They have square stems and small, blue, two-lipped flowers borne in spikes. The leaves are often variegated with colourful patterns of magenta and green, though other colour combinations have been developed.

coleusCommon coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) is grown for its attractive foliage. © Pavel Losevsky/Fotolia

Bush coleus, or blue Plectranthus (P. thyrsoideus, formerly C. thyrsoideus), from Central Africa, reaches a height of one metre and produces sprays of bright blue flowers. The leaves have distinctive venation and are often green with white borders.

How to Create a Shade Garden with Coleus

Keep the Focus on Foliage

Timely pinching and pruning helps coleus stay foliage-focused. Coleus belong to the mint family, as evidenced by their squared stems, and have mint-like blossoms. But most gardeners don’t allow coleus to flower, because the blooms aren’t very pretty and hinder plant growth.

Flowering signals it’s time for seed production, so energy shifts from colorful leaves to seeds. Using the area between your forefinger and thumb, pinch right where flower buds appear above leaf pairs or branches to remove buds and keep coleus on track. This also promotes more branching and greater fullness.

Enjoy Coleus Indoors and Out

Victorian gardeners favored coleus for intricate garden designs, exotic houseplants and striking bouquets. Trailing garden coleus form beautiful patchwork ground covers or spill exuberantly over container rims. Mounded or upright coleus provide colorful backdrops that draw eyes into shady depths. They can even be trained into treelike topiaries.

Coleus reliably survive winter outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 11 and warmer, where winter temperatures rarely dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Though usually sold as annual-like bedding plants, these tender tropical perennials can survive for years if protected from frost. Coleus move easily between gardens and seasons — just keep them indoors until all danger of spring frost has passed and evening temperatures top 55 F. When autumn approaches, bid coleus goodbye or transplant them to containers and move them inside for winter.

Coleus in your planting palette opens your shade garden to exciting new levels of texture, form and vivid color. With proper conditions and color-enhancing nutrition, coleus can make your shade gardens shine.

Coleus, shade-loving trailing

Coleus, Shade-Loving Trailing

Trailing shade-loving coleus is an easy-to-grow annual foliage plant that adapts well to hanging baskets and container gardens where its sprawling stems can drape over the edge of the planter. You also can plant it in landscape beds where it will intertwine with flowering annuals and perennials to brighten shady nooks.

genus name
  • Plectranthus scutellarioides
  • Shade
plant type
  • Annual,
  • Houseplant
  • 1 to 3 feet,
  • 3 to 8 feet
  • 1-3 feet wide
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Good for Containers
  • 2,
  • 3,
  • 4,
  • 5,
  • 6,
  • 7,
  • 8,
  • 9,
  • 10,
  • 11
  • Seed,
  • Stem Cuttings

Garden Plans For Coleus, shade-loving trailing

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More varieties for Coleus, shade-loving trailing

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India Frills coleus

(Solenostemon ‘India Frills’) has deeply lobed narrow leaves with a chartreuse margin and maroon, magenta, and purple center splash. It grows in part or full shade. It trails to 1 foot.

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Telltale Heart coleus

(Solenostemon ‘Telltale Heart’) has heart-shape leaves with scalloped green edges and a deep purple-maroon center. It is slow to flower, so it needs little pinching or pruning to maintain its trailing shape. It trails to 18 inches.

Thursday, March 16, 2017 Annuals, Fall, Spring, Summer

Get Big Color in Sun or Shade with Coleus

Do you have a favorite plant that you can’t live without? For me, it’s coleus. Once available only in multi-colored, shade-only forms, this super-easy plant now comes in a myriad of shapes, colors and sizes that thrive in both sun and shade. And what I like most about them is that their fantastic foliage looks great all the time. Unlike some other annuals, there’s no waiting for flowers to open because the coleus leaves looks terrific in pots, planters, window boxes or tucked around other annuals and perennials in the flower border.
Two of my favorite coleus varieties are ‘Wasabi’, and ‘Redhead’, because they are absolutely stunning when planted in the same container and they flourish in the sun. Both grow about the same height and the combination of the chartreuse ‘Wasabi’ and the wine-colored ‘Redhead’ is simply stunning. I also love ‘Kong’ coleus for it’s giant, wildly patterned leaves that quickly brighten up the even the drabbest shade garden.

Coleus are a snap to grow, too. Start by reading the plant label to see if you have a shade-only variety or one of the newer models that thrive in sun or shade. That way, you can be sure you’ll be giving your plants the right light exposure in the garden. Then, plant your coleus in enriched soil and water whenever the soil feels dry to the touch. Coleus have few insect and disease problems, but they may wilt dramatically if they get too dry. Luckily, a quick drink from the watering can will quickly revive them.

Remember that coleus are tropical in nature and should be planted after all frost danger has passed in your area. In sunny spots, try using coleus in pots or beds by themselves or partner them with other heat-loving plants such as zinnia, marigold, verbena, celosia, canna, calibrachoa, or angelonia. In the shade garden mix coleus with caladium, begonia, impatiens, or polka dot plant.

Keep in mind that some coleus varieties can grow to 3 feet tall and wide so you may want to do an occasional trimming to keep them from overtaking their neighbors. Plus, giving coleus an occasional haircut will promote more bushy, compact growth. Depending on variety, your coleus may also send up narrow flower stalks of pale blue flowers in the late summer. It’s really a matter of personal preference if you keep the blooms on the plant or not. I will often snap the flowers off as they form just to keep the plants tidier.

When frost threatens in the fall, you can bring your potted coleus indoors and treat them as houseplants. Or just take a few cuttings, root them in water, and start fresh new plants for indoor use. I should also add that because coleus is so colorful and so easy, they make great plants for kids. I can still remember as a child being fascinated by watching the roots form on coleus cuttings in a jelly jar of water my Grandmother always seemed to have on our kitchen window.

Written by:
Doug Jimerson

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