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How To Grow and Care for Coleus – Best Guide

How To Grow and Care for Coleus – Best Guide

Coleus belongs to the family ‘Lamiaceae’ and is known to be a member of the mint family.

Commonly known as painted nettle plants, coleus plants are easy-to-grow plants with seasonal blue and white blooms.

These are heat-loving plants but can also grow in other climates. They do not produce any fruits and can grow as shrubs in your garden as well as in containers.

They have thick, woody stems and are best for landscaping because of their colorful blanket-like foliage that adds beauty to the space.

Coleus, however, is toxic to animals, so make sure that you keep it out of range of your pets if you have any.

Coleus plants grow best along the borders of gardens and can be combined with other plants to increase the beauty of the garden.

Coleus is an excellent bedding plant widely known for its extremely beautiful, unique, and attractive foliage.

They have varying leaf sizes with colors ranging from yellow, green, red, pink, and maroon.

You can also see a combination of colors on one leaf, making this plant one of the best for your garden if you are looking for foliage.


How To Grow and Care for Coleus

Coleus is an easy-to-grow plant for hot and humid environmental conditions. They ideally grow in well-drained, rich, and fertile soil. These plants need frequent watering and can survive in full, partial, and no sunlight. They can be planted indoors and outdoors but cannot survive frosts.

How To Grow and Care for Coleus

How To Grow and Care for Coleus



Coleus Growing Guide



Coleus plants grow best in well-drained but moist soil. Ensure that the soil you’re using is rich and loose.

Do not let the soil dry out; otherwise, it will damage the plant.

Compost can be used before planting. Alternate can be any organic soil mix because the soil should be fertile.

In the case of containers, a good-quality potting mix should be used to grow the plants. See to it that the container you’re using has drainage holes.

Use good quality soil mix when planting your Coleus plant

Use good quality soil mix when planting your Coleus plant

Overly moist soil causes leaf drop, root rot, and other diseases. Hence too much watering should be avoided.



Coleus plants require moderate watering. The soil should not be soggy due to overwatering. Before watering your Coleus plant, wait for its soil to become dry first.

The soil dryness can be checked by inserting your finger into the soil. Once the soil’s first inch is dry, water your Coleus plant.

Watering also depends upon the temperature of the area you are living in. Water more during the summers and less during cooler weather.

Long periods of dry soils should also be avoided because it slows down the growth of the coleus plant.

Don't leave the soil of your Coleus plants dry for long periods as it will slow down its growth

Don’t leave the soil of your Coleus plants dry for long periods as it will slow down its growth

Apart from that, the coleus plant can grow only by placing the seedling in water.



The lighting for coleus plants depends upon the variety of plants you have. The common coleus plants grow best in partial shade or full shade.

Common Coleus plants thrive in either partially or fully shaded areas

Common Coleus plants thrive in either partially or fully shaded areas

Some types also perform well in full sun.

However, excessive sunlight can cause leaf burn and cause discoloration in the foliage. Hence, it is best to give it a partial shade or indirect sunlight, especially in hot climates.



Coleus is not frost-tolerant. Bring it indoors during the frost; otherwise, the plant will die.

These plants prefer warm temperatures for ideal growth.

Cold temperatures should be avoided for indoor plants. Do not place your Coleus near an air conditioner or cooler.

For extreme winters or frost, dig up your Coleus carefully and place it in a pot to bring it indoors because it cannot survive temperatures below 50°F (10°C).

Do not bring your Coleus outdoors until the temperature goes up to 70°F (21°C).



Coleus plants love high levels of humidity. They grow best in areas with hot and humid environments.

Coleus thrive in hot and humid environments

Coleus thrive in hot and humid environments

If you live in a dry climate, provide humidity to your Coleus through humidifiers.



Coleus does not usually need fertilizing if they are growing outdoors and in fertile and rich soil.

They can be fed with half-strength, slow-release, liquid fertilizer to bring out vibrant colors in the leaves.

Indoor plants growing in containers, however, need more fertilizing because of the constant washing away of nutrients due to frequent watering.

Slow-release, liquid fertilizers should be used monthly for potted Coleus.

Make sure that you water your Coleus before fertilizing.



For indoor coleus plants, they need to be repotted once they start to outgrow their containers. The container for repotting should be larger than the previous one, about 2 inches in height and diameter.

However, if you want your plant to remain compact and small, then you can leave it in its container. A drawback of this is that overcrowding of the roots will lead to a decline in the health of your Coleus.

The plant should be repotted before Spring, right after the frost has passed. Gently pull out the Coleus, ensuring you don’t do any damage to the roots.

Repot your Coleus plant before the spring season, after the frost has passed

Repot your Coleus plant before the spring season, after the frost has passed

You can gently roll the roots with the tips of your finger without harming them to help in better growth in the new container.

Place it in a new container with moist, rich, and fertile soil and drainage holes. Make sure the pot is heavy to support the plant so that it does not topple over.



Coleus plants should be pruned occasionally for increased growth and a bushier appearance. You can snip off the stems or cut them off using a sharp, sterilized knife.

Make sure to cut the stem just above the nodes of the leaves.

If you want the Coleus plant to focus on the foliage more than the flowering, you can prune the stems above the buds.

Since Coleus is known for its vibrant foliage, it is preferred to focus on the growth of the leaves.



Coleus plants are easy-to-grow plants. You can easily propagate them with their stem cuttings.

You can also propagate a cutting by placing it in water. Following steps should be followed while propagating your plant.

  • Cut some stems from your Coleus using sharp and sterilized scissors.
  • Take a stem cutting, preferably 4 to 6 inches in length, and begin removing its leaves.
  • Place the cutting in a water-filled container.
  • Place the Coleus’ container in a location that’s sunny and receives full sunlight.
  • When the roots have grown, take the plant out and plant it in a container with fertile and well-draining soil.
  • Ensure that the soil remains moist by watering it thoroughly.

An alternate for this method is that the stem cutting can be directly placed in the pot.

You can save your time by taking the stem cuttings in the fall and storing them in water throughout the winter, indoors in warm conditions. The roots will be ready to be planted in the Spring.



Coleus produces white and light blue blooms during the growing season, i.e., Spring throughout the summer.

Though Coleus is known for their vibrant foliage, they're capable of growing white and blue flowers as well

Though Coleus is known for their vibrant foliage, they’re capable of growing white and blue flowers as well

Some people cut off the flowers because they hinder the growth of the foliage.



Coleus plants are relatively fast-growing plants and can grow up to 36 inches tall in a season. The thickness and density of the plant depend upon the growing conditions.

If you prefer a compact indoor potted coleus, you can leave it in its container, and it will stay compact.

However, for outdoor plants, you can make Coleus bushy and dense by occasional pruning. Snapping off twigs and stems helps in better growth.

Coleus plants can also be grown through seeds. Put some potting mix in a tray, spread some seeds on it, and cover it with moist but well-drained soil.

You can grow Coleus from seeds by planting them in a tray with well-draining potting mix

You can grow Coleus from seeds by planting them in a tray with well-draining potting mix

Cover it with a plastic sheet and place it in bright sunlight.

Coleus seeds germinate in at least 3 weeks’ time. Remove the plastic when you see small shoots appearing from the soil and water them frequently.

When leaves start appearing on the nodes, replant your Coleus in their respective pots.


Common Problems for Coleus



Coleus plants are prone to pest attacks, including rabbits, mealybugs, groundhogs, aphids, slugs, spider mites, and whiteflies.

Your plants need you to protect them from these attacks. You can control aphids by knocking them off the pot or washing them away with a strong water stream on the underside of the leaves.

Insecticide soaps are considered best for insects and slugs. You can board up or fence your garden and protect your Coleus from rabbits.

In the case of mealy bugs, the best option is to remove the affected branches or use insecticides.


Downy Mildew

Downy mildew appears in the form of purplish-gray spores under the foliage. They cause the plant to become stunted.

The symptoms are distortions, leaf drops, and lesions. It is caused by a species known as ‘Oomycete Peronospora’.

Downy mildew should be treated with fungicides. But, make sure that you rotate different types of fungicides because the specie can grow resistant to a fungicide if it is repetitively used.

Downy mildew is hard to treat in Coleus; hence it is advised to use fungicides occasionally to prevent the disease from happening in the first place.


Root Rot

Root rot is a fatal condition for your Coleus. Yellowing leaves is the most known symptom of root rot.

If your plant has a lot of yellow leaves, you cannot save it anymore.

The best option in this condition is to cut off some leftover stems to propagate a new plant.

Root rot is caused by overwatering, especially on the leaves. Waterlogging in the soil can also cause root rot and attract many fungal diseases.

You can prevent root rot by less watering and using a well-drained potting mix.

Also, make sure that your container has drainage holes for indoor plants to flush out excessive water.


Tips for Growing Coleus

  • Coleus plants are humidity-loving plants, so make sure that they receive enough either through the weather or humidifiers.
  • Waterlogging can be fatal for Coleus, so make sure that there is no extra water in the soil or on the leaves.
  • The shoots of new growing plants should be pinched off frequently to facilitate branching.
  • Avoid fertilizer specially designed for flowering because they are not suitable for the foliage and cause the plant to become leggy.
  • Place the plant in full sunlight in the morning and cover it with shade in the afternoon because direct heat can burn the leaves.
  • Do not let the soil dry out for too long because Coleus needs moist conditions to grow best.
  • It is preferred to cut off the flower buds and let the foliage grow because flowers slow the leaf growth and use the plant’s energy in seed production. A person using Coleus for landscaping should not let it flower.
  • If your indoor plant looks irregular and haphazard, you can prune it to give it a neater shape.
  • Water the plant thoroughly after planting it.
  • Coleus should be planted close together to ensure rapid growth.


Frequently Asked Questions about How to Grow and Care for Coleus


How do I make my Coleus bushy?

Coleus plants can be made dense and bushy by pruning them frequently. Remove the shoots either by cutting or snapping to encourage the growth of branches on the stems.


Is Coleus Poisonous?

Coleus is poisonous to humans and animals if consumed. It can cause rashes and allergies, along with other health issues. So, it is advised to keep your Coleus out of your pets’ reach if you’re taking care of any.


Why are my Coleus green instead of colorful?

Normal Coleus has colorful foliage, so if your Coleus has green leaves, it means that it is low on nitrogen. Try feeding it with a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer to help it recover its unique and attractive foliage.


Conclusion On How To Grow and Care for Coleus

Coleus plants are excellent and beautiful bedding plants for borders and are low-maintenance and easy to grow.

With little care, they can be expanded into attractive colorful bushes that increase the visual appeal of your garden.

So, if you live in a hot climate and are looking for the perfect plant with unique foliage, Coleus is the best choice for you.

If you follow the guidelines mentioned above, you can grow the most beautiful and healthiest Coleus plant in your garden.

Author Bio

Daniel Iseli

Taking care of houseplants and gardening are my greatest passions. I am transforming my apartment into an urban jungle and am growing veggies in my indoor and outdoor garden year-round.

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