Coleus: How to Plant and Grow Coleus Plants | The Old Farmer's Almanac


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Botanical Name
Plectranthus scutellarioides
Plant Type
Sun Exposure
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Bloom Time
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How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Coleus Plants

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Known for its colorful foliage, Coleus is a wonderful, low-maintenance plant that adds color to outdoor containers. Take cuttings in the fall to keep this tender annual growing through winter.

About Coleus

Coleus are in the Lamiaceae, or mint, family. While traditionally shade-tolerant, some modern varieties will thrive in the sun, too. Be sure to check with your garden nursery on the variety.

Leaf colors include: Green, Yellow, Pink, Red, Purple, and Maroon. The plant does occasionally bloom at the end of long stalks; trim the stalks for a more compact, bushy plant. 


  • Coleus can easily be started from seed indoors about 10 weeks before the last frost date in your region. 
  • Set plants out after all danger of frost has passed. 
  • Choose a spot that is protected from wind. Coleus stems break easily.
  • Coleus need well-draining soil. 
  • Water the plant thoroughly after planting. 
  • During the first week after planting, keep the root ball moist but not too wet. 
  • Coleus will rot if overwatered, so only water when the top inch of soil is dry. 
  • Pinch growing shoots of young plants frequently to encourage branching and bushier growth. 
  • Fertilize in mid-summer with a liquid fertilizer at half the recommended strength.
  • Cut off flower spikes in late summer to extend the life of the plant and encourage growth of new colorful leaves.

Overwintering Coleus

  • In cooler regions, take cuttings from your plants before the first frost in the fall and place them in water to root. 
  • Plant the rooted cuttings in small pots and keep near a sunny window for the winter.
  • Come spring, once the danger of frost has passed, plant the coleus outdoors.


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Wit and Wisdom
  • Coleus was a favorite plant in Victorian gardens.
  • Coleus is a member of the mint and dead nettle family.
  • Coleus was first discovered in 1853 in the mountains of Java, which is Indonesia’s most populous island today.
  • Insect pests to watch for are aphids, mealy bugs, and whiteflies
  • Stem rot and root rot can occur if soil is too wet.
About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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