How to grow coleus
All you need to know about growing coleus, in this detailed Grow Guide.
Coleus plants, also known as solenostemon, plectranthus or painted nettle plants, are grown for their velvety foliage that comes in combinations of bright red, burgundy, yellows, green, pink, brown and bronze.
Coleus look good in summer bedding schemes or as a filler at the front of a summer border, and are ideal for summer pots and containers. They are perfect for an exotic or jungle-style planting scheme. They can also be grown as house plants or in a conservatory.
Coleus is actually an ornamental member of the mint family, native to Indonesia. All species formerly in the Coleus genus have now been split into either Plectranthus or Solenostemon.
How to grow coleus
Grow coleus in a sunny or partially shaded spot to bring out their beautiful leaf colours. They do best in moist but well drained soil. Coleus plants are tender perennials, which means they won't survive in cold weather. They are usually grown as an annuals in the UK, planted out in May when there is no threat of frost. To keep plants from year to year, bring them indoors in autumn, or take cuttings in summer that can be grown on for new plants the following spring.
More on growing coleus:
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Coleus: jump links
- Where to plant coleus
- How to care for coleus
- How to propagate coleus
- Coleus problem-solving
- Buying coleus
- Types of coleus to grow
Where to plant coleus
Plant coleus in a sunny or partly shaded spot, in moist but well-drained soil. Coleus are low growing, so they look best at the front of a border, combined with other bedding plants, or in pot on a patio. If you're growing coleus as a house plant, grow it in a bright spot that gets a little direct sun.
How to plant coleus
You can buy coleus as 'plug plants' (young plants) in early spring. Grow them on indoors until the weather warms up. Plant them out in the garden in May, once there are no more frosts forecast. Harden them off (acclimatise them to outdoor conditions) for a week beforehand.
Prepare the soil by forking in some multipurpose compost. Dig a hole that is slightly larger than the original pot, add the plant and fill around it with soil. Water in well.
If planting in a pot, dig a hole that is the same size and depth as the original pot, and plant at the same level. Water in well.
Caring for coleus
Once planted, pinch out the growing tip (central stem) to encourage a bushier plant. Keep plants well watered in summer, especially if they are growing in pots.
If you're growing coleus in pots outdoors, move them indoors in autumn before the first frosts. If you're growing them as bedding plants in the ground, you could take cuttings in summer to ensure some plants for next year.
How to propagate coleus
Coleus plants are easy to propagate. Take cuttings in summer to increase your supply of plants, then grow them on for next season in a greenhouse or conservatory.
Growing coleus: problem solving
Advice for buying coleus
- Coleus plugs and young plants are available from a range of garden centres and nurseries, with many offering online sales. You may find more varieties at a better price, online
- Avoid buying coleus until after all risk of frost has passed, unless you have a frost-free spot to store them before planting out
- Bear in mind that coleus are not hardy and are treated as annuals in the British Isles. Therefore buy them in spring for planting out after the last frosts. Avoid buying later in the season as they will survive only until temperatures fall again
Where to buy coleus online
Coleus 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