How to Care Coleus Plant

Coleus Plant (4)

There are few things as satisfying as the delicate interplay of colors that a well-tended garden brings. And if you’re seeking to paint your indoor space with a vibrant brush, look no further than the Coleus plant. This marvel is an artist’s palette in botanical form, boasting leaves that can mesmerize with their intricate patterns and bold hues.

But how does one go about ensuring that this living work of art thrives? Let’s briefly touch upon propagation. Coleus plants can be easily propagated through stem cuttings, a process that involves snipping a piece of stem and encouraging it to grow new roots. Also, here is a detailed article on how to propagate Coleus plant

Whether you’re an experienced gardener or just getting started, this guide will walk you through the nurturing of Coleus plants, right from propagation to a flourishing maturity.

Care Basics of Coleus Plant:

AspectRequirementDifficulty LevelWhat You Need
LightBright, indirect lightEasyCurtains or shades for filtering
WaterKeep soil consistently moistMediumWatering can
Temperature60-75°F (15-24°C)EasyThermostat
Soil pH6.0 – 7.0MediumpH meter
Soil TypeWell-draining, rich in organic matterEasyOrganic compost
FertilizerBalanced, water-soluble, every 2 weeksMediumBalanced fertilizer
PruningRegularly to encourage bushy growthMediumPruning shears
Growth PeriodSpring to early autumnN/AN/A
Pests and DiseasesAphids, mealybugs, root rotMedium-HardInsecticidal soap, neem oil

Light Requirements:

A. Light requirements for this plant:

The Coleus plant revels in bright but indirect light. It’s important to provide enough light to maintain the vibrant colors of the foliage, but too much direct sunlight can wash out the colors.

Coleus Plant (3)

B. Types of light exposure:

There are essentially three types of light exposure – direct, indirect, and low light. Direct light means the sunlight falls directly on the plant, and this can be too harsh for Coleus. Indirect light, where the plant receives diffused light either through a sheer curtain or is placed in a well-lit room but not directly in front of the window, is ideal. Low light means that the plant is in a comparatively darker space, which is not suitable for Coleus as it may cause legginess and loss of color.

C. How to provide proper light to this plant:

To provide proper light, place the Coleus near a north or east-facing window with a curtain filtering the sunlight. If natural light is insufficient, consider supplementing with a grow light. Remember, if the colors appear washed out or the plant seems to be stretching towards the light, it may need to be moved to a brighter location.

Planting Techniques:

How to Plant:

Begin your planting journey by choosing a container with drainage holes. This is essential, as Coleus does not like to have its roots sitting in water. Mix a high-quality potting soil with some perlite or coarse sand to improve drainage. Plant the Coleus cuttings or seedlings in the pot, ensuring that the top of the root ball is just below the rim of the pot. Press the soil gently around the roots.

Location for Planting:

Inside your home, choose a spot that receives bright, indirect light. As I mentioned earlier, near an east or north-facing window is ideal. If you are planting Coleus outside, make sure it’s in a location where it will receive morning sun and afternoon shade, or where the sunlight is filtered through taller plants or trees.

Other Planting Requirements:

Water the plant thoroughly after planting. For the initial few days, keep the soil moist to help the Coleus establish. Apply a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer two weeks after planting and continue doing so every two weeks during the growing season.


Water Requirements:

Water is to plants what words are to poets, a life source. Coleus plants prefer a consistently moist soil. However, it’s crucial to avoid saturating the soil as that can lead to root rot. The art is in achieving a balance – maintaining moisture without waterlogging.

How Often to Water:

The frequency of watering your Coleus can vary depending on environmental conditions such as light, temperature, and humidity. On average, watering once or twice a week is ideal. However, it is best to rely on the touch-test method: if the soil feels dry about an inch below the surface, it’s time to water your Coleus.

Signs of Overwatering and Under-watering:

Overwatering can cause the leaves to turn yellow or develop a limp, soggy appearance. Root rot is also a common consequence. Under-watering, on the other hand, can cause the leaves to wilt or become crispy. Interestingly, Coleus tends to droop both when it’s over-watered or under-watered. Thus, checking the soil is key to diagnosing the issue.

Coleus Plant (5)

Tips for Proper Watering Techniques:

  1. Use a watering can with a narrow spout to direct water to the base of the plant.
  2. Water early in the day so that any splashes on the leaves can dry before nightfall.
  3. During winter, when the plant is not actively growing, reduce watering.
  4. Use room-temperature water to avoid shocking the plant.

Soil and Fertilization:

Soil Requirements:

Coleus plants flourish in a rich, well-draining potting mix. I usually blend standard potting soil with perlite, coarse sand, or coco peat. This enhances drainage and provides the roots with ample air circulation.

Importance of Proper Soil Drainage:

The significance of proper soil drainage cannot be overstated. Coleus roots are susceptible to rot if they sit in waterlogged soil. Ensuring that the soil drains well is like providing your Coleus with a cozy, well-ventilated home where it can thrive without the stress of waterlogged feet.

Fertilization Requirements and Tips:

  1. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer for your Coleus. In my experience, this provides the nutrients necessary for vibrant foliage.
  2. Fertilize your Coleus every two weeks during the growing season. However, in winter, hold back as the plant takes a break from active growth.
  3. Avoid fertilizers high in boron or fluoride as Coleus can be sensitive to these elements.

Temperature and Humidity:

Optimal Temperature Range:

The Coleus plant, hailing from tropical regions, is naturally partial to a warm environment. The optimal temperature range for Coleus is between 60-75°F (15-24°C). It is vital to keep them away from drafts, air conditioning vents, and cold windows during winter, as they are sensitive to sudden temperature drops.

Humidity Requirements:

Coleus plants thrive in a relatively high humidity environment. Ideally, the humidity level should be around 50-60%. In drier environments or during winter when indoor air can become dry, it’s important to take measures to increase humidity.

How to Adjust Temperature and Humidity for Optimal Growth:

  1. Keep Coleus away from sources of cold air or drastic temperature changes.
  2. To raise humidity levels, place the pot on a tray filled with water and pebbles ensuring that the pot is above the water level. As the water evaporates, it will increase the humidity around the plant.
  3. Grouping plants together can also raise humidity levels as they create a microclimate of shared moisture.
  4. Consider using a room humidifier to maintain adequate humidity during dry months.
Coleus Plant (3)

Pests and Diseases:

Common Pests and Diseases:

  1. Aphids: Small insects that suck sap from the Coleus, causing the leaves to curl and yellow.
  2. Mealybugs: White, cotton-like pests that also feed on the sap and can cause stunted growth.
  3. Spider Mites: They create fine webs and cause the leaves to develop small yellow spots.
  4. Root Rot: A consequence of over-watering, causing the roots to decay.

Practical Prevention and Treatment Methods:

  1. For Aphids, wash the plant with a strong stream of water to dislodge the pests. Apply insecticidal soap or neem oil as a follow-up treatment.
  2. To combat Mealybugs, dab them with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol. Also, consider using insecticidal soap.
  3. For Spider Mites, ensure the plant is in a high humidity environment as mites thrive in dry conditions. Use a miticide if the infestation is severe.
  4. In case of Root Rot, it is crucial to let the soil dry out a bit before watering again. If the condition is advanced, repotting the plant in fresh, well-draining soil might be necessary.


Reasons for Pruning Coleus Plants:

  1. Encouraging Bushier Growth: Regular pruning encourages the Coleus to grow laterally rather than vertically, resulting in a fuller, bushier plant.
  2. Maintaining Shape and Size: Pruning helps in maintaining the desired shape and size of your Coleus, preventing it from becoming too leggy or unruly.
  3. Enhancing Vigor: Removing old or damaged leaves promotes the growth of new, healthy foliage.
  4. Preventing Flowering: Coleus plants sometimes produce flowers. By pruning these off, you allow the plant to focus its energy on the foliage, which is its main attraction.

How to Prune Coleus Plants:

  1. Use Sharp, Clean Shears: Make sure the pruning shears or scissors are clean and sharp to make precise cuts.
  2. Prune the Tips: Snip off the growing tips just above a leaf node. This encourages branching and results in a denser plant.
  3. Remove Flowers: As soon as you see flower spikes emerging, cut them off to keep the plant’s energy focused on foliage.
  4. Eliminate Damaged Foliage: Regularly inspect your Coleus for any yellowing or damaged leaves, and remove them to maintain the plant’s health.

Recommended Varieties:

  1. Kong Series: Known for their enormous, vibrant leaves, the Coleus in the Kong Series are a sight to behold. They are perfect for adding a dramatic touch to your indoor garden.
  2. Wizard Series: Compact and versatile, the Wizard Series Coleus have brilliantly colored leaves and are excellent for small pots or mixed planters.
  3. Watermelon Coleus: This variety features stunning pink leaves with a green edge. It’s a fantastic choice for adding a splash of color to any room.
  4. Black Dragon Coleus: With its dark, almost black foliage, the Black Dragon is a striking variety that can add depth and contrast to your indoor plant collection.
Coleus Plant

Common Problems Faced in Care and Maintenance of This Plant:

  1. Leggy Growth: Inadequate light can cause the Coleus to grow tall and spindly. Move the plant to a brighter location to combat this.
  2. Loss of Leaf Color: Too much direct sunlight can cause the vibrant colors of the Coleus leaves to fade. Provide filtered light to maintain the richness of color.
  3. Pests: Aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites can be a problem. Regularly inspect the plant and use insecticidal soap or neem oil for treatment.
  4. Over-watering: Coleus does not like waterlogged soil. Ensure proper drainage and avoid over-watering to prevent root rot.
  5. Low Humidity: Crisp leaf edges might be a sign of too low humidity. Increase humidity levels through a tray with water and pebbles, grouping plants, or using a room humidifier.

Tips For Better Care:

Basic Level Tips:

  1. Mind the Light: Keep your Coleus in bright but indirect light. Too much direct sunlight can fade the leaf colors.
  2. Consistent Watering: Make sure the soil stays moist, but not soggy. Water when the top inch of soil feels dry.
  3. Humidity is Key: Aim for humidity levels of around 50-60%. Place your Coleus on a pebble tray with water to increase humidity.
  4. Fertilize Regularly: During the growing season, fertilize your Coleus every two weeks with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer.

Advanced Level Tips:

  1. Pruning for Shape: Regularly prune your Coleus to encourage bushier growth and to maintain the desired shape. This will also keep the energy focused on the foliage rather than flower production.
  2. Monitor for Pests: Keep an eye out for signs of pests like aphids and mealybugs, and take prompt action if you notice any. Insecticidal soap and neem oil are effective treatments.
  3. Root Pruning: Annually, inspect the root ball of your Coleus for any roots that are discolored or mushy, and prune them away. This promotes healthier root growth.
  4. Soil Amendment: Every year, consider replacing the top layer of soil in the pot with fresh, nutrient-rich potting mix to replenish the nutrients.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Why are the leaves on my Coleus losing their vibrant colors?

This might be due to too much direct sunlight. Try moving your Coleus to a location with bright, indirect light.

Can Coleus be grown indoors all year round?

Yes, Coleus can be grown as a houseplant all year round. It’s important to provide it with the right conditions, such as adequate light, humidity, and regular watering.

How do I propagate Coleus?

Coleus is easy to propagate through stem cuttings. Cut a stem just below a leaf node, remove the lower leaves, and place the cutting in a glass of water. Once roots develop, plant it in potting soil.

Why is my Coleus wilting even though I water it regularly?

Wilting can be a sign of both over-watering and under-watering. Check the soil moisture and adjust your watering schedule accordingly. Additionally, ensure that the pot has proper drainage.

Should I let my Coleus flower?

It is generally recommended to pinch off the flowers as they appear. This allows the plant to direct its energy towards producing vibrant foliage.

Can I put my Coleus outside during the summer?

Yes, you can. However, gradually acclimate it to the outdoor environment to prevent shock. Ensure it is placed in a shaded or partially shaded location to avoid leaf scorch from direct sunlight.

About Christopher Evans

Hello, I'm Chris, the green-thumbed Founder of I'm passionate about bringing the beauty of nature indoors through houseplants and indoor gardening. Let's create healthier and more beautiful living spaces, one plant at a time!

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