Caring for Your Coleus

The Coleus plant is one of the most popular and sought-after annuals. It provides amazing color and contrast for those partially shaded areas for which color is hard to come by. However, Coleus is a somewhat fragile annual; one that requires a bit of TLC in order to reap its colorfully impressive rewards.

Potted Coleus Plants

If transplanting your newly acquired Coleus to a permanent pot or container, the process is quite simple. Choose a pot with a drainage hole in the bottom and fill with good quality planting soil.

Transplanting Your Coleus

We have carefully nurtured your coleus plant in our greenhouse, providing it with the proper amount of sunlight and nutrients in order to ensure it grows the best root system possible. Your coleus plant, however, has not been subjected to wind and full sun. Therefore we recommend that you "harden off" the plant before actually planting in the ground or in a fully exposed area in a pot.

Hardening off is the process of acclimating a plant to its new habitat. You do the same thing for vegetable seedlings you've started at home. Moving them outside for longer and longer periods of time where they are exposed to the elements and can therefore survive more easily when first transplanted into the garden. It is wise to use the same method for any new transplant. Start by moving them into a partially shaded area that is protected from the wind. Continue the process gradually until you get them to an area with the same conditions as the one in which they will be planted. Be weather-aware and be sure to provide shelter or bring them inside if the nighttime temps are expected to drop below 40°F and if high winds, driving rain or hail are expected. This whole process should take no longer than a week to a week and a half, but will virtually guarantee the most beautiful and healthy Coleus plants possible.

Lighting Conditions

Most importantly, never place your Coleus plant where it will have all day direct sunlight! The newer cultivars are much more sun-resistant, but Coleus will not thrive well in all day sun throughout the summer. The best combination is full morning sun (as sun seems to produce more colorful plants), and then afternoon partial shade (especially in the heat of summer). If you have your plants in pots, you can even move them in and out of the sun as necessary. If this is your plan you may want to think about placing them on a rolling cart or trolley. You will know that your coleus plant is getting too hot when its colors seem to fade and it wilts, even when well hydrated.

Garden Bed Coleus Plants

For your Coleus plants that will be going directly into the ground, we strongly recommend you harden them off and then ultimately put them directly into your flower beds. Again, location is important. If you are not quite sure that an area is suitable (morning sun and afternoon partial shade), you can monitor your planned area for a couple of days.

Additional Care for Your Coleus Plants

Amazingly, Coleus plants don't respond well to over feeding. Besides adequate moisture, you will find that your Coleus' colors are much more vivid when the plants are just a little neglected. When you fertilize, use a slow release (such as Osmacote) or feed at half the recommended strength of a liquid feed (such as Miracle-gro). We also highly recommend mulching your Coleus plants if planting in the ground. This not only retains life-giving moisture, but will inhibit the growth of weeds and grasses. If you water with a sprinkler or hand-held nozzle, make sure to water after the full sun has left your plants, but with enough time for the leaves to dry before it turns dark. Wet nighttime foliage on any plants can lead to fungal diseases; mold or mildew occurring and wet leaves in full sun can burn the plant. Keep in mind that Coleus recovers quickly from wilting once watered, but too much repeated water deprivation will result in a faded, unhealthy plant over time.

Finally, pinching the growing tips of your Coleus plants will encourage fuller and bushier growth. Coleus blossoms are mostly insignificant and do not noticeably add to the beauty of the plant. You may find that in mid-summer pinching will help the plant to maintain its bushy appearance and keep its shape.

These annual plants are available in just about every color of the rainbow! Though it may be tempting to buy some of every color; pre-planning for the mixture of textures and colors will result in the most beautiful indoor and outdoor decorating and the personal satisfaction that comes from a job well done!