Coleus Plant Care : How To Grow Coleus Plant

Discover the details on how to grow and care for Coleus plant indoors and outdoors including light, sun, soil, fertilizer and pruning requirement and its care. Coleus can be growing outdoors and indoors in pots.

Coleus are perennial plants, they grow year round. They are generally considered as annual plants for no particular reason. At freezing temperatures, the plant dies (if kept outside) and do not come back, so you have to replant it; that way you can consider it as an annual plant. I am growing the same coleus in Sydney for many years as a perennial plant.
Picture of Coleus

Coleus are native to lands where the average temperature all year is 32 C (90 degrees Fahrenheit). They are low-maintenance that are grown for colorful foliage in red, yellow, green, purple, orange and in an array of colorful patterns. They are easy to grow inside but with care you can use them as a gorgeous outdoor decoration as well.

The coleus plants are not poisonous and nontoxic to humans. However, the essential oils in coleus are toxic to animals. Your cat or dog may develop diarrhea or vomiting if they eat coleus foliage.

I grow a single Coleus plant in a 4"-6" container and 3-4 plants in a 10"-12" container. All pots have plenty of drainage holes. The pots are filled with a high quality well-drained potting mix that has lots of organic material and a few water crystals to keep the plants hydrated on hot days. I also add some slow release fertilizer.

Planting Coleus in Pots and Ground

If you are planting your Coleus directly in the ground, first plant them in a 4" pot to develop a larger and bound root system. After about 2 weeks, transfer the plant to ground.

I planted my coleus from seeds as well as cuttings (how to propagate coleus). Following are the steps on planting coleus seeds.

Coleus grown from seed
Coleus grown from seed

Growing Coleus From Seeds

  1. Get coleus seeds which are typically sold as mixed, which will give you a nice variety in the colors.
  2. Sow the coleus seeds in a pot containing seed raising potting mix, just sprinkle the seeds over the damp soil. 
  3. Place the container in a warm bright place in shade. You will see seedlings in about 2-3 weeks.
  4. Continue watering the coleus seedlings until they have 2-3 sets of leaves. 
  5. Transplant the plants to individual containers or grow in ground.

Where to Plant Coleus - Light: Sun or Shade?

Coleus Growing Conditions
  1. The Coleus plant need plenty of light. The amount of light the plant receives affects its coloration. 
  2. Avoid plenty of bright, full sun over prolonged duration, as it might create more pigmentation to protect itself from the sun and result in a bleaching effect on the leaf. 
  3. Morning sun and protection from noon and afternoon sun are ideal for the plant to produce thicker and bright foliage.
  4. If you wish to place your coleus indoors, choose a location which receives bright indirect sun light.
I grow Coleus in shade in a veranda having very bright light. Coleus grow well in partial shade, but not deep shade as a certain amount of bright light is necessary to maintain the proper level of pigment in the leaves. The deeper shade will create washed out colors of the leaves.

In bright hot regions, the Coleus colors are more intense in shade than in full sun.

If you plan to plant your Coleus in sun, first acclimatize it to save the tender young plant from sun and wind. Also in sun do not allow the plant to get it too dry. Before planting outdoor, the plant should have a well-developed root system.

If the plant starts to lose its leaves, probably it is too dark or cold. If the color washes out, it may be due to too much sun.
Colourful coleus
Colorful display of coleus

Watering Coleus Plant

  1. Coleus prefer a moist soil but not soggy. Daily watering may be necessary during very hot weather. Do not over water, but they should not be allowed to get dry to avoid wilting. 
  2.  If you see that the plant has wilted, water the plant immediately to get it back to life. Repeated wilting will make them less attractive with brown spots on the leaves, bleaching and dull color. 
  3. Do not water on leaves to decrease the chance of fungal disease. Drip irrigation keeps the water off the leaves.
  4. Put mulch to retain moisture around the roots and prevent weeds. The mulch should not touch the stems of the plant to prevent rot.
  5. If kept inside, you should daily apply misting early in the morning, as the level of humidity in most houses is less than what is required.

Fertilizer For Coleus Plant

Fertilize Coleus with slow release fertilizer or liquid fertilizer at half strength on a regular basis for best color display.

Coleus Pruning And Pinching

  1. To make the plant busy, pinch the growing tips of your Coleus when they are young.
  2. If a plant is allowed to overgrow, it may cause its pot to topple. Prune it in mid-summer to help the plant keep its shape.
  3. Do not allow Coleus to bloom heavily so that it uses its energy for growing beautiful leaves, instead of using it for making seeds.


  1. Coleus, when provided with the correct amount of light, water and air circulation, are quite resistant to disease.
  2. The most common pest of Coleus are mealy bugs, white-fly, Aphids, spider mites, fungus mites, slugs, etc.
  3. Low humidity, poor air circulation and dirty surroundings can create problem.
  4. White flies are attracted to the yellow color of the plant, while spider mites flourish when the humidity is low. Fungus gnats are developed if the soil is excessively wet with poor air circulation. This can be controlled by putting a layer of fine gravel to the top of the soil to prevent the adults from laying eggs.
  5. You can make an effective pesticides by mixing 1 teaspoon dish washing liquid soap to 1 liter water in a spray bottle. Shake time to time while applying and cover all surfaces of the leaves.


  1. Coleus, when provided with the correct amount of light, water and air circulation will resistant any disease.
  2. Excessive wet soil, cool temperature and poor air circulation invite fungal diseases such as powdery mildew, botrytis and stem rot.
  3. Avoid watering on the leaves. Water early in the day so the leaves are dry by evening.
  4. Coleus can also be stressed if allowed to dry out repeatedly, making it susceptible to disease.
  5. Remove dropped leaves from the soil and dead stems so disease organisms cannot thrive there.
  6. You can make an effective anti-fungal spray by mixing 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, and a few drops of dish washing liquid soap in 1 liter water in a spray bottle.

Video of how to Grow Coleus Plant from Cuttings

How to grow coleus from cuttings video from cuttings video
Coleus plant propagation from cuttings video
Simple method to propagate plants from cuttings video