How to care for vibrant Coleus plants indoors: (Complete Guide)

If you want to decorate your garden with colorful foliage plants then Coleus should be on the top of your list. 

This easy to grow foliage plant exists in multiple colors and varieties. 

They can be planted indoors or outdoors. If you have a vacant corner in home or a dark spot in the garden then Coleus is the perfect fit.

In this article I have described every small thing you should know about Coleus.

If you read the article till the end then you’ll get the answer to all your questions.

So, Let’s dive into it.

How to care for coleus

Coleus is easy to grow plants but there are plenty of factors that affect them.  Take care of these factors for the healthy growth of coleus. 



Most of the people has a question :

How do I make my coleus more colorful?.

The one sentence answers is:

You should plant or place (if you are growing in a pot) in the spot where they get morning sunlight and afternoon shade.

This is because:

In the afternoon the sunlight is much stronger than morning and will destroy the plant. So, it’s best to protect them with shade. The foliage of the plant gets directly affected by the light. 

If you plant them in full sun the dark-purple spots will start appearing on the leaves. Whereas planting them in full shade fade in the leaves color.


Before growing them:

First, decide the exact spot where you want to grow them. There are varieties or hybrids that grow in shade, particle shade, and even in the full sun. So do your research and choose the variety accordingly.

Is coleus plant poisonous to cats?

Coleus is poisonous to both cats and dogs when eaten. If you have pets in your home then I recommend don’t plant them.

The pets can suffer from anorexia, bloody diarrhea, body tremor, depression, skin redness, and vomiting.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet immediately visit an animal doctor.

Are coleus plants poisonous?

They are not poisonous to human if not eaten.They may cause some skin irritation to sensitive people. Mostly planting them has no issues.

Related post: 18 Low light houseplants That bring peace in the house


When you first plant coleus in the pot or directly into the ground, give a good soaking of water to saturate the soil.

Coleus Henna

Henna coleus by Serres Fortier

Water the plant only when:

The soil looks dry. Your aim should be to keep the soil moist but not wet. Overwatering the plant causes root rot.

Why is my coleus plant dying?

If you’re growing them in a pot then water once or twice in a day. Potted plants need more water as compared to ground plants especially in summer.

However never overwater them because it causes root rot that destroys the roots and leaves, the plant unable to absorb water and nutrients. Eventually, the plant died. 


This plant likes hot temperatures ideally between 70-100 degrees F. They can tolerate hot temperatures but struggle in cold. Temperatures below 50 degrees F are not good for them.

Coleus Wasabi

Coleus Wasabi by Serres Fortier

To avoid this:

If you planted them in the pot it’s wise to bring the pot inside and place it in a warm spot.

Once the outside temperature exceeds 50 degrees F place them back. For ground planted you have to regrow them in the spring season. 


Coleus 'Wizard Scarlet'

Coleus prefers high humidity as the plant is habitat to tropical regions.

But, that doesn’t mean they only thrive in high humidity. They also grow well in average humidity.

Related post: 25 Best Perennial Fall Flowers for the beautiful garden


Coleus plants kept in the pot can be fed liquid fertilizer in the growing season. 


Photo source: Ann Stretton

In the fall or winter fertilizing plants isn’t necessary as the growth of plants is minimal in these seasons.

If the plant is in the ground then fed slow release fertilizer is a good option. 

To increase the abundance of leaves and vibrant foliage, choose a fertilizer that has a high nitrogen level. Nitrogen is an important mineral in the plant’s growth.


How do I make my coleus bushy?

Pruning is very important to keep the plant clean and bushy. Especially for coleus, the plant has a habit to get leggy. Prune them from time to time to encourage growth.

Here what you should do:

Take a sharp shear and sniff off spindly stems, ideally a short distance above the leaf node. This will result in the stem popping from the cut points.


Photo source: Ann Stretton

You can also do pruning to make the plant neat or to stop from overgrowing.

However, this depends upon you whether you want to let them grow or bound in a certain size.

Should I cut the flowers off my coleus?

The coleus also bear flowers but they look faded in front of their bright and vibrant foliage. So, it’s wise to pluck the buds whenever you notice them in the plant.

Also, these fade flowers need the energy to grow which slows down the growth of the foliage.

By removing the plant’s buds you redirect the energy in the production of colorful leaves.


Coleus spread a lot, they need large space to spread but before you plant them in a larger area first grow them in a small pot. 

They are easy to care for in pots, after they grow a few inches transplant them in the garden or plant bed.

Coleus Tricolor

Coleus Tricolor by Serres Fortier

Do coleus like to be root bound?

Rootbound will stop the plant’s growth. If you don’t want coleus to spread and remain in its current size then plant in a pot or container.

But their health will suffer and eventually, you have to give them more space to spread. So, after they grow a few inches in a pot transplant to a large area.

Related post: 14 perennial plants That make your garden Beautiful.

How to propagate coleus from stem cutting:

Propagation from stem cutting is an easy and quick method to grow plants. Using stem cutting you can propagate plants in water pots or directly in the ground.


Photo source: Ann Stretton

Can coleus plants grow in water?

Coleus is an annual or perennial plant and sometimes succulent. They can grow in the water. From stem cutting, you can easily propagate coleus in water.

Here what to do:

  • Cut a stem from a mature coleus plant. Always cut the stem from the node.
  • Remove the bottom half leaves from the stem.
  • Dip in rooting hormone. If you want to grow the plant faster then dip the bottom end of the plant into the rooting hormone.
  • place the stem cutting in a transparent glass or jar half-filled with water. 
  • Occasionally change the water of the container when it looks dirty.

You can expect the growth of the roots in 2 weeks, don’t get impatient if it takes a few more days.

Planting the stem cutting in the pot is similar to in water glass. The only difference is instead of water, plant them in potting mix soil.

How to propagate coleus from seeds:

Propagation from seed is also simple but it takes longer time.


Photo source: Ann Stretton

Here what you need to do:

  • Take fresh or new seeds of the plant.
  • Sow the seeds in potting mix soil.
  • Use a pencil to make a small hole nearly 3-4 inches.
  • Put the 2-3 seeds into the hole.
  • Cover the hole with the soil.
  • Water regularly to keep the soil moist.
  • After 2 weeks, the seeds will start germinating.

Then transplant in a large container or directly in the soil.


If you want to grow a healthy and beautiful Coleus plant then you have to give them enough space to grow. You can easily transplant them in the garden.


Photo source: Ann Stretton

By following steps:

The water potted coleus. When the roots of the plant get visible. Transplant them in the ground.

For potted plants pull the stem to check the root of stem cutting has grown properly or not. If the plant resists then it means roots have grown.

Toss the plant out and plant in a suitable spot. (explained in the light section)

In the beginning you have to water the soil properly. After that only water when the soil looks dry. Overwatering can cause root rot.


Does coleus like sun or shade?

Generally, they prefer shade but some modern coleus hybrids or variety also grow well in full sun. As I mentioned the ideal place to plant them.

They thrive in cool, evenly moist soil and well-drained soil. Moisture is good but soggy conditions cause rot roots.

What is Coleus good for?

Coleus is an annual or perennial plant that grows in both soil and water. They have bright and vibrant foliage that makes the home or garden beautiful. 

How long do coleus plants live for?

They can live nearly 7 years in the ground if you live in USDA hardiness zone 10-11.

The plant cannot tolerate frost. In the cold season, you have to bring your plant indoors.

Does coleus come back every year?

As I mentioned above this plant cannot survive frost. So, if you plant outdoors you have to overwinter them every year. Once the climate gets warmer you can again bring them out. 

Hope your question has been answered if not ask me in the comment box.

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