Indoor Coleus Care: How To Grow A Coleus Houseplant


Updated: 27 Aug, 2023

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The petite coleus houseplant is cherished primarily for its vibrant and striking foliage, encompassing an array of bold hues. An intriguing revelation is that these coleus plants belong to the Lamiaceae family, commonly known as the mint family. Despite this affiliation, their leaves, unlike the flavorful peppermint, are occasionally employed for medicinal purposes, though their taste isn’t notably appealing.

Originating from Asia and Australia, coleus plants showcase an assortment of pigmented leaves, ranging from shades of green, pink, and white to cream, yellow, maroon, and purple. Initiating growth from seeds usually transpires about a month and a half prior to the final frost. Within a remarkably brief span, often six to nine months, these plants flourish rapidly, attaining a mature and robust stature. Noteworthy for their distinctive appearance and undemanding maintenance, coleus plants have garnered popularity as a favored choice among both neophyte and seasoned gardeners for indoor cultivation.

What is a coleus plant?

A coleus plant, scientifically known as Coleus blumei or Solenostemon scutellarioides, is a type of small to medium-sized herbaceous plant that is often grown as a popular ornamental houseplant. It is prized for its stunning and vibrant foliage, which comes in a wide range of colors and patterns. The leaves of coleus plants can display various combinations of shades, including greens, reds, purples, pinks, yellows, and whites, often with intricate patterns and designs.

Coleus plants are native to tropical regions of Asia, particularly countries like India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. They are commonly cultivated for their aesthetic appeal and are used to add splashes of color to gardens, indoor spaces, and landscapes. While their flowers are typically small and less noticeable, coleus plants are primarily valued for their foliage.

These plants are relatively easy to grow and are favored by gardeners for their versatility and adaptability. They can thrive in both indoor and outdoor settings, although they are often grown as houseplants due to their striking appearance. Coleus plants can be propagated through seeds, cuttings, or even directly planting the leaf stalks in soil.

Botanical NamePlectranthus scutellarioides (also referred to as coleus blumei in the past)
Common NameColeus
Plant TypeHerbaceous perennial
Mature Size0.5–3 ft. tall, 0.5–3 ft. wide
Sun ExposurePartial shade
Soil TypeMoist but well-drained
Soil pHNeutral to acidic
Bloom TimeSummer (not showy)
Flower ColorWhite
Hardiness Zones10, 11 (USDA)
Native AreaAsia, Australia
ToxicityToxic to dogs and cats

How to Grow a Coleus Houseplant

Cultivating a vibrant coleus houseplant is a gratifying endeavor that brings striking foliage and botanical beauty into your indoor space. Here’s a concise guide on how to successfully grow and care for a coleus houseplant:

Propagating coleus is a rewarding way to create new plants from your existing ones. One of the most common methods of propagation for coleus is through stem cuttings. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to propagate coleus through stem cuttings:

Materials You’ll Need:

  • Healthy coleus plant
  • Clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears
  • Small container with drainage holes
  • Potting mix
  • Rooting hormone (optional)
  • Plastic bag or clear plastic dome (for creating a mini greenhouse)

Steps:

  1. Choose a Healthy Plant: Select a mature and healthy coleus plant with strong stems and vibrant foliage for taking cuttings.

  2. Prepare the Container: Fill a small container with well-draining potting mix. Moisten the mix slightly, but make sure it’s not waterlogged.

  3. Take Cuttings: Using clean and sharp scissors or pruning shears, take 4-6 inch cuttings from the tips of the coleus stems. Each cutting should have at least a few pairs of leaves.

  4. Remove Lower Leaves: Remove the leaves from the lower part of the stem, leaving a bare stem section that will be inserted into the potting mix. This helps reduce moisture loss and prevents rotting.

  5. Optional: Apply Rooting Hormone: Dip the cut end of each stem into rooting hormone powder. While this step is optional, rooting hormone can promote quicker and more reliable root formation.

  6. Plant the Cuttings: Insert the cut ends of the coleus stems into the moist potting mix. Make sure at least one or two leaf nodes are buried in the mix. Gently press the mix around the stems to hold them in place.

  7. Create a Mini Greenhouse: To maintain high humidity around the cuttings, you can place a clear plastic bag or a plastic dome over the container. This creates a mini greenhouse effect that encourages root development.

  8. Provide Indirect Light: Place the container in a location with bright, indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight, as it can cause excessive heat and drying.

  9. Monitor and Water: Check the cuttings regularly to ensure the potting mix remains slightly moist. Avoid overwatering, as soggy conditions can lead to rot.

  10. Transplanting: Once you notice new growth and roots emerging from the cuttings, it’s an indication that they’ve successfully rooted. At this point, you can transplant each rooted cutting into its own individual pot with regular potting mix.

  11. Gradual Acclimatization: As the new plants grow, gradually acclimate them to the normal indoor conditions by reducing the humidity and exposure to the plastic cover.

Propagation via stem cuttings is a reliable way to create new coleus plants that are genetically identical to the parent plant. It’s a fun and cost-effective method to expand your coleus collection or share plants with friends and family.

Indoor Coleus Care

Indoor coleus care involves providing the right conditions for these colorful plants to thrive within your home environment. Follow these essential guidelines to ensure your coleus houseplant flourishes:

1. Light:
Coleus plants thrive in bright, indirect light. Place them near a window with filtered sunlight, avoiding intense direct sunlight that can scorch their leaves. If natural light is insufficient, you can supplement with fluorescent grow lights.

2. Temperature and Humidity:
Maintain a comfortable indoor temperature for your coleus plant, ideally between 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C). These plants also appreciate higher humidity levels. You can enhance humidity by using a humidifier, placing a tray of water near the plant, or misting the leaves regularly.

3. Watering:
Keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. Water when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Ensure proper drainage to prevent root rot. Adjust your watering frequency based on the plant’s needs, which can change with variations in temperature and humidity.

4. Soil:
Use well-draining, quality potting mix that retains moisture without becoming waterlogged. Adding organic matter to the mix can help improve soil structure and water retention.

5. Fertilization:
Feed your coleus plant with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season (spring through early fall). Dilute the fertilizer to half the recommended strength to prevent overfeeding, which can lead to leggy growth.

6. Pruning and Pinching:
Regularly pinch or trim the growing tips of coleus stems to encourage bushier growth and prevent the plant from becoming leggy. Pruning also helps maintain the plant’s desired shape.

7. Pests and Diseases:
Monitor your coleus for common indoor plant pests like aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. If you notice any signs of infestation, take immediate action using appropriate methods such as insecticidal soap or neem oil. Maintain good air circulation to prevent fungal diseases.

8. Propagation:
You can propagate coleus through stem cuttings. Simply take a 4-6 inch cutting from a healthy plant, remove the lower leaves, and place the cutting in a container of water or directly into moist soil. Keep it in a warm, humid environment until roots develop.

9. Container and Repotting:
Choose a container with drainage holes that’s slightly larger than the plant’s root ball. Repot the coleus when it becomes root-bound or outgrows its current container. This is usually needed every year or two.

Symptoms of Poisoning

Poisoning can occur when a person or animal is exposed to toxic substances that can cause harmful effects on their health. The symptoms of poisoning can vary widely depending on the specific toxic substance involved. Here are some general symptoms that might indicate poisoning:

1. Gastrointestinal Symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain or cramps

2. Respiratory Symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath

3. Neurological Symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Unconsciousness

4. Skin Symptoms:

  • Rash
  • Irritation
  • Itching
  • Redness or swelling

5. Cardiovascular Symptoms:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Low blood pressure

6. Eye and Vision Symptoms:

  • Blurred vision
  • Eye irritation
  • Redness or swelling around the eyes

7. Muscle and Joint Symptoms:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Joint pain

8. Oral Symptoms:

  • Burning or tingling sensation in the mouth
  • Excessive salivation
  • Swelling or pain in the mouth or throat

9. Systemic Symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Generalized weakness

It’s important to note that the symptoms of poisoning can resemble symptoms of other medical conditions, so it’s crucial to seek medical attention if you suspect poisoning. If someone is showing severe symptoms, is unconscious, or having difficulty breathing, it’s important to call emergency services immediately.

If you suspect poisoning, try to provide as much information as possible to medical professionals about the substance involved, the amount consumed or exposed to, and any relevant circumstances. If it’s a pet that you suspect has been poisoned, contact a veterinarian immediately.

Coleus Varieties

Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) is a versatile plant known for its stunning and colorful foliage. Over the years, numerous coleus varieties have been developed, each showcasing unique leaf colors, patterns, and growth habits. Here are some popular coleus varieties that you might find intriguing:

  • Kong Series: The Kong coleus varieties are known for their large, broad leaves and vibrant colors. They often have intricate patterns of contrasting shades, making them a striking addition to gardens or indoor spaces.

  • Wizard Series: The Wizard coleus varieties feature rich and bold colors, often with a mix of contrasting shades on the same leaf. These plants are prized for their eye-catching appearance and compact growth.

  • Rainbow Series: The Rainbow coleus varieties live up to their name with leaves that display an array of colors, often resembling a rainbow. These plants add a cheerful and whimsical touch to any garden or collection.

  • Black Dragon: This coleus variety is known for its dark, almost black foliage. The leaves can have shades of deep purple or maroon, making it a dramatic and elegant choice for adding contrast to your garden or indoor space.

  • Chocolate Mint: With leaves that resemble chocolate with a hint of minty green, this coleus variety brings a unique and intriguing color combination to your collection.

  • Solar Series: The Solar coleus varieties are noted for their compact and mounding growth habit. They come in a range of colors, often with a central contrasting hue and scalloped leaf edges.

  • Trusty Rusty: This coleus variety showcases a warm palette of rusty red, orange, and burgundy tones. Its foliage brings a sense of autumnal beauty to your garden or indoor display.

  • Lime Time: Lime Time coleus has bright lime green foliage that adds a refreshing burst of color. It pairs well with other coleus varieties or contrasting plants.

  • Alabama Sunset: This variety offers a blend of pink, orange, and purple hues that resemble a sunset sky. It’s a captivating choice for creating vibrant displays.

  • Saturn: The Saturn coleus features uniquely shaped leaves with deep lobes that resemble the rings of Saturn. The variegated foliage adds an intriguing texture to your collection.
  • Lava Rose: Lava Rose coleus boasts deep burgundy leaves with vibrant pink veins, creating a striking visual effect. It’s a favorite for those who appreciate intricate patterns.

  • Henna: Henna coleus has leaves that start with shades of burnt orange and mature into deeper maroon hues. It adds warmth and depth to any planting arrangement.

These are just a few examples of the diverse coleus varieties available. With their wide range of colors and patterns, coleus plants offer endless possibilities for creating captivating gardens, vibrant indoor displays, and unique container arrangements. When selecting coleus varieties, consider your design preferences, light conditions, and intended use to find the perfect plants for your space.

Common Pests and Diseases

Indoor coleus plants, like many other houseplants, can be susceptible to certain pests and diseases. Being aware of these potential issues and knowing how to address them promptly is crucial for maintaining the health and beauty of your coleus plant. Here are some common pests and diseases to watch out for:

Common Pests:

  1. Aphids: These small insects feed on plant sap and can cause distorted growth and yellowing leaves. Use insecticidal soap or neem oil to control aphid infestations.

  2. Mealybugs: Mealybugs are white, cotton-like pests that often gather in clusters along stems and leaf undersides. They weaken plants by sucking sap. Remove them manually or apply insecticidal soap.

  3. Spider Mites: These tiny pests are known for spinning fine webs on the plant. They suck plant juices, leading to stippling and discoloration. Increase humidity, spray with water to dislodge them, and use insecticidal soap if necessary.

  4. Whiteflies: Whiteflies are small, flying insects that congregate on the undersides of leaves. They feed on plant sap and excrete honeydew, leading to sooty mold growth. Use yellow sticky traps and insecticidal soap to manage whitefly populations.

Common Diseases:

  1. Powdery Mildew: This fungal disease appears as a white powdery substance on leaves. It can stunt growth and distort foliage. Provide good air circulation, avoid overhead watering, and use fungicidal treatments if necessary.

  2. Downy Mildew: Downy mildew causes yellowing, curling, and browning of leaves along with a fuzzy gray or purple growth on leaf undersides. Improve air circulation and consider using fungicides to control its spread.

  3. Root Rot: Excessive moisture and poor drainage can lead to root rot, a fungal disease that affects the plant’s root system. Prevent overwatering, use well-draining soil, and ensure proper drainage to avoid this issue.

  4. Bacterial Leaf Spot: This disease manifests as dark, water-soaked spots on leaves that may have a yellow halo. Remove and destroy infected leaves, maintain good air circulation, and avoid overhead watering.

  5. Fungal Leaf Spots: Various fungal pathogens can cause circular or irregular spots on leaves. Remove affected leaves, improve air circulation, and avoid wetting foliage during watering.

Regularly inspect your coleus plant for any signs of pests or diseases, especially on the undersides of leaves and in hidden crevices. Early detection and proper intervention are essential for preventing these issues from spreading and causing significant harm to your beloved coleus plant. If you’re uncertain about the appropriate treatment, consulting with a local gardening expert or plant specialist can provide valuable guidance.

Is it surprising that coleus plants belong to the mint family?

Yes, it might be surprising to some that coleus plants are members of the Lamiaceae, or mint, family. Although they share this family with plants like peppermint, coleus leaves are not commonly used for culinary purposes due to their lack of palatable flavor.

Can coleus leaves be used for medicinal purposes?

Yes, while not known for their taste, coleus leaves have been used for medicinal purposes in some instances. Similar to other plants in the mint family, they possess certain compounds that can have potential therapeutic effects.

Where are coleus plants native to?

Coleus plants originate from Asia and Australia. Their natural habitat in these regions has contributed to their genetic diversity, resulting in the wide array of leaf colors they exhibit.

How do you cultivate coleus plants?

Starting coleus plants from seeds is a common method, usually initiated around six weeks before the last expected frost. These plants tend to grow quickly, often reaching maturity within six to nine months. They are favored by gardeners, both beginners and experts, for their distinctive appearance and easy care requirements.

What colors do coleus leaves come in?

Coleus plants boast a rich spectrum of pigmented leaves, including shades of green, pink, white, cream, yellow, maroon, and purple. This variety of colors contributes to their visual appeal.

Why are coleus plants popular as houseplants?

Coleus plants are popular choices for indoor cultivation due to their striking and unique appearance, as well as their low-maintenance nature. Their colorful foliage can add a touch of vibrancy to any indoor space, making them a preferred option for gardening enthusiasts of all levels of experience.

Conclusion

The coleus plant stands as a captivating testament to the beauty and diversity of the botanical world. With its kaleidoscope of colors and intricate patterns, it enchants gardening enthusiasts and interior decorators alike. Despite its surprising affiliation with the mint family, coleus leaves, though not known for their taste, hold potential medicinal qualities. Originating from the lush landscapes of Asia and Australia, these plants have found their way into homes and gardens across the globe.

The journey of cultivating coleus plants, from germinating seeds to witnessing their rapid growth, is a rewarding endeavor for both newcomers to gardening and seasoned horticulturists. Their adaptability to different environments, coupled with their low-maintenance nature, makes them an ideal choice for brightening up indoor spaces.

As they thrive and transform with changing light conditions, coleus plants remind us of the dynamic nature of the natural world. Their foliage reflects the intricate interplay of genetics and environment, showcasing the endless possibilities of life’s artistic palette.


Mary Lloyster

Mary Lloyster

Mary, the ultimate oracle of indoor gardening! With years of experience and a flourishing indoor expo, Mary has become our go-to expert for all things related to house plants and indoor gardening. Despite her background in Political Science, Mary has discovered a delightful way to blend her full-time job with a touch of relaxation through indoor gardening. Now, she eagerly shares her wisdom and experiences with our readers on a daily basis. If you have any inquiries about house plants, indoor gardening techniques, or caring tips, don't hesitate to leave a comment for Mary in the designated section below!

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