Growing Coleus

Pronunciation: ko'lee-us 

Traditionally, Coleus have been terrific foliage plants for shade, but many of the new varieties are also quite tolerant of sun. Variations in light intensity can have a dramatic impact on leaf color and plant size. Their diversity of foliage color, leaf shape, and growth habit make Coleus a valuable container and bedding plant, especially in shade where summer color is scarce.

All Coleus prefer evenly moist garden soil. Where the growing season is long, pinch the tips of the stems regularly to encourage branching and compact growth. If you grow Coleus in containers, we recommend that you incorporate a timed-release fertilizer at planting time. We also suggest using a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks for plants in containers; in the ground, once a month is enough, with the fertilizer diluted to half-strength. Hardy only to Zone 10, plants cannot withstand frost without damage. In colder climates, plants can be overwintered without difficulty on a sunny windowsill, or take tip cuttings in early fall to start new plants. Coleus root very readily.

It is commonly recommended that the blooms of Coleus be removed as soon as they appear because they detract from the foliage display. Bloom is sparse on the varieties we offer, and the small lavender-blue flowers are neither unattractive nor very showy; it hardly seems worth the trouble to cut them off.

For information on planting and care of annuals, click here.

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