Add bold color to sunny or shady spots with the jewel-toned foliage of coleus. Once thought of as only a shade plant, newer varieties of coleus are now available in a rainbow of colors that can thrive in full sun. Coleus are also super easy to grow. Just give them some slightly moist soil and stand back! You can almost hear them growing taller every day. The plants grow between 12 and 24 inches tall. Coleus come in a myriad selection of colors, bi-colors, and mixed patterns so you won’t have any trouble finding one or two in your favorite shade. Just be sure to read the label so you know if the variety you select prefers a sunny or shady site. Coleus also produce spikes of small blue flowers in the late summer that attract butterflies.
Coleus Growing Instructions
Light: Different coleus varieties have varying light needs, so check the plant tag or dig into our Our Favorite Varieties section below. Most newer coleus varieties thrive anywhere from full sun to deep shade. Older coleus varieties may only thrive in a shaded spot, however, and can experience unsightly sunburn (bleaching of the leaf colors) when grown in all-day sun.
Water: Coleus isn’t particularly drought tolerant, so water as the top inch or two of the soil dries to the touch. You’ll notice the plant quickly wilts when it dries out too much. Happily, it recovers just as quickly when watered.
Soil: Like many annuals, coleus grows best in moist, well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter. It tolerates clay soils fairly well, though benefits if you mix plenty of compost in before planting. If you are growing coleus in container gardens use a high-quality potting mix formulated for potted plants.
Pruning: Coleus grows fast when it’s happy, so don’t be afraid to pinch off the top inch or two of new growth from the plants if they start to grow tall and leggy. This encourages the plant to remain full and bushy. In late summer many some coleus varieties develop flower spikes. Just clip them off if you want a more tidy look.
Fertilizing: In most soil types, coleus doesn’t require fertilizer, but if you’d like it to grow faster and lusher, you can fertilize with an all-purpose fertilizer. Follow the directions on the product packaging for application rates; each product is different.