Flowering plants are usually what come to mind when you think of beautiful plants to care for during the growing season. Coleus plants (Plectranthus scutellarioides, formerly Solenostemon, Plectranthus, or Coleus spp. ), on the other hand, are grown for their beautiful leaves, which help make a strong statement in the yard. They are tender perennials that are usually grown as annuals outside of Southeast Asia, where they are originally from.
Plants that live more than two years are called perennials. They may be deciduous, which means that their leaves fall off, but they will grow back the next year. Some perennials keep their leaves all year long in warm areas. The next spring, they get bigger and bloom again. The word permanent comes from the Latin word perennis, which means “lasting the whole year through.”
Coleus is not an annual plant by nature. People think of it as an annual because it dies early when it gets cold.
Annual plants are different from perennials. They only live for one year, which is why they are called “annual.” They tend to be brighter than perennials and are often used as table plants.
You might also know about biennials. Some people think this means they bloom twice a year, but it’s actually about how long it takes them to grow. Since “bi” means “two,” plants that are “biennial” live for two years. In the first year, they sprout and grow leaves. In their second year, they bloom, make seeds, and then die. Parsley is a good example of a plant that lives for two years.
When the temperature drops to 30 degrees Fahrenheit, coleus plants could be hurt by the cold. If the temperature drops below 25 degrees, the plant will die. This means that they can only live in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11, but they might be able to survive in USDA zone 9b if they are in a safe spot away from frost. In cooler areas, they are grown as annuals or as houseplants.
Coleus can live in either sun or shade, but different varieties have different needs. Full sun makes the leaves of coleus that like to be in the shade lose their color, and full shade makes the colors of coleus that can handle the sun less vibrant.
Some varieties that do well in shade are ‘Black Magic,’ ‘Fishnet Stockings,’ and ‘Sunset.’ “Alabama Sunset,” “Pineapple,” and “Solar Shadow” are all cultivars that do best in sunny situations.
Coleus can grow in many different kinds of soil, like clay, sand, loam, and salty soil. But the best soils are those with a lot of organic matter and good drainage. Coleus that grows in earth that is too wet won’t grow as well, and its leaves will get dirty, look burned, and fall off.
But you shouldn’t let coleus dry out totally. For the first 7–10 days after planting, water the area around the root ball to keep the dirt moist. After that, give the plant a lot of water when the top inch of soil is dry.
Coleus can be grown outside all year in USDA zones 10 and 11. If you want to grow coleus as an annual in a zone other than your own, put it outside in the spring after all risk of frost has passed.
You can start them from seeds indoors eight to ten weeks before your last frost date. Coleus seeds start to grow when the dirt is between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
It takes between 7 and 14 days for the seeds to sprout. The seeds need light to grow, so don’t put potting mix over them. When you move the plants outside, leave 12 to 36 inches between them, depending on how big the type will grow.
Check the plant tags before planting to make sure you’re giving each plant enough space.
If you pinch off the flowers as they grow, coleus plants will stay bushy and close together. Coleus plants that are grown as annual in warm climates tend to get tall, so pinch the tips of the plants back when the branches get too long.
Compact types like the ‘Wizard’ series and the cultivar ‘Duckfoot’ need little or no pinching to keep their bushy shape.
Coleus can live for years in places where they are hardy, but even if you pinch and prune them often, they may become ugly and long after a few years. Taking stem cuttings is a way to get rid of plants that don’t look good. At any time of the year, cut a piece of green stem that is at least 2 inches long and peel off the leaves at the bottom. Put the cutting in water, and when roots start to grow, put it in a pot.
Coleus that is grown in pots can go inside or outside. In areas where coleus plants are not hardy, you can put them outside after the last frost of spring and bring them inside before the first frost of fall to keep them living.
Like coleus grown in the ground, coleus grown in pots need dirt that drains well. Since coleus in containers dry out faster than in yard beds, they need to be watered more often. If you want to grow coleus as an indoor plant, put it in a warm place with lots of light.
Coleus doesn’t need much soil. Fertilize plants in the ground every four weeks starting in early summer to help them grow during the middle of the summer.
Annual plants only need to be fertilized three times, but perennial plants can be treated until early fall, when the weather starts to get cooler.
Use a liquid fertilizer that is only half as strong as usual. For example, 1 teaspoon of concentrated liquid fertilizer is mixed with 1 gallon of water for some types with an N-P-K ratio of 12-4-8. This will cover a garden spot of 20 square feet.
Use the same strong liquid fertilizer for coleus in pots as you would for coleus in the ground, but mix it at 1/4 the rate on the label.
This could mean to mix 1/2 teaspoon of fertilizer into 1 gallon of water. During the growing season, every two weeks, use the diluted fertilizer instead of water to water the potted plants.
Coleus is poisonous, so people, dogs, cats, and horses shouldn’t eat it. It has chemicals called diterpene coleonol and coleon O that are poisonous.
It’s rare that eating coleus will kill you, but if you do, you’ll get stomach cramps, throw up, and have diarrhea. Its sap and leaves can also cause itching, so it’s best to wear gloves when handling coleus.
Coleus that lives for more than one year needs a sunny or partly sunny spot with wet, well-drained soil. When coleus is in the sun, its colors get deeper and richer. If it is in the shade, it will be hard for it to make its famously colorful leaves.
If you want to grow coleus every year, wait until there is no chance of frost. There’s nothing worse than going out to the yard in the morning and finding that tender new plants have died from the cold overnight. The best time to visit the UK is in May.
When moving coleus, it’s always a good idea to take a few cuts in case it doesn’t make it. It is easy to grow coleus from a plant. Just cut a stem about 2 to 3 inches long, above a pair of leaves, and put it in a pot of muddy soil. Keep it damp, but not soggy, and new growth will show in a few weeks.
A coleus mat is an interesting way to grow coleus. In Victorian England, rugs made of coleus were very famous. In the 1800s, the plants were brought to England, where their bright colors made them a hit right away.
Victorian farmers used coleus to make tapestries that looked like carpets and covered a flower border.
Absolutely, yes. Coleus is a great houseplant, and Instagrammers and home designers use it a lot. To keep a coleus houseplant looking good, pinch out the stem in the middle. This makes side shoots and a bushy plant that looks healthier and is great for pictures.
If you have indoor cats, you should know that they might eat coleus.
Yes, any permanent plant that is sensitive to temperature, like a coleus, can be thought of as an annual in a climate that isn’t right for it. Lantana, for example, is a tropical shrub.
Like the coleus, the lantana is an annual in USDA hardiness zones 9–11, which are along the southern and western coasts. But in places where winters are too cold, it dies, so it is treated as a summer annual there.
The lantana is a shrub that belongs to the verbena family and has flowers that are pink, white, red with pink edges, red, or orange. Even though the lantana is pretty and is grown by some farmers, in some parts of the world it is seen as a weed that spreads quickly.
It has a drupe-like fruit about the size of a berry that is poisonous to both people and animals. So, when it gets out of control, it can hurt animals.