growing Coleus indoors

How to Grow Coleus Indoors

Known for their unique foliage, coleus is an annual plant that has a life cycle of one year. Mostly grown for its colorful leaves, coleus has the power to turn any home garden into a visual treat. While this vibrant and leafy plant is usually grown outdoors, coleus can also be easily grown inside your home. This stunning plant can act as a beautiful border to your home garden, an inviting plant hanging on your porch, or just an elegant novelty incorporated into your décor. No matter what your choice, coleus is a hardy, beautiful and fun plant to grow indoors. Here is your guide to growing coleus indoors. 


Sowing Your Seeds

You can start growing coleus indoors by adopting three different methods: with a seed, with a seedling, or using cuttings. 

If you want to sow a coleus seed, you can buy high quality coleus seeds at a nursery or online. To stimulate germination, take 2 – 3 seeds and place them on the surface of the soil. Leave even spaces between each seed before covering them with a thin layer of soil. Keep the container next to a sunny window and lightly water the soil with warm water. Keep misting the soil with water for the next 2 – 3 days and check back to notice if the seeds have started germinating. Once the germination process finishes, start watering just enough to wet the soil. During this process keeping the soil warm can also help speed up the process. 

If you wish to sow a coleus seedling, you can buy high quality coleus seedlings at a nursery or other store. Trim unhealthy roots and dig 3 – 4 inches in the center of the container to carefully place the seedling. Ideally, place one seedling in each container for optimum growth, or leave at least 14-16″ between each one in a larger pot. Cover the roots with soil and water just enough to wet the soil.

The third and quicker method is to use coleus cuttings. Choose a healthy coleus stem that is 2 – 6 inches long and contains nodes. Cut the bottom half and coat the lower end in rooting hormone. To help in propagation, place the stem in a container filled with water in a way that ensures the nodes are submerged. Once you see strong roots, sow it into moist potting soil at a depth of 4 – 6 inches. Gently pat the soil over it and spray water. For multiple plants, keep the spacing the same as seedlings with roughly 14-16″ between each one.


Container and Soil

Coleus needs soil that retains moisture. So, if you are using terracotta or any other porous material for a container, you can line it with plastic to keep the soil moist. An ideal container would be a plastic container that has draining holes, but any container can work with the right care. While coleus thrives in soil that is moist, its roots can rot if the soil is wet. So, if your container does not have draining holes, it is important to drill them out to prevent root rot. 

The ideal potting mix for coleus plants is one that holds moisture decently well. You do not want to go with too well of a draining soil. Choose a high quality soil from any nursery or home improvement store.


Sunlight

Coleus thrives in warm climate. So, it needs a minimum of 6 – 8 hours of sunlight to achieve lush growth. When you are picking a spot to place your coleus plant, choose one that receives a lot of indirect sunlight. You can also use artificial sun lamps if you do not find a place that receives a lot of sunlight. Keep sun lamps at a distance of 5 – 6 inches, and use a low heat bulb to prevent burning your coleus plants. 

Coleus plants can die very soon if it catches frost. So, during the winter months, keep your coleus warm with sun lamps or fluorescent lamps. As the intensity of the sun will be minimum during cooler months, keep your coleus exposed to artificial light for a longer amount of time.

Also, make sure to keep them away from any sort of drafting windows or places they might be exposed to the cold. This also goes for air conditioning vents in the summer which can have a similar negative effect on your plant.


Watering

While coleus is a hardy plant, it is not very drought tolerant. It also cannot grow in wet soil as the roots tend to rot. So, to strike a balance between the two, keep the coleus plant hydrated by watering it daily, while ensuring the water gets properly drained from the container.

As water needs to be drained frequently, which can wash away soil nutrients, you can add a liquid water-soluble fertilizer every month to keep the plant nourished. Once the coleus grows out of the seedling phase, start watering it only when the soil starts to feels dry to the touch. 


Maintenance

While the lifespan of an average coleus plant is one year, you can prolong its life by pruning. Watch out for any small flower buds and prune it before the flower buds bloom. This is because once the plant starts producing flowers and seeds, they will soon die. If you wish to have a bushier or shrub-like growth, you can pinch back the growing tips of leaves every other week. 

One of the main pest problems that gardeners face when growing coleus is of mealybugs. A good way to combat the mealybug pest problem is to take a brush and scrub it off with water. You can also kill the pests by taking cotton balls dipped in alcohol and wiping the plant with it. 

Lastly, coleus grows best in humid environments. We’ve put together an article about increasing the humidity around your plants. Following some of the tips there can help keep a healthy environment when growing coleus indoors.


Growing Coleus Indoors

Coleus is a vividly breathtaking plant that adds beauty, no matter where it grows. Apart from its attractive foliage, coleus is a tough plant that can easily grow into a lush shrub inside your home. Available in a wide variety of colors and patterns, you can easily bring any dull corner of your home to life with a potted coleus plant.


FAQs

What color should coleus seedlings have?

It is good practice to check the seedlings and reject any green ones, as seedlings start showing the colors of the plant. This is because coleus is grown mainly for its colors and green seedlings will not grow up to have colorful foliage. 

 

How do I know if my plant has been over-watered or under-watered?

A good indicator of over-watering a plant is when the leaves turn yellow. Alternatively, if you have under-watered a plant, the leaves will start to droop. 

 

Why are the colors on my coleus plant looking faded?

While coleus needs a lot of sunlight to achieve healthy growth, its colors can become less vibrant if you place it under harsh sunlight. Keep it in a spot that gets 6-8 hours of indirect light.

What’s the best tip for growing coleus indoors?

An often overlooked aspect of coleus care is the humidity. Coleus love warm, humid environments, so make sure that they retain moisture. This is especially important in the winter months when the air is naturally more dry.

 

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