Can Coleus Grow Indoors? The Ultimate Guide

Can Coleus Grow Indoors? The Ultimate Guide
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Can Coleus Grow Indoors? The Ultimate Guide

How to Grow Coleus Indoors

Coleus is a great plant for an outdoor garden and is usually treated as an annual. This plant is grown for its beautiful leaf color rather than its flowers. Coleus leaves are a velvety texture and come in shades of lime green to forest green, pale pink to brilliant magenta, reds, browns, and white.

The leaf edge may be scalloped, and the margins can be a contrasting color. The leaves can be under an inch long to up to six inches. There are literally hundreds of coleus varieties to choose from.

Coleus is a shade plant and so does not like the full sun. It is the perfect plant for the north side of the home or any area that only has indirect light. A little early morning sun will be tolerable but don’t plant coleus in the direct sun. This trait makes coleus an invaluable plant in the outdoor shady garden, but it also makes coleus a great houseplant. 

How to Grow Coleus Indoors

Growing coleus indoors is not particularly hard. It is a forgiving plant for the casual indoor gardener so long as you take care of these fundamental growing techniques, including: 

  • Light—The biggest problem most indoor gardeners have is a lack of light, but this is not a problem for coleus. Place your plant in an eastern or northern window and it will usually be fine. Direct exposure to the sun for most of the day can cause the leaves to fade and lose color, or they can even be scorched. If the plant is getting too little light, it will drop leaves and look pretty lackluster.
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  • Temperature—Coleus plants prefer temperatures in the 65–75 degree range, which is the usual range most people prefer in their homes. Avoid placing the coleus near a drafty window, an outdoor access door, or a heat or air conditioning vent.
  • Soil and Water—Plant your coleus in regular potting soil. Allow the soil to dry between waterings. The soil should be dry about an inch deep before you water. Use tepid water and avoid getting water directly on the leaves. Coleus has very few problems with pests, however, it is susceptible to root rot from overwatering. That being said, coleus does like humidity. Your plant will enjoy sitting on a tray of pebbles with water.
  • Fertilizer—Only fertilize when the plant is actively growing. Most houseplants, including coleus, will be semi-dormant in the winter where new growth is minimal. Wait until spring to fertilize with half strength fertilizer. Choose a fertilizer that has a higher nitrogen content to encourage leaf growth. Do not use a fertilizer that is meant for flowering plants.

Coleus can flower but if you allow the flower to remain on the plant, it will signal to the plant that it is time to put its energy into seed production and your coleus will probably die after going to seed. Simply pinch off the flowers that appear and your plant will live for years.

Using Cuttings to Grow New Coleus Plants

Another opportunity you will have if you bring your coleus indoors for the winter is to propagate new coleus plants through cuttings. In spring, around the time you are starting vegetable seeds indoors, take cuttings from the original plant. 

Remove a 3-4-inch-long stem tip that has a minimum of three leaves. Look for a leaf node and cut about a quarter of an inch below the node. Remove any leaves from the stem at the lowest node where roots will now develop. You can place the cutting in a jar of water to root and then pot in soil after the roots show. 

Another method is to pot each cutting immediately in its own small pot filled with moist soil. This will give you many new plants for your outdoor garden once it is warm enough to transfer outdoors.

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Coleus will benefit from a spring pruning as it can get leggy. This means the plant will develop long branches rather than a full bush form. Each time you prune the coleus, whether you use the cutting to propagate new plants or not, the original plant will be encouraged to grow new growth from the nodes on the remaining stem.  The result is a fuller, bushier coleus.

Growing coleus indoors is not only possible, it is actually fairly easy to do. Take advantage of this gorgeous plant to augment the look of your indoors for years to come.

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