Dorothy is a Master Gardener, former newspaper reporter, and the author of several books. Michael is a landscape/nature photographer in NM.
Coleus Makes a Magnificent Houseplant
Although usually planted outdoors, with proper light and food, a coleus plant can make a great addition to your collection of house plants. Start with a beautiful, healthy coleus plant and care for it properly, and you will be rewarded for your efforts with a magnificent house plant.
I am going to assume you have just returned from a local nursery and have a young coleus seedling that is ready to be put in a nice, attractive planter.
Here's What You Will Need
- Small coleus plant. (At this point, you are looking at a rather dull-looking seedling wondering if I really know what I'm talking about. But, please don't underestimate this tiny little plant, which can grow and fill out a pot very nicely with some absolutely stunning foliage.)
- Commercial potting soil. (A light, well-draining potting soil; you can't go wrong with Miracle Gro®.)
- Planter pot that drains.
- Commercial house plant fertilizer (diluted).
How to Plant an Indoor Coleus
- Put some potting soil in the planter, put your little seedling in the pot, and cover the roots with potting soil.
- Find the spot that has the right amount of light. The intensity of the light your plant receives on a regular basis will determine the intensity of the foliage color, so place your new plant in a south window for several hours of bright sunshine daily.
- Choose a warm spot. Although they will adapt to somewhat lower temperatures, they will be at their best at around 75-80 degrees with moist (NOT soggy) soil. If you are fortunate enough to have a fluorescent grow light, by all means, use it for your coleus. The colors will become even more vibrant.
- Feed your coleus houseplant once a month with a liquid houseplant fertilizer, but dilute it as the package instructs.
- Flower buds should be pinched off, especially if your plant is struggling. A coleus plant is grown for its foliage, not for its flowers, so get them out of there quickly, as letting the plant flower and go to seed will sap its strength. Some gardeners leave them but if you pinch them off, the plant will have more energy for growth. Just keep pinching off the flower buds and your plant will thrive.
- If your plant becomes too leggy, pinching it off will help in that regard, as well. When tips are pinched off, the plant diverts its energy to the sides, making your plant full, bushy, and gorgeous.
What temperature does a coleus prefer?
Although they will adapt to somewhat lower temperatures, coleus will be at their best at around 75 to 80 degrees.
How much water does an indoor coleus need?
Keep the soil moist (NOT soggy).
How often should I fertilize?
Feed your coleus houseplant once a month with a liquid houseplant fertilizer, but dilute it as the package instructs.
Should I prune or pinch?
Yes, pinch off the flowers and prune too-tall stems to control the shape. Coleus plants are durable; cut them back almost to soil level if they start looking too leggy. To learn more, read about pinching terminal buds for better plant growth.
How to make the coleus' foliage more vibrant?
If you are fortunate enough to have a fluorescent grow light, by all means, use it for your coleus. The colors will become even more vibrant.
Can I start a new plant from a coleus cutting?
Yes, and it's quite easy. Learn how here: How to Grow Coleus From Stem Cuttings.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: How deep and far apart do I plant the Coleus seeds?
Answer: Coleus seeds barely need to be covered with potting soil, so just sow them on top of the soil, then just lightly put some soil over them. If you want your coleus to be thick, which I think is the best, sow them about a half an inch apart. If it looks like they are growing too close together, you can simply transplant some of them to another location, but I have always had good luck planting them pretty close together.
© 2011 Mike and Dorothy McKenney
Graham Everson on February 06, 2020:
My plant has developed brown leathery patches. Please help,Thanks
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on October 22, 2018:
I believe you did the right thing. Coleus can make great houseplants, and in the spring (if you choose), you can put them back out in the yard. The only other alternative would have been to cut them back all the way to the ground and leave them to re-emerge in the spring.
Deb love on October 21, 2018:
I just took my colesus out of ground, It was getting to cold 40°. I put them in pots and bought them in the house.The purple one I have it seem like the leaves were closing up wilpping curling up don’t know if it’s in shock. But I’ve been keeping my eye on it. The green one some are curling up. I actually saved these plants from the store throwing them away. I bought them home during the Spring. When the fall and winter comes through I couldn’t stand to see my plants get frozen. Did I do the right thing by bringing them inside. Deb Love ❤️
CJ on November 29, 2017:
Got a potted coleus from a florist; although it's gone through some trauma (there was a squirrel encounter prior to the plant being moved indoors), it's bounced back wonderfully. That said, it flowered indoors this year, and it's doing just fine--growing a little too vigorously, in fact, that I can't keep up with all the cuttings. So, flowering = death might depend on the variety?
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on November 17, 2017:
There are so many different types of coleus, sometimes it's hard to choose just one. Thanks for reading.
Surendra Sharma on November 17, 2017:
Very educative . Wish to have more varieties
waad.maray on May 24, 2012:
Very nice,a great plat...Im waad,from Iraq,I have this plant,but it still green colour.My question is...
How can I get different colour?
Please .e-mail me.
The Dirt Farmer on May 20, 2011:
I just love coleus but never thought about using it indoors. Thanks for the great idea--and the care instructions.