A Passion for Gardening | Growing Coleus Cultivars




A Passion for Gardening | Growing Coleus Cultivars

Gardening know-how for creating beautiful outdoor spaces in and around the home.

By Mark Zuleger-Thyss





Planning Your Next Garden? Choose Coleus

Coleuses are a low-maintenance adornment to any outdoor garden and are easy to propagate from seed or cutting. Coleus is a beginner-friendly option and one of the most popular plants on the porch.

Plan on planting it in the spring after the last frost. Coleus has stunning, heart-shaped foliage and is the darling of the annual shade garden.



"Colors for the Shade"

It's easy to fall in love with a plant, but that's of no help if it is not suited to become a good tenant in your garden. You must match the plant to the site to thrive and get along with its new neighbors.

The factors essential for determining the types of plants that will flourish on your site are sun and shade, rainfall, drainage, and hardiness zones.

Shade is a chance to create a special kind of garden with its own character. Shade is a haven for more sensitive plants. As "colors for the shade," Coleuses always win positions of prominence when transforming a dimly lit corner on your porch.

Here's how to keep Coleus plants looking their best and brightest.




Fascinating Foliage

Foliage Colors

Flowers aren't required to create a captivating garden. Coleus plants have such a remarkable variety of leaf colors and markings you'll forget the need for flowers. Coleus also is an excellent addition to a garden bed or container.

Coleus plants, also known as flame nettle or painted leaf, are laid-back tropical beauties that produce flowers in late summer, although grown chiefly for their colorful, cheery leaves.


Coleus plants have velvety leaves in brilliant shades of fuchsia, lime, dark green, and even black. Recognized for its gorgeous, showy foliage, Coleus color combinations of red, burgundy, yellows, and bronze are also available.

Their astonishing variety in leaf colors and markings make Coleuses highly useful annuals where summers are hot and humid. Most varieties, though, need a bit of shade.


Although Coleus species are famous for their ability to thrive in shade, there have been numerous recent additions to the species that prefer full sun.

The amount of sun will affect the colors of the foliage in Coleus. The more sun there is, the more intense and dark colors like burgundy and magenta will appear. Just ensure you are not planting a shade variety in a sunny area, or it will shorten your Coleus lifespan.

These striking plants mix well in combination with other summer annuals. They were a popular bedding plant during Victorian times, and they will reward you with months of continuous color.



Different Types of Coleus Plants

Are you considering planting some Coleus but need help deciding which variety to pick? There are over 300 different Coleus species and over 1500 varieties, so choosing the right one can be challenging!

There are two main types of coleus plants – trailing and mounded – and the care requirements are the same for all.

Some cultivars have a trailing habit, making them ideal for container culture. The mounded varieties are more common, have upright, compact growth, and are mainly used as border or filler plants.

Trailing types have long tendrils, ideal for hanging baskets or ground covers.



Among the favorites:

Coleus has been a big focus for plant breeders for many years, so new and improved varieties are constantly coming onto the market. Coleus now comes in red, pink, copper, neon green, dark green, purple, yellow, and more.

Coppery Henna, black-purple-and-ruby Black Dragon, and red, orange, and pink Alabama Sunset are a few.


  • Burgundy Wedding Train: Deep burgundy leaves
  • Sun Crimson Gold: Yellow and red leaves
  • Lime Delight: Light green leaves
  • Chocolate Symphony: Green and brown leaves




The 2024 Whole Seed Catalog

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company
Gardeners know the Whole Seed Catalog as the gold standard for heirloom seed catalogs



Getting Started

How and Where to Plant

You can grow Coleus from seeds or from nursery transplants. This is cheaper if you want to cover a lot of space.

You should start seeds 6 to 8 weeks before the last expected frost. Plant the seeds in a moist, light potting mix, but don't cover them in dirt because they need sunlight to grow. You can store the seed tray in a warm location by covering it with plastic wrap.

The seeds will begin to sprout within a few days at temperatures ranging from 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23.89 degrees Celsius).

Coleus thrives in full or partial shade, and being protected from the sun's heat means less watering is needed to keep the soil moist.


Plant Hardiness

Hardiness Zones

Though they are technically perennials, Coleus is not a cold-hardy plant. So, you can only grow it outdoors year-round if you live in U.S.D.A. plant hardiness zones 10-11, where the winters are mild.

Temperatures below 40 °F (4.44 °C) will damage the foliage, while anything below 32 °F (0 °C) will kill the plant. But if you live somewhere cold, you can quickly move your Coleus indoors for the winter to keep it alive.

Growing conditions: part to full shade; moist, well-drained soil.



Best Time to Plant Coleus

Transplanting & Repotting

The best time to transplant your Coleus is in the spring. Wait to plant them in the garden until all risk of frost has passed and the temperature is consistently above 60 °F (ca. 16 °C).

Mid-spring is the best time to repot containerized plants that have outgrown their current pot.






Follow Nature... Wherever She may lead You...


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