A guide to Growing Coleus! A simple annual that is grown mainly for it's gorgeous foliage and is so easy to grow and propagate.
I have a confession. I have never grown coleus until this year. You see, I was under the impression that it was much easier to have a garden filled with perennials. They came back every year, no replanting every spring.
Then last year I added a few annuals. This year a few more. Turns out annuals are workhorses of the garden. They bloom and flourish with all their might all summer long. My new favorite? Coleus! Growing Coleus is so easy and so rewarding!!
How to Grow Coleus
It turns out that coleus is crazy easy to grow! Coleus is not drought tolerant and it likes to be kept a little moist. Since we've had drought conditions in the past, I decided to plant the coleus in containers. That may sound counterintuitive, but it is much easier for me to walk around in the morning with my watering can and water the containers than it is to set up sprinklers all the time.
Many sites recommend pinching the coleus back to keep it from getting too leggy. Even though mine seems fine, I will probably do that next week.
Coleus does bloom, though many consider the flowers insignificant. It's up to you whether or not you trim them off. Cutting them allows the plant to keep focusing it's energy on it's gorgeous leaves.
Shade Tolerant Annual
It turns out that some coleus can take more sun than was originally thought. I have mine growing in partial shade and they are loving it. The colors are vibrant, not washed out. I might try a few in a more sunny location and I'll update this, for right now, I have to say that partial shade seems perfect for them!
The location where I have them gets a little morning sun, then shade in the middle of the day and then a little more sun in the evening.
Propagating and Overwintering Coleus
If there wasn't enough to love already, it turns out that coleus is super easy to propagate! Since it is hardy only to Zone 11, if you want to have coleus again next year without buying new plants, you'll love how easy it is to propagate.
You simply cut off a sprig (about 10 inches or so), strip off the lower leaves and place in water. You can actually keep them in water all winter or plant in pots when they have enough roots. If you keep them in water all winter, just rinse and change the water regularly. I will be trying this and will update this post when I do.
How to Overwinter Coleus
**updated for 2019! I did overwinter my coleus! I simply cut a stem or two from each plant, about 8 inches long. I filled a small mason jar with water and trimmed off the leaves that would be under water. I placed the stems in the jar and sat them on a table by a west facing window.
They grew all winter long, in just water! They got a bit leggy, but otherwise they were fine! This spring, I planted them in pots and they look great!
Proven Winners Colorblaze Torchlight
This last photo is the Colorblaze Torchlight that Proven Winners sent me to try out in my garden. This was one of the last plants that I got around to planting and I had left it setting in a tray of water for too long. It was completely waterlogged and the roots had all rotted away. I figured it was dead and just stuck it in the ground, with no hopes at all.
You can see that it has rallied! It is still small, but there are even a few offshoots popping up! I will update this post as we go through the summer, because I think this is going to be a favorite! Look at those leaves!
In case you missed it, I've been doing a whole series on growing plants in the garden this summer: