Coleus has long endured a somewhat dusty, old image. However, slowly but surely, this easy-care ornamental foliage balcony decoration is being rediscovered. We would like to introduce you to this colorful southerner.

Apr 09, 2021 02:42 pm
readtime icon 6 Minutes
Growth type
  • Perennial plant
Growth height (from)
from 20 cm to 60 cm
Growth width (from)
from 15 cm to 40 cm
Growth characteristics
  • upright
  • bushy
Flowering time (month)
  • June to July
Flower shape
  • terminal
  • lip-shaped
  • panicles
Flower characteristics
  • unimpressive
Leaf color
  • multicolored
page format
  • ovate
  • sawn
  • pointed
Sheet properties
  • evergreen
  • sunny to scattered light
Soil Moisture
  • moderately humid
ph value
  • neutral to weakly acidic
Lime compatibility
  • lime-tolerant
Nutrient requirements
  • moderately nutritious
  • rich in humus
Decorative or utility value
  • Leaf ornaments
  • weakly poisonous
Winter Hardness
  • frost-sensitive
  • Interior greening
  • Planters
  • Winter garden
Garden style
  • Pot garden

Summer is the time of year for coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) because this is the time of year when the foliage color is most intense. Whether red, copper, bright yellow or green: These generally multi-colored, patterned ornamental plants with wavy, even heavily slotted margins, flourish outdoors in bright locations, but not in blazing sunlight. Coleus has been known as a pretty houseplant for generations.

The 11.81 to 23.62 inch tall plants originate from tropical Africa and Asia. There are over 200 species of these easy-care, rapid growing leafy beauties in total. The Solenostemon-Scutellarioides hybrids are most suitable for gardeners in this country. Crossing various species over time has led wildest color combinations. Incidentally, coleus was previously available under the botanical genus name coleus and it is still available under this name in most garden centers. However, a few years ago botanists ‘rebaptised’ the genus as Solenostemon. The genus name Plectranthus is also used.

Confetti garden mix ‘Trafalgar Square’
The confetti garden mix ‘Trafalgar Square’ adds an accent to the garden in a modest wooden box with its tricolor ornamental foliage

Summer bloomers such as geraniums, fuchsias or daisies are widely popular - however, they need the proper care to flower tirelessly. Conversely, coleus do well without laborious efforts, such as continuous deadheading. These labiates do grow delicate flower stems in the summer, however, these are neither particularly conspicuous, nor fragrant. So it’s best to clip off the flowers as soon as they appear and enjoy coleus as a foliage plant. As a soloist they should be placed in color coordinated pots, or alternatively in colorful mixed groups, entirely according to your own taste.


The foliage color of coleus ranges from yellow to red and dark purple. The leaves are extremely soft and generally have a typical nettle shape, however, some varieties also have deviating leaf shapes. The herby plants grow up to 23.62 inches tall, depending on the variety. Young plants should be pruned from the start and older, bare shoots removed entirely to ensure they grow beautiful and bushy.


The wonderful colored foliage is the real appeal of coleus. In contrast, the flowers are extremely inconspicuous. For this reason, many hobby gardeners break these off even in the budding stage, in order to avoid unnecessarily weakening the coleus.


Coleus should be placed in a bright and somewhat off-sunny location. The plants are better shaded a little in heavy sunlight as the soft leaves burn easily. However, if it is too dark, coleus plants will lose their vibrant foliage color.


Coleus grow superbly in sufficiently large containers with fresh potting soil and consume a lot of water in the summer. During this time they should be watered regularly with water containing as little lime as possible and their leaves should be sprayed occasionally, as they do tend to hang limply in intense heat. But you should never leave the pots standing in water for a long time. Bring the plants indoors during the cooler winter months and then water them more sparsely.


Outdoor coleus should be fed green plant fertilizer once a week during the growth period. Fertilizing every two weeks is sufficient for plants indoors on a window ledge.


It is not generally worth repotting coleus. Instead, it is preferable to grow new plants from the shoots and place several cuttings together in a new pot. With proper care, a new, stately plant will grow again within one season.


Coleus are available in the widest variety of colors - from fresh yellow-green to vibrant red and dark purple. As they grow quickly, are easy care, and propagation is straightforward, coleus are enjoying more and more popularity and developing into a really fashionable plant, thanks to the numerous new varieties. The multi-colored varieties are now also available in trade shops, for example, ‘Fifth Avenue’ or ‘Abbey Road’ from the ‘Mainstreet’ series, which bring a breath of fresh air to pot gardens with their spectacular flower colors and are ideally suited to conspicuous planting combinations thanks to their compact growth. By the way: The most popular varieties from the ‘Mainstreet’ series are also available as an attractive ‘Confetti Garden’ mix. In this mix, coleus varieties with various, perfectly coordinated leaf colors are combined in one plant pot.

Conjure up color in potted gardens: ‘Fifth Avenue’ and ‘Rodeo Drive’ from the ‘Mainstreet’ series


Coleus really are super simple to propagate: The easiest way to propagate them is through cuttings. For this, cut off the plant shoot tips with one or two leaf pairs with a knife in the summer or fall and place these in a glass of water. The first roots will often form within a week. The young plants should be pruned a few times to encourage bushy growth. The new sapling can already be planted in potting soil after two weeks. If they are propagated in the fall, the young plants should be kept at 53.6 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit on the window ledge until the spring when they are taken outside again.

Diseases and Pests

Coleus are robust and only sensitive to waterlogging. Spider mites may move on to leaves in locations with dry air.