Planting Coleus

Coleus scutellarioides, more commonly referred to simply as Coleus, is a low-maintenance plant known for striking foliage that boasts vivid shades of green, yellow, maroon, and more. When planted the correct way, Coleus will thrive and quickly fill in a bed or container while adding pops of color and visual interest.


Coleus is not cold-hardy, and while it is a perennial plant, it is more of a tender perennial. The plant may need to be grown in a container and brought indoors to overwinter in cold regions. However, Coleus is typically grown as an annual when the weather prevents the plant from growing as a perennial.

What You Need To Plant Coleus

  • Shovel
  • Compost or manure
  • Garden spade

Where to Plant Coleus

Coleus needs bright light to maintain its striking foliage. While some varieties can handle direct light, too much direct light can burn the leaves. The leaves may appear muted or even drop if the plant does not receive enough sunlight. Coleus plants are not very picky about soil, just as long as it is well-draining. When planting in the ground, the hole should be at least 6 inches deeper than the size of the root ball.

Coleus Spacing

Space Coleus plants about 6 to 12 inches apart. Coleus typically grow to be 3 feet tall and have a 3-foot spread. These fast-growing mounding plants will quickly fill in the area with a lush foliage wall, so give the plants room to grow. You can pinch off new growth to keep the plant bushy and full if you prefer that look. 

Steps To Plant Coleus

Coleus should be planted in a hole slightly larger than the root ball. Position the top of the root ball even with the surface of the soil. You will want to loosen the ground about 6 inches below the root ball so the roots have space to grow. Amending the soil with manure or compost will promote root growth and help the plant settle in more quickly.

Once the plant is in the ground, backfill the sides with soil and gently press the area around the plant to ensure it is securely in place. Spread mulch in the bed to retain moisture.

Coleus needs to be watered immediately after planting. These plants require consistently damp soil at all times. If the top inch of the soil is dry to the touch, then it is time to water these thirsty plants.

When planting Coleus directly in the ground, select a spot that receives bright but not direct sunlight. These plants do best in beds at the base of trees or near buildings that provide partial shade.

Step 1 - Pick a good location

Step 2 - Dig the hole

Step 3 - Add compost or manure to the dirt

Step 4 - Position the root ball even with the ground

Step 5 - Firmly fill in the dirt

Step 6 - Add mulch and water thoroughly


When to Plant Coleus 

Plant Coleus in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. The benefit of planting Coleus early in the spring is that you can maximize the growing season, although you can plant Coleus throughout the spring and summer. It is generally best to plant Coleus later in the day to avoid peak heat and ease the transition for the plant. Coleus will need to be watered daily for the first week after being planted. If the temperatures are hot, then the plant may need to be watered multiple times throughout the day.


Transplanting Coleus

Coleus has a shallow root system, making it easy to dig the plant up if you want to move it to another spot or bring it indoors for the winter. Coleus can be grown as a perennial in zones 10 and 11. In other areas, the plant will need to be brought inside well before the temperature drops. Coleus can be grown as a houseplant.

When grown in a container, it is best to repot once a year. Coleus is very easy to propagate from cuttings, so if you take a cutting in the fall, you can root the plant over the winter so it will be ready to go outside by the spring.

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 Author Alison Cotsonas - Published 12-09-2021

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