Past Articles Library | A Plant of Many Colors-The Coleus
The coleus (Solenostamon scutallaroide) is a very colorful annual that fits perfectly in a container garden or as a border or background plant in any landscape design. Coleus plants can also be used indoors as houseplants. But regardless of how you plan to use them, there are a few guidelines one should follow when using this plant.
The coleus is a very flexible plant and can tolerate bright sunlight but the colors really standout when planted in partial to full shade.
Place them in the garden space when the outdoor temperature has reached 50 degrees F for several days. Once this temperature requirement has been met, it is time to begin the planting process. Dig the hole for the coleus no deeper then the container it came in or in other words if the pot is 2-inches deep dig a 2-inch hole. Also space the holes out so that the plants are placed 12-inches apart.
After the holes have been dug, gently remove the plants from their container, tease the roots, and then place in the. Fill in the hole so that the plant is no deeper then it was in its original container.
Once all the plants have been planted, add organic mulch and water the plants in.
At this point, it is time to pinch the plant back. The pinching process creates a bushier plant by causing the plant to branch out. To pinch the plant back consists of taking the tips off each branch and removing any flower spikes.
Once a month, feed your coleus with a 10-10-10 water-soluble fertilizer.
Coleus as a Houseplant
A coleus makes a wonderful houseplant and is started either by seed or softwood cutting. Both of these techniques have their pros and cons.
Starting Coleus Seeds
Planting coleus seed is simple and can give the gardener a wider variety of colors compared to the cutting approach. Seeds can germinate as soon as 2 weeks from the time they were planted, so be prepared when using this approach.
Planting coleus seed is simple and only requires a tray filled with moistened, sterile soil, seed and a pane of glass or plastic. Once you have these items together, simply sprinkle the seed on top of the planting medium and cover with less then ¼ inch of soil. Place a pane of glass or plastic over the tray until you begin to see little green dots. Once these appear, remove the covering.
Place the seedlings in the tray in a warm environment that receives bright but not direct sunlight.
After the coleus seedlings have 2 sets of leaves, it is time to place them in a pot or container.
Starting Coleus from Softwood Cutting
Starting a coleus from a softwood cutting is just as easy but will only produce a clone of the parent plant. To do this, simply take a 2- to 3-inch angled cutting from the plant. Water root in a glass of water or place in a tray of moistened soil, sand or vermiculite. Keep the rooting medium moist and in a few weeks roots will begin to appear. Once the roots appear, plant the cutting in a container filled with a good, all-purpose potting soil.
Indoor Coleus Care
When using a coleus as a houseplant, make sure to place it in a room that is kept between 70 and 85 degrees F and underneath artificial grow lights or on a south-facing windowsill. Indoor coleus also need to be feed once a month with a liquid houseplant fertilizer that is diluted by 50 percent.
To keep your indoor coleus going for years, do not allow the plant to flower. Once this happens and seeds are produced, the growth cycle of the plant is done and in doing so the plant will die.