Potted Coleus Care: Tips On Growing Coleus In A Pot
By: Liz Baessler
Coleus is a fantastic plant for adding color to your garden or house. A member of the mint family, it’s not known for its flowers, but for its beautiful and vibrantly colored leaves. On top of that, it’s extremely well suited to growing in containers. But how do you grow coleus in pots? Keep reading to learn about potted coleus care and how to grow coleus in containers.
Caring for Coleus in Containers
Growing coleus in a pot is an ideal way to keep it. It won’t grow larger than the container it’s in, but if moved to a bigger container, it will fill it out, reaching as high as 2 feet tall. Since they will stay compact if need be, coleus in pots pair well with other plants.
You can plant them as shorter ground cover in large pots featuring a tree or tall shrub, or you can plant them as the main tall attraction surrounded by other trailing plants around the outside edge. They also work very well in hanging baskets, particularly the trailing varieties.
How to Grow Coleus in Pots
To keep your coleus in pots from getting gangly, pinch back the new growth. Simply pinch back the very ends of the stems with your fingers – this will encourage new shoots to branch out on the sides, making for an overall bushier plant.
Plant your coleus in a sturdy container that won’t tip over if it does get to be 2 feet tall. Fill your container with well-draining soil and fertilize moderately. Be careful not to over fertilize, though, or your coleus in pots may lose their brilliant color. Water regularly, keeping the soil moist.
Keep them out of the wind to avoid breakage. Coleus will not survive a frost, so either treat your plant as an annual or move it inside when temperatures begin to drop.
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Top Container Flowers: Best 8 Choices to Grow in Pots
by Matt Gibson
Looking for flower options that work well in containers? Not everyone has time to plant and tend to a full outdoor ground plot for their gardens. Cultivating beautiful blooms outdoors in flower beds can be a lot of work and a lot of maintenance—it’s pretty much a year-round job. In today’s fast-paced society, many of us already work more than one job.
Container gardening is a wonderful way to learn about plants and hone your gardening skills without becoming overwhelmed by having to manage too much space. Curating a container garden full of flowers is a wonderful way to brighten up any patio, porch, or windowsill with natural vibrance and beauty. Flowers you grow in containers are also portable, giving you the option to bring your plants indoors to add flashes of color and a touch of elegance to your dining area or to create a fragrant bouquet to grace your front foyer.
While there are plenty of flowers you can choose from that are well suited to containers and could have easily been included here on this list, we decided to focus on container-friendly flowers that will repay your energy and attention by continuing to produce blossoms for extended growing periods. Flower-filled containers are much easier to work with than garden beds—no bending down low or digging into rock-hard ground required here. When you’re armed with just a bit of information and devote some care and attention to your plants, you can have a glorious garden of luscious blooms popping up in no time. We’ve compiled a list of our top picks of flowers to grow in containers, provided some pro tips to help you get started on the right foot, and even threw in links to some videos that will give you a more in-depth tutorial on how to grow and care for each flower we selected.
Pro Tips for Getting The Most out of Your Container Flower Garden
The most important thing you can make sure of to ensure your container garden is successful is to use containers with sufficient drainage. Make sure there is a hole in the bottom of your pot so that you don’t drown the root system when watering your plants. Different types of flower have different care needs and instructions, but all of them will need some sunlight exposure and well-draining soil to thrive.
Another key to maintaining a top-of-the-line flower garden is to feed your flowers the nutrients they need to keep on producing bloom after bloom throughout the growing season. Though regular potting soil should be fine for most of the flowers in your container garden, it doesn’t usually come with any added nutrients. That means it will be up to you to add a slow-release fertilizer before planting seeds or your plants and to dose your plants once per week with a liquid fertilizer.
Regular watering is an important ritual, as sufficient hydration is, of course, essential to keep roots from drying out if you want to get the most out of your plants each blooming season. Another paramount practice to add to your daily duties is called deadheading—pinching off dead or dying flowerheads to encourage new blooms to grow in their places.
Container Flower Designs
When it comes to container flower designs you can make yourself, there are endless options. The main three categories most of these options fall into are the single accent design, a multicolored design, or the mixed-bag design. Try your hand at creating a mix of all three of the different styles in your flower garden, then decide which combinations you like the best.
The single accent is just as straightforward as it sounds— single container, filled exclusively with a particular flower, all of the same variety. This approach creates an eye-catching boost of color wherever it’s placed. Try a out a pot filled with a single variety of deep purple angelonias to bring a gorgeous pop of beauty to a nice sunny garden grove. Fill a pot with brilliant cranberry nemesias and another with remarkable orange begonias. Then let them lounge near each other on a shady porch or balcony. Fill a hanging basket with your favorite shade of Calibrachoa, more commonly known as million bells, which seems to flow out of its container, covered in stunning rose-like blooms.
The multicolored design can be accomplished by using different shades of the same flower or by mixing multiple species of flowers in the same pot. This method is commonly referred to as companion planting. It is very important, when you’re selecting flowers to pair together, that your groups all share the same soil and sunlight preferences as well as water and fertilizer needs. You can also get creative with how colors combine in your design, by pairing up different types of blooms and foliage.
The mixed-bag container design can be a catastrophe if constructed haphazardly, but it can also be a work of art if you have an eye for elaborate arrangements and a creative flair. Experimentation is the key to the mixed-bag approach. You want to play with the variances and differences in not only the color of your selections and the different types of blooms and foliage, but also the height, width, and growing direction of the plants you select for the container. You will want some tall and skinny flowers, some wider, bushier species, and even a border of trailing flowers or flowering vines to tie the whole thing together.
Best Flowers to Grow in Containers
Begonias look great in a container by themselves or nestled into a mix of other types of flowers. Ranging in color from stark white to a unique pastel orange and varying widely in appearance, with bloom types that range from a loose bell-shaped blossom to a dense, rose-like flower head, there is a begonia that is perfect for every personality type and taste out there. Most of the varieties you can find will do very well in containers. As long as you don’t let the roots get too wet, begonias will thrive.
Nasturtiums are a long-blooming annuals that work extremely well in container gardens. These showy, tuba-shaped beauties come in white, red, pink, orange, yellow, and peach, with unusual circular foliage that is either solid green or light green touched with splashes of cream. Bred widely because of its easy care and genetic versatility, nasturtium is now available in bush, mound, and vine varieties.
Verbena offers gardeners over 250 varieties to choose from in the species. The plants can be just a few inches tall or grow up to four feet, depending on the genus. Available in shades of blue, pink, purple, red, and white with blue-green leaves and a wonderful fragrance. If you live in a warm climate area, look for the six to 10-inch tall trailing or moss varieties. Verbena plants produce a ton of clustered flowers that look great in all kinds of containers.
The summer snapdragon, also referred to more commonly as angelonia, has very delicate-looking and thin clusters of petals that spread vertically on each stem. Its fragile blooms need a bit of protection from the wind, so angelonia containers should be placed next to a wall, then brought indoors during thunderstorms and other extreme weather conditions, making this plant a perfect choice for pots and containers. Other than a bit of wind protection, Angelonia is actually pretty hardy. The summer-blooming beauty is heat tolerant, somewhat drought resistant, and doesn’t need to be deadheaded to produce new flowerheads throughout the growing season.
Million Bells Flowers
Great for hanging baskets, million bells are available in every shade you can think of. Each color you peruse is as vibrant and spectacular as the last, making it hard to pick, that is, until you lay your eyes on the “Trailing Blue” hybrid which, despite its name, produces blooms with lovely deep purple petals. No matter what color you pick, the showy, poignant blooming bells will spread out their violet blooms, adding vibrance to your garden that will last throughout the entire summer. The trailing hybrids are especially suited to hanging baskets, which we recommend placing around eye level, as the bells’ blooms are not only fragrant but are known to come with a bit of a show during the summer months, attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.
Coleus comes in a lot of different colors and styles. The flowers themselves actually look more like foliage than blooms, and they cover the entire plant. The leaf-like petals come in reddish green, bronze, gold, blue, and various shades of yellow and orange, but coleus flowers tend to produce more earthy tones than most flowers. They are a natural complement when paired with more traditional-looking flowers in large containers.
Nemesia is a dainty little annual, with small flower clusters that rise upward on the stem in bright colors, such as yellow, pink and cranberry. Nemesia plantw are great additions to mixed containers, adding an interesting variety of bloom types and textures.
Euphorbia’s frilly, delicate tiny flowers look so starkly different from most of the other flowers that you will most likely be growing in your container garden that they are a must-have just for the visual contrast they will bring to your flower garden. (Euphorbia blooms remind many gardeners of lace patterns.) They will be especially gorgeous when juxtaposed against larger, more pronounced blooms in a mixed-bag type of container design. The Glitz and Diamond Frost varieties are especially showy. Drought and heat tolerant, Euphorbia enjoys full sun to partial shade.
Videos About Growing Flowers in Containers
Here’s a list of quick tutorial videos to help you get started growing each of the flowers we recommended for growing in containers:
Ruth Gravelle says
Question, I believe I have a potted Nasturiums bought last year. I brought it inside. Cut back the vines. I have been watering. It is producing thin vines. Should the vines be trimmed?
Planting a Coleus in a Container
Coleus is a sturdy plant that is as happy in a container as it is in your garden. Since container plants don't become established in the same way, they would in the ground, you will want to keep these tips in mind when planting coleus in a container.
Plants, Containers, and Soil
You can buy different coleus types at your local garden center in 4-inch pots, 6-paks, or gallon containers. Or you can start coleus from cuttings put cuttings in a glass of water to root first before planting. Use good, sterile potting soil. Choose a potting soil that provides aeration, water retention, and nutrients. Buy a brand you trust or make your own.
Use a new or clean container. If you re-use a container, sterilize it by washing it out with soap and water and spraying it with bleach diluted with water. Air dry your container, and it's ready to use. Decide what size you need, whether it will hold one or several plants. You don't need a huge or deep container for one plant as coleus has a compact root system. Still, coleus can grow to two feet or more in height. If you decide to plant several coleuses in the same container, choose the container size accordingly. Make sure the container you choose drains easily.
Fill the container 3/4 full with potting soil, and place the plant, so the bottom of the plant is an inch or two below the top of the container. Hold the plant at the proper level and fill the rest of the container with potting soil. Water thoroughly to settle the plant and add more potting soil if needed. If you choose, put wood chips or moss on the top as a mulch to retain moisture.
Care and Maintenance
Coleus likes moist, well-draining soil—water your coleus when the soil is dry on the top. Pinch off the small flowery tips to promote fullness and lessen leggy stems. Coleus colors are more intense in the shade they look washed out in full sun. Keep them in a shady place or an area with filtered sun to enhance the color of the foliage. Coleus can last for several seasons if protected from frost if they are in a container, you can bring them in when it gets colder. Fertilize monthly with a good all-purpose fertilizer.
Companion Plants for Your Container
Coleus is often used ornamentally thanks to its beautiful, colorful leaves. Coleus colors include green, pink, yellow, dark purple, maroon and red in various combinations and patterns. Mix and match several different types of coleus plants in a large container to offer interesting color combinations.
Coleus also goes well with other plants. Plant coleus in a container with other bushy plants with an assortment of colored flowers or colored foliage. Choose plants with varying colors, textures, and sizes. Plants to combine with coleus, which also do well in filtered sunlight, include hostas, impatiens, sweet potato vine (ipomoea), fuchsias, ferns, begonias, and verbena. Or you can arrange plants of different sizes and colors in the container for example, use fountain grass or flax in the back, coleus in the center and bacopa, Million Bells (calibrachoa), or lobelia trailing over the sides. Arrange your plant choices close together to give you a continuous bed of color.
Known for its colorful foliage, Coleus is a wonderful, low-maintance plant to add to summer flower beds as well as containers. This tender annual comes in many shades of color, leaf texture, and sizes.
Coleus are in the Lamiaceae, or mint, family. While traditionally shade-tolerant, some modern varieties will thrive in the sun, too. Be sure to check with your garden nursery on the variety.
Leaf colors include: Green, Yellow, Pink, Red, Purple, and Maroon. The plant does bloom occasionally at the end of long stalks trim the stalks for a more compact, bushy plant.
- Coleus can easily be started from seed indoors about 10 weeks before the last frost date in your region.
- Set plants out after all danger of frost is past.
- Choose a spot that is protected from wind. Coleus branches break easily.
- Coleus needs well-draining soil.
- Water the plant thoroughly after planting.
- During the first week after planting, keep the root ball moist but not too wet.
- Water when top inch of soil is dry.
- Pinch growing shoots of young plants frequently to encourage branching and bushier growth.
- Fertilize in mid-summer with a liquid fertilizer at half the recommended strength.
- Cut off flower spikes in late summer to extend the life of the plant and growth of new colorful leaves.
- In cool regions, take cuttings from your plants before the first frost in the fall and place them in water to root.
- Plant the rooted cuttings in small pots and keep near a sunny window for the winter.
- Insect pests to watch for are aphids, mealy bug, and whiteflies.
- Stem rot and root rot can occur if soil is too wet.
There are more than 600 varieties of coleus to choose from!
Coleus for semi-shade:
- ‘Brilliancy’ has bright red leaves with green scalloped edges.
- ‘Fishnet Stockings’ has lime-green leaves with dark purple veins.
- ‘Mardi Gras’ is compact and has red, green and yellow leaves.
- ‘Japanese Giant’ has big burgundy leaves with pink and violet highlights.
Coleus for partial to full sun:
- ‘Pineapple’ has bright lime-gold leaves with burgundy stems.
- ‘Solar Shadow’ has green leaves with dark red serrated edges and tips.
- ‘Alabama Sunset’ has brick-red leaves with yellow edges.
The Coleus plant has a seemingly endless amount of varieties and cultivars to its name. Most are vibrantly colored and easy to care for, though some have slightly different growing requirements. Typically, most varieties enjoy a mix of plentiful shade and bright light, though some cultivars have now been developed that can withstand all-day sun (Home and Garden Information Center). Some of the many varieties available are listed below.
‘Inky Fingers’ and ‘Inky Toes’
These Coleus plants are aptly named after the hand and foot-like appearance of the leaves. They usually have green outer edges that appear to be an outline of the dark red interior. While the Inky Toes plant has leaves which are reminiscent of duck feet, the Inky Fingers plant has a wider spread on the rounded bumps of the leaf edges, giving it more of an impression of a hand shape. These popular varieties are often used as container plants, as they fare exceptionally well in pots.
This is one variety of Coleus that doesn’t feature unusual coloring. The vivid green leaves have a dainty shape which gives a graceful look to the plant. The Wasabi variety is popular to mix with other types of Coleus, as the plain green foliage offsets nicely against more intense colored varieties.
This fun variety has semi-circular-shaped leaves that are outlined in green with a striking red center. Each individual leaf looks like a slice of watermelon hence its name. A rapidly growing and vibrant plant, this Coleus would liven up any dull corners of your garden.
If you love the autumnal colors of fall leaves and wish you could have them all year round, then this is the Coleus for you. It has deep orange foliage in an elegant leaf shape, which is sometimes outlined in a thin, darker orange or red edging, or veining.
‘Glory of Luxembourg’
This Coleus plant has rich brown leaves with a bright green edging. The outer edge of the leaves is an interesting zigzag shape, which is further illuminated by the contrasting colors. This plant sporadically blooms blue flowers throughout the year, but they are uninteresting compared to the plant’s foliage, and like most Coleus plants, it is recommended that the flowers be removed to preserve energy for leaf production and growth.
‘Florida Sun Rose’
This Coleus variety has pink leaves in shades which are very unusual for plant foliage. The base color of the leaves varies from pale to bright pink, while the central part of the leaf is a very deep purple that almost looks black from a distance. This versatile variety can be either a trailing plant or an upright grower, making it suitable for a variety of different uses in the garden.
The colors of the foliage on this Coleus are so vivid and unusual that it is often the prized possession of a gardener, being used as a centerpiece in the garden. The leaves have a very rich texture that is almost like velvet. Added to this unusual texture is the vivid red and burgundy coloring on the leaves, and the result is a very sultry and dramatic looking plant. The leaf shape is also somewhat uncommon, with the frilly edge of the leaves giving the appearance that it could almost be made from fabric. This variety is incredibly easy to grow and care for and looks striking when placed alongside paler colored plants.
This variety of Coleus has long and triangular-shaped leaves that reach a sharp point at the end. There is an equal balance in color of green on the outer edge of the leaves and a buttery yellow color on the central part of the leaves.
This is another variety of Coleus that features autumnal shades. The leaves are predominantly yellow with red edging and some red speckling on the main part of the leaf. The spiked shape of the foliage is also reminiscent of common autumnal fallen leaves.
This popular variety of Coleus has large leaves featuring shades of yellow, green, and pink. The base color is a creamy colored yellow, with green segments in a feathered pattern. The leaf stems, as well as the leaf edges and veins, are a bright pink, which offers a stark contrast against the pale yellow and vivid green. With the impressive array of colors on the unusual frilly edges leaves, it’s not hard to see why this variety has long been a favorite among the Coleus plants.
This cultivar series of Coleus plant includes several varieties that are all quite similar in appearance. The ‘Volcano’ and ‘Red Velvet’ varieties both have leaves which are mostly a bright red color with shocking pink veining, which is then contrasted with a very thin green or yellow outline. The ‘Festive Dance’ is another variety within this cultivar, which has the same red and green leaf pattern but also features magenta or orange detailing on the main bulk of the leaf. Another attractive feature of these cultivars is the texture of the leaves, which are soft to the touch.
This is another series of cultivars that feature several similarly styled plants with slight color variations. The general color pattern is a thick green edging that transforms inwards into shades of red and pink. Popular varieties of this cultivar are Kong Lime Sprite, Kong Rose, and Kong Scarlet, which all feature various color variations.
Do you have a Coleus? Let us know how it’s doing!