Q&A: Fading Coleus

Here's a tip on caring for a coleus plant over the winter.

Q: I brought some coleus plants indoors for the winter, and two of them are now looking terrible, losing their leaves and fading. Any suggestions to help them? Do they need to be kept moist?

A: Coleus will grow well indoors if given enough light — after all, outdoors they're a shade-loving plant! If your house is too dark, supplement with artificial light to give about 12 hours of bright light each day. Coleus plants need rich, loose, well-draining soil and ample water while they're growing. If your plants are losing their leaves, they may be adjusting to the drier indoor environment and the change in light intensity. Pinch the stems back to encourage new growth, keep the soil moist but never soggy, and place the plants near a large window or about six inches below a source of artificial light.

These conditions should help your plants perk up and thrive indoors during the winter. But to hedge your bets, take a few cuttings from healthy stem stips, put the stem ends in water (be sure not to let any leaves touch the water), then, once roots have formed, pot up the plantlets in small containers. It will be easier to keep the young plants in bright natural light (the small pots will fit on a window sill), and in spring you'll have vigorous young plants to set outside.

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