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.

Coleus Photos

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'Marquee Blonde Bombshell' Coleus

A star in sun or shade, 'Marquee Blonde Bombshell' is a coleus with unusual, elongated leaves. The gold and yellow foliage has streaks of lime green and purple; the stems are purple, too.

Photo By: Courtesy of National Garden Bureau

Scarlet Coleus 'Kong Jr.'

'Kong Jr.’ doesn't monkey around. While this coleus didn't make it to the top of the Empire State Building when it debuted in 2013, it's climbed onto many gotta-have plant lists since then. Also available in ‘Rose’,  ‘Lime Vein’, and ‘Green Halo'. it brightens the shade all summer.

Photo By: Image courtesy National Garden Bureau

ColorBlaze 'Kingswood Torch' Coleus

'Kingswood Torch' sparkles in shades of burgundy and magenta. This coleus shows good heat tolerance and resists deer.

Photo By: Courtesy of Proven Winners

Fuseables 'Under the Sun' Coleus

A combination of 'Lime Delight' and 'Crimson Gold' seeds, this coleus mix tolerates partial sun to shade. The plants grow 20 to 32 inches tall and look especially striking when grown in color bowls.

Photo By: Courtesy of National Garden Bureau

Colorblaze 'Alligator Tears' Coleus

With its alligator-green leaves and cream-and-yellow markings, 'Alligator Tears' thrives in the garden or adapts as a houseplant. Give this coleus sun or shade; it grows 20 to 30 inches tall, so it makes a great "thriller," or centerpiece plant, in mixed containers.

Photo By: Courtesy of Proven Winners

'Lime Sprite' Coleus

Shade-loving 'Lime Sprite', with its big, lime-and-mahogany leaves, is beautiful in mixed containers. If you prefer, grow this mounding coleus in the garden or landscape instead.

ColorBlaze 'Marooned' Coleus

Burgundy 'Marooned' has won dozens of awards in plant trials at state universities and in master gardens. Hardy in zones 10a to 11b, this coleus grows in sun or shade and attracts hummingbirds.

Photo By: Courtesy of Proven Winners

'Pineapple' Coleus

Great for the garden or as a houseplant, 'Pineapple' packs a punch with its yellow, red, and lime-green foliage. Grow this heat-tolerant coleus in sun or shade.

Photo By: Courtesy of Proven Winners

ColorBlaze 'Royal Glissade' Coleus

Award-winning 'Royal Glissade' has toothy, raspberry and moss-green leaves that stand up to the heat. This coleus grows in sun or shade and resists deer while attracting hummingbirds and other birds.

Photo By: Courtesy of Proven Winners

'Painted Desert' Coleus Combination

This stunning combination, 'Painted Desert', uses 'Marooned', 'Alligator Tears', 'Lime Time', 'Sedona' and 'Royal Glissade' coleus. All these plants thrive in sun to shade.

Photo By: Courtesy of Proven Winners

ColorBlaze 'Sedona' Coleus

Named for the Sedona Mountains, this coleus has rusty orange to bronze-brown lobed leaves. 'Sedona' grows 24 to 30 inches tall in sun or shade.

Photo By: Courtesy of Proven Winners

'Wizard Velvet Red' Coleus

'Wizard Velvet Red' may remind you of a wizard's rich red, velvety robe. The leaves have serrated edges outlined with a touch of ivory-white. The compact plants grow just 10 to 12 inches high in partial shade or sun.

Photo By: Courtesy of National Garden Bureau

ColorBlaze 'Dark Star'

Inky-purple 'Dark Star' can look nearly black in shady spots, but it also thrives in sun. The plants grow 12 to 16 inches tall and are eye-catching in beds of white or silver flowers and foliage.

Photo By: Courtesy of National Garden Bureau

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