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Wintering Over my Favorite Coleus


This was my coleus collection just a few weeks ago.  Three plants had become a massive, eye-catching display on my patio, a display I didn’t want to say goodbye to just because of, you know, freezing temperatures that would kill the coleus in an instant.


So I brought at least this relatively small potted-up coleus indoors, where it sits in a position of glory on my kitchen island and still looks good in late December.  (So far, so good.)

Rooting from Cuttings

Gardening wisdom dictates that what I should have done, and still might do, is to take cuttings from this, my favorite coleus, to plant outdoors again next season.  And indeed, it’s apparently easy as pie to do it. (Here’s how.)  But it’s also apparent that I should have started that process in the fall, but hey, better late than ever.  Besides starting weeks ago, there are several tricks to succeeding at coleus cuttings:

  •  To avoid root rot, let it dry out, watering only when the soil surface is really dry.
  • Give it enough light – the sunniest windowsill or artificial lite.
  • In spring, gradually acclimate the plant outdoors in bright light and then to sun outdoors.

As Whole Potted Plant

Alternatively, I could try to keep this whole plant going until I can put it outdoors again next May.  Here’s what it’ll take to survive indoors as a whole plant:

  • Enough moisture.  It’s important to water as soon as the top of the soil is no longer moist, so I’ll check a couple of times a week and water immediately when the topsoil is dry.  It’s good not to let it sit in standing water, though.
  • Enough heat.  Coleus likes room temperatures of 50 and above.
  • Enough humidity.  The more the better.  It’s a tropical plant.
  • Enough light.  My brightest window, or artificial light.

If the plant starts to lose its leaves, it’s probably too dark or cold.  If it goes into flower, I’ll snip off the flowers to encourage vitality, and pinch off growing tips to encourage bushiness.

In the spring, I’ll cut it back, refresh the potting soil a bit, and voila – it’ll become huge again quite quickly.


Next season I’ll be planting coleus not just in pots but IN the garden, too.  Look how great they look growing that way!


Posted by Susan Harris.

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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