Coleus Plant Indoors: How to Successfully Grow Coleus in a Pot

Coleus plant indoors in a windows, in purple and pink colours
iStock.com/Angela Kotsell

Written by Phil Dubley

Updated: September 25, 2023

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Coleus is a perennial plant coveted for the vibrant colors of its leaves, which can add just the flavor and personality your house needs. This colorful plant is usually grown outdoors, but in this article, you will learn all about coleus care and the requirements for growing it indoors. Let’s get started!

Choosing the Best Pots and Soil

There are many types of planters where you can put your coleus, but the most appropriate ones are those made out of plastic or ceramic with decent drainage. This is due to coleus requiring it to be constantly moist, and some kinds of pots may cause the soil to retain less water.

The best soil for coleus is a light and well-draining mixture. To ensure ideal growing conditions, you should aim for a pH of around 6.0 to 7.0, but you should not worry too much since it is quite a hardy plant. If you notice the soil is not draining well enough, do not be afraid to use additives like vermiculite or perlite.

Best Lighting and Temperature for Your Coleus

While growing coleus in pots, you have the advantage of being able to move them around until you find the perfect spot for its needs. This plant thrives in tropical and sub-tropical climates and will need at least a good couple of hours of bright light per day. You will obtain the lively colors you are after with a coleus that enjoys plenty of sunlight, but be careful since too much of it can damage its leaves. The ideal place will be one with lots of indirect bright sunlight.

The ideal mean temperature for this plant is around 65 to 80 degrees F, though it will adapt to slightly lower temperatures just fine. In fact, this is expected during the winter months, though keep in mind that it might perish when the temperatures are lower than 50 degrees F.

When planted in pots, this plant is prone to become leggy — tall, feeble, and with sparse leaves. If you notice these symptoms, it means that your coleus is not receiving enough light. Try moving it to a better-illuminated spot or using artificial lights to compensate.

a reddish coleus seen against the light of a window

The ideal temperature for a coleus is between 65-80 degrees F. Appropriate lighting is also key for keeping your potted coleus happy both indoors and out.

How Often Should I Water Coleus in Pots?

Coleus is a plant that needs its soil to remain at least slightly moist all of the time. It is easy to lose your coleus if you forget to water for a while, especially if you are used to keeping it outside where the rain keeps them healthy. For this reason, we advise you to check the soil frequently. To know if it is time to water it, simply check if the first few inches of soil are dry. If they are, it means it needs more water.

Of course, the plant will require less water during the colder months of the year, so be careful not to overdo it.

Should I Fertilize Coleus in Pots?

Whether you should use fertilizer or not depends on the current growing conditions of your plants. Using fertilizer is a good idea if your coleus is not receiving enough nutrients due to a lack of sunlight or bad soil.

The best way to fertilize your coleus is by using a diluted, balanced fertilizer weekly during spring and summer. When using fertilizer, it is best to keep it to a minimum unless your plants truly need it. This way, you avoid over-fertilizing, which can have the opposite effects in the long run.

Pruning and Pinching Coleus in Pots

One of the best methods to keep your coleus vigorous is pinching off their flower buds — cutting off the top of the stems or more. Although many enjoy the sight of a blooming coleus, the plant may lose strength while it directs its energy toward the flowers. This way, you achieve a more bushy look and avoid ending up with a leggy plant.

Pruning is also a good idea, especially if you are interested in propagating your coleus. It would be best to prune the taller stems to stimulate better overall growth. After you are done, you can use those cuttings to grow new plants.

What Are the Benefits of Growing Coleus in a Pot?

Coleuses are plants commonly seen outdoors, but many prefer to grow them inside because of some of their peculiarities. Some of the benefits of growing coleus in pots inside are:

  • You can easily protect your coleus from the cold — Coleus is a tender perennial, meaning it will live for many years in warm climates. Still, it is susceptible to the cold and will die sooner if you don’t take the right precautions.
  • You can decide how large you want the plant to be — Coleus adapts swiftly to its container, so if you put it in a small pot, it won’t grow any larger. If you decide you want a larger plant, you can just replant it in a new pot.
  • You can choose a spot with a perfect amount of light — This plant can be sensitive to full sun and will prefer indirect light most of the time. However, to grow a vibrant coleus, it should receive bright light a couple of hours a day.

Things You Should Know About Growing Coleus in Pots

Coleus is a plant that responds amazingly well to contained environments. In fact, a well-maintained coleus plant indoors can live up to four years without presenting any trouble. Still, there are some things to keep in mind.

Coleus plant indoors in a windows, in purple and pink colours

A large coleus plant can provide a welcoming splash of color.

Bringing Coleus Indoors for the Winter

Coleus is a plant native to tropical and subtropical regions, so it prefers bright sunlight, humid environments, and warm temperatures. This plant can live comfortably in hardiness zones 10 and 11. The problem is, if you live in a cold area, your coleus most likely won’t survive the winter. The main advantage of having your coleus in pots is bringing them inside when it is cold.

To ensure it survives the winter indoors, keep it in a humid room with a good light source. If you consider natural light not enough, try setting up an artificial light to keep the plant stimulated.

Coleus Toxicity and Pets

Many species of coleus present dangerous toxins in their leaves. While these are not likely to cause any significant issues to humans, they can severely affect smaller animals like cats or dogs. These toxins can be absorbed through the skin — merely by touching the leaves — or ingested. If you are keeping coleus plants indoors, where pets can reach them, keep a watchful eye on them, as they could end up victims of coleus poisoning.

Some symptoms of coleus poisoning are:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea — sometimes bloody
  • Loss of appetite
  • Physical weakness
  • Burns or skin redness
  • Difficulty breathing

If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, they may be caused by coleus plants. We recommend taking a sample of your plant and taking your pet to a veterinarian for an urgent inspection.

Want to learn more about this amazing plant? Check out our complete guide to the coleus here.

Bonus: If Coleus Does Well Indoors – Does it Grow Outdoors in Shade?

'Chocolate Covered Cherry' coleus

Coleus is one of few plants that thrive in shady areas.

The only drawback of living in a yard full of trees is the limits it puts on your choice of flowers to plant. There’s good news – coleus come in many colorful varieties and they thrive in shade! You can fill even the darkest spots with bright purples, reds, and greens – all beautiful. Just make sure that the soil drains well and doesn’t get muddy. When planting, make sure the coleus aren’t crowded as they grow and spread quickly – plant at least 6 inches apart. Some varieties produce tall shoots that can be pinched back to help the plant bush out and look full. Remember to dig them up and put into pots to bring their beauty indoors for the cold winter months!


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About the Author

My name is Phil Dubley, I am a Canadian living in Argentina, but tomorrow I could be writing from anywhere else. Throughout my life, I've been in love with nature: plants, animals, people, and everything in it. I have a passion for wild animals - snakes, sharks, and felines have always fascinated me. As for plants, I love succulents. I have a collection of over ten different varieties on my terrace. Also, I use the hemp plant as CBD oil for sleep: it has been the only thing to tackle my insomnia effectively. I want to share all my knowledge about the areas I am passionate about with others who feel the same way. I hope you enjoy my articles, and in each one, you learn something new!

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