Pruning Coleus: How To Trim Your Coleus for a Healthier Plant

Written by Phil Dubley
Updated: November 15, 2022
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Coleus is easy to care for, and you can plant them outdoors and indoors. It may sound counterintuitive to cut a plant to make it grow, but pruning coleus will encourage a bushier plant that can better display its colorful foliage.

Pruning is an essential step for growing a healthy coleus, as it will help you remove any dead leaves or branches and make space for new growth. Cutting also stops the plant from overgrowing and improves your coleus’s aesthetics when you shape it.

Keep reading to learn how to keep your coleus plants healthy and lush throughout the year!

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

Coleus is an easy-to-care-for plant that can be grown both indoors and out.

©iStock.com/Angela Kotsell

When to Prune Coleus

The best moment to prune coleus if you want to promote healthy growth is in spring and summer while the plant is actively growing. It would be best if you only cut it back once it has reached maturity and is at least six inches tall.

After the first prune, you can do it as often as you consider necessary. To determine when it’s time to cut again, assess your plant’s growth every once in a while. If it is uneven or overgrowing its container, that is a good sign you should prune it.

How to Prune Coleus

Once you have determined what areas of the coleus you will cut back, use a pair of clean gardening shears to remove stems and leaves. Be extra careful with this step! If you over-prune your coleus, it could end up looking leggy.

Even if your coleus does not need a full prune, it is a good idea to trim it regularly to create a bushier look. You only need to use your fingers to pinch right above a node. This will encourage more branches and leaves to grow. Unless you are planning to collect seeds from your coleus, you should always pinch the flowers off. Developing them requires quite a bit of energy from the plant, and by removing them, you redirect it into growing better foliage.

Still, keep in mind that over-pruning coleus will make it look unhealthy and scraggly, and the plant will require more energy to grow back. This is not as much a problem during summer when the plant is constantly growing, but it can be hard to fix when fall is close.

You can cut as much as a third of the plant’s full height to shape it and continue to trim off portions after it recovers.

If you live in a warmer area that allows your coleus to survive the winter, you will want to prepare this sun-loving plant as best as you can. Avoid cutting as much as possible during this season, as the plant will not be able to regrow as much as in summertime.

How to Prune an Indoor Coleus

If you have an indoor coleus, the plant will be confined to its container. This means you might need to trim it more often to avoid overgrowth.

On the upside, overwintering coleus is much easier indoors. You can dig the plant out of your garden before fall and plant them in a pot with well-draining soil. During the colder months, the plant will lose its color and most of its leaves as it enters the dormant stage. Do not prune or pinch the coleus at this stage.

Cutting a Coleus for Propagation

Propagating coleus is the most cost-effective way to have a mass plantation in your garden. Plus, they also make great gifts for friends and family!

Follow these steps to propagate any coleus plant:

  • Choose growings that are at least two to four inches long from a healthy, mature plant and cut right above a node.
  • Remove all lower leaves from the stem to avoid dehydration. 
  • Put the cuttings in a glass filled with clean water and leave it in a sunny spot.
  • After three to four weeks, roots will start to grow on each cutting. When the roots are at least an inch long, you can put them into pots with premium potting mix.
  • Water thoroughly and keep the pot in a sunny spot. The cuttings will be ready for transplant into a larger container or the garden after a month.

Fixing a Leggy Coleus

If you cut too much off your coleus, you might end up with a leggy plant. Luckily, there is an easy fix for this.

First of all, avoid cutting any more of the plant’s stems. Focus on pinching leaves and flowers for a few weeks to promote growth. Eventually, your plant will become nice and bushy again. However, if the scraggly look is not the result of an eager garden shear, this most likely means your plant needs to receive more light, and you should move it to a sunnier spot. 

Remember that coleus thrives on the morning sun!

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

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © LapaiIrKrapai/Shutterstock.com


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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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Sources
  1. Horticulture Magazine, Available here: https://www.hortmag.com/weekly-tips/pinch-back-coleus-for-optimal-growth
  2. Krostrade, Available here: https://krostrade.com/blog/how-to-trim-coleus/
  3. University of Minnesota, Available here: https://www.anokamastergardeners.org/blog/2018/2/13/overwinter-and-propagate-coleus-for-spring-planting