Container gardening with Coleus

The following piece was written by Master Gardener Sally Weisser, who has received training through Colorado State University Extension’s Master Gardener program and is a Master Gardener volunteer for Larimer County.

containerAdding instant color

Every gardener needs a few annual containers in their landscape. Containers can add instant color to any landscape, are portable, fit into small spaces and are a good activity for beginners and advanced gardeners. They can be designed for shady or sunny areas. You can use almost any container for planting annuals as long as it has drainage holes and did not contain hazardous materials.

The big question is what annuals to plant. Lately, I am crazy for coleus. I used to think of coleus as a drab, no bloom shade plant, but today these versatile plants come in all shapes, sizes, textures and colors. There are sun varieties and shade varieties. These plants are easy to grow and are a good addition to any annual container and are great in stand-alone pots.

Making a stunning display

I love to take a variety of coleus and put them in a single pot. I have a large pair of cowboy boots outside my door that are filled with a variety of colorful coleus that make a stunning display. Consider mixing bright colored reds with purple-reds; reds mixed with yellow and green and darker colored reds. There are coleus that can grow up to thirty inches tall when provided with the proper space, coleus that spread and trail, and coleus that look like they were fashioned with pinking sheers.

container_2Plant coleus in containers after all danger of frost has past. They are tender plants and will be one of first plant nipped in the fall. You can bring your container into the house in the fall, as they do well inside. If they grow to be too be too large or leggy they tolerate a good trim to fit into any space. If your pot cannot be brought inside, take cuttings by simply cutting a 4 to 6-inch shoot and place the cut end into a class of water, keeping the leaves above the water line. After a few weeks, when the stem is fully rooted, you can plant in a container with a good potting mix. The next time you are looking for annuals for your patio containers, consider coleus and let your imagination be your guide.

More information

For more information from CSU Extension, refer to Fact Sheet #7.238 and PlantTalk scripts #1001, 1102 and 1114 from

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