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What Is a Sun Coleus?

By Steven Symes
Updated May 16, 2024
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The sun coleus is a garden plant that does well in partial sunlight. The plant features wide leaves that come in a variety of bright colors, including green, purple and yellow. Some varieties of sun coleus come with multi-colored leaves, providing additional color and interest to a garden spot.

An annual plant, once a sun coleus is planted in a spot, it will come back every spring once the weather warms up sufficiently. The plant comes in numerous series that can be exposed to some sunlight during the daytime, including the Ducksfoot series, the Solar series and the Sunlover series. The different series of the coleus have varying watering requirements and can endure varying degrees of sunlight exposure on a daily basis. All varieties must be placed in soil that has good drainage, since wet soil will cause the plants’ growth to slow.

Originally, the coleus came into popularity in the United States during the 1800s, after gaining popularity in European gardens. Unlike the sun coleus, the older varieties needed to be in shade almost constantly throughout the day. Sun exposure actually bleaches out the color from varieties of the plant that are not sun-friendly. The leaves of the older coleus plants came in different colors that were darker or more washed out than the sun coleus of today.

A gardener should plant a sun coleus only after there is no possibility of a killing frost, since such low temperatures likely will kill the plant. The plant can be grown in a container inside, though, for about eight to ten weeks before the weather has warmed up enough to place them outside. When planting them outside, the gardener should position the plants between nine and 15 inches away from each other, giving the roots and leaves enough room that they will not infringe on those from surrounding plants.

If a gardener wants to use existing sun coleus plants to grow more, he does not need to wait for the plants to produce seeds. Instead, the gardener must trim off actively growing tops from the existing plants. These tops must measure a minimum of three inches long and have between two to three buds, or new growth starting on them. The gardener then plants the trimmed tops in pots with soil, covers them in plastic and keeps the soil moist. After about two to three weeks, the trimmed tops have root systems sufficient enough that the gardener can then plant them outdoors.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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