Plectranthus scutellarioides
Common Name: coleus 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Lamiaceae
Native Range: Tropical and subtropical Asia to northern Australia
Zone: 10 to 11
Height: 0.50 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: Flowers not showy
Bloom Description: Blue to white
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Colorful, Evergreen
Tolerate: Heavy Shade


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11. In St. Louis, grow as garden annuals or in pots that can be overwintered indoors or as houseplants. Grow in moist, organically rich, loose soils in part shade. Tolerates full shade. Some recently developed cultivars tolerate full sun. Soils must not be allowed to dry out. Remove flower spikes as they appear. Pinch plant stem tips to keep plants compact and to promote bushiness. Seed cultivars can be started indoors from seed 8-12 weeks before last frost date. Inexpensive starter plants (in small pots or flats) can be purchased from most nurseries in spring for beds and containers. Containers may be brought inside in fall before frost for overwintering. Similarly, favorite plants may be dug and potted in fall for overwintering as houseplants. Cuttings from favorite plants (easily rooted in a glass of water or in clean potting soil) can also be taken in fall for overwintering.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Plectranthus scutellarioides, commonly known as coleus, is a tropical evergreen tender perennial that has been a popular foliage plant since at least Victorian times. It is native to Southeast Asia and Malaysia. It has been assiduously hybridized over the years into a very large number of vegetatively propagated and seed propagated strains with an almost infinite number of leaf color combinations including most colors of the spectrum except true blue. Cultivars range in size from dwarf 6” tall plants to large mounded 36” tall plants. Four-sided stems are semi-succulent. Showy multi-colored leaves are generally ovate to oblong and toothed. Leaves frequently feature mixtures of colors in irregular patterns. Blue to white nettle-like flowers (more common on seed strains) bloom in racemes in summer to early fall, but are not showy and tend to visually detract from the symmetry and attractiveness of the plants.

Solenostemon scutellarioides and Coleus blumei are both synonyms and former names for this plant.

Genus name comes from the Greek words plectron meaning "spur" and anthos meaning "flower" in reference to the spur-shaped flowers of some members of the genus.

Specific epithet means resembling the genus Scutellaria which comes from the Latin word scutella meaning a small dish or saucer in reference to the shape of the persistent calyx after the flowers fade.


Watch for aphids, spider mites and whiteflies, particularly on indoor plants. Plants grown in too much sun may wilt. Plants grown in too much shade may become leggy.


Group or mass as garden annuals in beds and borders. Pots, containers, window boxes, hanging baskets. Houseplants.