Coleus questions, questions, questions......

iamwhatiam52(6/7Long IslndNY)September 28, 2004

Went crazy with all the cool varieties of coleus the garden centers are now selling, and now it's time to think about getting them through the winter.

1) They grow poorly in my dark little house, get large and leggy, and bloom themselves to death eventually. If they are cut to the base, will they regrow, or do I need to take new cuttings when the plants get too old?

2) Most of my tropicals tough it out overwinter in a makeshift greenhouse kept at about 50 degrees. Is this too cold for coleus?

3) If I dig up the root balls from my outside plants after the first lite frost, ( like I do with my Passiflora and Brugmansia) will they sprout new plants when brought inside?

4) Anyone have suggestions about the best way to overwinter them with limited space?


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Mitch, Coleus can be cut back almost to base or pinched as necessary to keep compact & branching. I always pinch blooms off as soon as I see them. I think 50 degrees might be too cold but if I were you I would try it, keeping duplicates inside this year just to be sure. As to indoor space, almost every lamp has a vase of the larger Coleus stems under it, likewise most windowsills. They will do fine in just plain water. Every few weeks I cut off rooted bottoms and let them put out new roots. I constantly pinch growing tips to keep healthy new growth and to keep fairly compact. Just have to remember to keep vases filled with water. I have a few cuttings of the smaller Coleus growing in small pots of soil..but honestly I like the simplicity of just plunking in water.
Don't know whether you grow Alternanthera but it can be carried over in water too.

Don't know about Brugs or Passiflora, but my Cannas will resprout in north window. (They are hardy in ground here but I just wanted to enjoy the Pretoria with bright striped leaves a little my surprise it put up new leaves all winter). There's a Brug & Datura Forum I think which can advise you. Maybe even a Passiflora Forum the way this place has been expanding lately! lol

Good luck with your Coleus. I found one with mealybugs right next to two others with none, but they rinsed right off under water spray, another benefit to just growing in water. Much easier than dealing with pot of soil. josh

    Bookmark   September 29, 2004 at 2:18AM
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Josh, I was interested to see that you were able to spray off mealy-bugs from your cuttings. Did they stay away, or return later?

    Bookmark   September 17, 2005 at 5:35PM
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Hi MArguerite..I remember you from House Plants Forum. As to mealybugs, I moved the one infested Coleus to my kitchen window to keep closer watch, sprayed/dunked regularly and had no more trouble. To be honest I think I might have been neglecting my usual practice of giving each plant a good weekly washing since these were cuttings in water. After that I made sure all cuttings got weekly showers as do my potted plants in winter.

Still, I find it strange that no nearby cuttings were affected. In that west window were cuttings of other Coleus cultivars, Alternanthera, Strobilanthes, Croton, Dracaena marginata, probably Hedera helix and H. canariensis, plus nearby potted plants. The potted plants were getting regular showers...the cuttings were not. Even when I moved the "bad" Coleus to kitchen, there were other plants closeby which never had a problem. Strange...but I think weekly showers are the key ... even for cuttings in water. josh

    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 6:24AM
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Thanks, Josh. I knew the name was familiar! I find it's very easy to wash the coleus plants and they don't object at all. I just wonder, looking at what you say, if some varietiies are more prone than others to mealy-bugs. Did you get that cutting in the same place as you obtained the others, can you remember? It seems possible that there were eggs on the cutting when you got it. I wonder how long it takes a mealy-bug egg to become a mealy-bug!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 9:09AM
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Marguerite, I purchased all my Coleus from one mailorder nursery (in 2004 and 2005) but pretty sure they were pestfree when received...especially as I kept them all near sofa the first few days so I could admire them...LOL They spent all summer on my patio so probably picked up mealybugs (or eggs) there.

I think I've found part of the answer...attached article says Coleus very susceptible but constant inspection and washing can prevent infestation and spread if caught early. Also, I just had 3-4 little mealybugs...not all over the stems as I've seen in photos (shudder!) Another thing the article recommended was growing potplants inside house a little dry and using less fertilizer. In winter I just "maintain" my plants, not try to grow them...and I never use fertilizer (although some may be in some of potting soil I buy). My house is kept between 66-68 degrees F days and cooler still at night so they sort of go into hibernation mode. So maybe I was doing the right thing inadvertently.

I'd always felt fortunate not to have had pests on my tropicals indoors...I think possibly my method of brisk thorough shower and watering well and then letting pot dry out a good bit was, in addition to catering to my laziness, a good insect preventative...LOL Of course when outside they get thorough spray/watering every other day...temps in 90's all summer here. But they flourish and grow so well they don't mind the lower light, cooler temps and reduced water in winter inside.

Oh, the one Coleus that got the mealybugs was 'Klondike', orange-red leaves with yellow edge. Iside house it fades to a soft copper-pink but still nice. josh

Here is a link that might be useful: Mealybug Life Cycle & Prevention

    Bookmark   September 19, 2005 at 12:25AM
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Thanks very much, Josh, I've learned a lot about mealy bug now! I never dreamt they could fly! That explains how they get from plant to plant so quickly. I thought they were just little bits of fluff. Well, I hope never to meet them in person, but if I do, I'm well-armed now with info. to deal with them.
Klondike is a very pretty plant, from the couple of pictures of it I've seen. Obviously the mealy-bugs thought it pretty too. Definitely, I'm going to go with the showering as a preventative. I've never met a plant that enjoys showering more!
Best wishes,

    Bookmark   September 19, 2005 at 7:59AM
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Thanks for all the tips about coleus in the winter. I have another question...what do you do if the area where the roots meet the stem start to rot. Do you just cut all the roots off and re root it. I think if I did that once during the winter that might get them through. I take a lot of cuttings from my favorites so I usually get some through. Thanks for the tips about not letting them flower. I didn't know that killed them off.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 11:29AM
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Shadedlily (I like that name), If Coleus stem is rotting at base I think you might have drainage problem in pot or keeping too moist. Just my best guess. I think I'd take cuttings to grow in water, and set the pot aside to dry out a might resprout from roots. Your potted Coleus won't need as much water inside in winter as they won't be growing as much with cooler temps and less light. Good luck ... we all need to meet back here in spring and compare josh

    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 11:52PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

Josh, thanks for the input. I am going to try keeping them in water this winter. I tried pots they did not get enough light and died. I have some really different ones I do not want to lose. Every year the nursery seems to sell different ones and not repeat what you brought the year before.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2005 at 11:58PM
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Most of you probably know this, but ordinary rubbing alcohol and a Q tip are an easy way to deal with a minor infestation of mealy bugs. You can also spray the alcohol onto the plants with a mister. It doesn't hurt them. The mealy bugs usually are UNDER the leaves, so you have to inspect closely. They like leaf nodes, also.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 2:46AM
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I just purchased my first Coleus plants - 2 potted Kong rose and Mosaic. They are outgrowing the pot and I want to put them in my beds....what I need to know is, are you able to cut the plant in half like I do my hostas when they are very large?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2006 at 9:34AM
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Not sure what you mean by cut them in half, but pruning encourages them to branch and get full, and it keeps them from trying to go to seed. Two advantages.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2006 at 1:59PM
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