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Key Summer Maintenance for Coleus Plants

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Coleus is a versatile garden plant because its main attraction is its broad, colorful leaves are its main attraction. Cultivars of this tender perennial abound, offering the creative gardener endless options in foliage colors and patterns. 

Coleus comes in all colors and patterns of leaf. If you look closely, you can see flower buds forming between the topmost leaves on this plant.

Coleus comes in all colors and patterns of leaf. If you look closely, you can see flower buds forming between the topmost leaves on this plant.

These plants can look stunning all on their own or contribute to a mixed container, where they combine readily with flowering companions. There are coleus varieties that prefer sun, others that like shade, and a good many that adapt to either position. 

The challenge with coleus is that it has the potential to become lanky and gangly as summer progresses. However, this problem is easy to avoid with some very simple maintenance.  

Here's the simple solution to avoid leggy coleus plants: Continually pinch or cut it back. The pinching back will spur the plant to make new branches and you'll get a bushier, fuller shape. Just trim each stem back to a spot above a pair of leaves, with the knowledge that two new branches will begin to grow from that point.

You can also pinch any stems back under any flower buds that are forming if you don’t want the plant’s energy to be spent on producing flowers and seeds. Once the plant starts flowering, the leaves can lose their beauty and vigor. That said, coleus flowers are appealing to hummingbirds and other pollinators, and they aren't half-bad looking, so you may want to experiment with letting the plant bloom.

A ruby-throated hummingbird visits a coleus that was allowed to bloom.

A ruby-throated hummingbird visits a coleus that was allowed to bloom.

Regardless of whether you plan to let your coleus flower or not, do be sure to prune it around midsummer. Otherwise it could become overgrown and its branches can snap from their weight.

Read more about coleus, including favorite cultivars and propagation tips, here.