Plectranthus scutellarioides (Coleus)

Plectranthus scutellarioides (Coleus)

Colour for shady positions 

Coleus is a former genus of flowering plants  in the Mint family. (Lamiaceae). In recent classifications, the genus is no longer recognized, and the species are instead placed in the genera Plectranthus and SolenostemonColeus is regarded as a synonym of Plectranthus.

The term “coleus” is often used as a common name and are cultivated as ornamental plants particularly  Coleus blumei (Plectranthus scutellariodes), which is popular as a garden plant for its brightly coloured foliage.

Coleuses are native to tropical areas of Southeast Asia.  This normally tropical plant was introduced to Victorian gardens by Dutch botanist Karl Ludwig Blume, causing quite a stir with the privileged. It doesn’t take much imagination to tell, it’s all about the leaves. “Flame Nettle” and “Painted Leaf” conjure up the most vibrant and colourful images and even though it’s also referred to as “poor man’s croton”,  part of its history suggests that coleus is anything but.

Plectranthus scutellarioides (Coleus)
Plectranthus scutellarioides (Coleus)

Coleus offers a wide range of colours and leaf shapes, you either love their gaudiness or you hate it. Garden trends come and go — and bright, dramatically coloured foliage can be an acquired taste. Bring some colour into your life, what’s not to love about a genus that produces colours from gentle butter yellow to shocking magenta, with leaves that range in shape from simple ovals to frilly triangles—especially when coleus plants are so easy to grow that each pot should bear the slogan, “Just add water”? In fact, with the wide range of selections available, the most difficult part of growing coleus is choosing one.

Traditionally coleus was considered a shade plant, but new varieties have hit the market which are quite tolerant of sun. With these sunny introductions plus new colour combinations, habits, and even unique leaf shapes, no matter what kind of garden you have, you can find a coleus that works.

They are excellent as container and bedding plants, or  tucked into drab shady  areas,  as pot fillers under large shade trees, or include a coleus or two  with contrasting colours to offset a nearby plant.


  • They  need fertile, well-draining, and evenly moist soil.  Newly planted coleuses especially like to be pampered with moisture.
  • Plant in shade or partial shade, though many varieties can also tolerate sun so read the plant label to confirm.
  • Summer flowers must be pinched off when they appear because they detract from the leaf display and it is thought that the flowers cause the plant to lose vigour and slip into decline.
  • Routinely pinching back the fast-growing foliage is  highly recommended to encourage branching and full, compact growth.