New to Dave's, but not to coleus

Wyoming, MI

Greetings everybody,

Glad to see I'm not the only one addicted to this amazing plant and proves I haven't given up my 'man-club' membership:-) I used to have great luck with coleus when I owned my own house / outdoor garden, and typically ordered half a dozen varities from Color Farm in the spring and slowly propogated the ones I liked the best. However, I moved into an apartment a year and a half ago, and while I keep a generous supply of houseplants around my place I find myself going into Coleus withdrawl this spring. I recently ordered 15 different types from RosyDawn and will split them with some friends when they arrive next week. The ones I like I'll propogate to bigger pots and make cuttings of. Hopefully to keep over the winter (more on that below).

Because spring weather is so 'iffy' here in michigan, I'm likely going to use an old apartment dwellers trick and start with 5" cheap plastic pots, and lightly epoxy them to 1x4" x 3' boards. I'll glue about 4 pots to each board, and if the weatherman calls for a cold night at the beginning of June I can quickly pull them off my balcony for the night and set them inside my sliders without a mess or fuss. My cats will enjoy stalking any wildlife in the form of bugs that make their way indoors :-) This easy. I wish I had my old outdoor garden back, but you do what you can do.

The second part of my plan is a lot trickier. I've tried to move Coleus indoors for the winter some years ago, but never had much luck. My goal is to have a nice looking indoor garden in my living room this winter with Coleus adding some dramatic color, and then obviously re-plant in the spring out-doors. However, the past couple of years I've spent a considerable amount of time desiging and getting intensely involved with building LED lighting for salt water reef tanks. Last year I started applying some of this knowledge towards indoor plants, and with some tweaks found some spectrum combinations that work astoundingly well for ordinary house plants. At sufficient power levels and proper color mixes even slow growing house plants like the common corn plant (Dracaena Fragrans) grow like a weed. There's so much marketing going on though with this new industry indoor plant growers have way too much info to go through.

As soon as the big box stores started puting out their flats of suffering Coleus in April I quickly grabbed a few to start testing indoors so hopefully this fall I would be ready to move my prized plants indoors. I've already learned quite a bit in a month testing under a variety of LED color sources, and I'll pass one what I've learned so far about Mr. Coleus, LEDs and artificial lighting.
First, Coleus is not a low light plant. Some varities may tolerate shade outdoors, but indoors the varities I'm testing want *lots* of light, and of the right spectrum. I initially tried my 2:1 orange-red/ white mix which works for most house plant, and this actually caused my coleus flats to wither and die. My theory is that orange-red light triggers an end of life cycle in Coleus while it triggers competive growth in other plants. Ok, moving on I tried several other color combinations, most of which didn't work well, or not nearly as well as my out-door control group. I then had success, but it's basically what indoor growers using fluorescent lights already know. Coleus likes 5000-6000k light when moved indoors, and *lots* of it. I'm up to around 1000ppfd on my test plants, they are coloring real well, and staying bushy, althoug only a month old. If we consider summer noon sunlight is around 2,000ppfd that shows how much light is required by Coleus indoors, and why so many people have problems with them indoors. Shoplights with good T5 or T8 tubes can handle this along with proper LED sources. Your north window in winter though?....likely not going to happen. Add some warmer light in there, even ambient tungsten room light and the plant withers away. So, why do some Coleus have problems with direct sunlight outdoors? Easy...UV. UV is either not present in our artifical light sources, or at tiny amounts.

In any case, I'll pass on how my shipment looks from RD, and anything else I learn from my LED tests.

Yonkers, NY(Zone 5b)

Welcome to DG! You'll love the wealth of info here.
I gave up trying to over winter my coleus. I just don't have the space or light for them. I tried using grow-lights but they never do well. Have you ordered from Rosy Dawn before? I have been getting their plants for the past 5 years. I LOVE them!!
I was pleased to see one of my coleus pics - Tilt-a-Whirl was used as the Bloom of the Day on April 21. (if you go to my page, there's a link to the pic)
Good luck with your plants and again, welcome!!

Wyoming, MI

I just got my delivery from RD (16 plants) and all are in perfect condition. In far better condition shipped via USPC than the typical flats at garden stores. They'll require some time to 'color up', but they all look great. 'Fishnet' stockings looks like something from 'Avatar' and not your garden :-)

I'll baby them the first couple of weeks, and while they're currently on my patio in individual pots they will be spending the next few nights indoors.

Lighting appears to be a big problem with 'wintering' coleus, but I have plenty of time to figure out a good recipe. My test flats appear to need about 1000lumens per sq foot, and the color temp needs to avoid orange or red. I'll figure it out.

Mount Laurel, NJ

So what else did you get besides 'fishnet stockings'? I'm enjoying my 'flamingo' that I ordered, but it is only growing slowly!

Wyoming, MI

I've had norris before, and it's pretty much the same thing as Flamingo, but a different color. Yes, I found it to be a slow grower. I got:

Blairs Witch,
Beckwiths Gem,
Eric The Red,
Fishnet Stockings,
Fire Dragon,
Kingwood Torch,
Saturn's Rings,
Trailing Garnet Robe,
Walter Turner ,

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

I overwintered a few plants, sort of destorying the ones not getting proper light simply because I did not really remember to water them properly. I kept one beautiful combo of coleus and sweet potato vine happy all winter long, only to p ut it out too early when we got a really cold night. The sweet potato vine lived; coleus did not. Coleus can take it pretty cool, I would say about ten degrees above freezing (without wind) is the best they tolerate. I lost fishnet stockings, but it may have been my own fault.

Everything else was happy with T8 bulbs. There is no fast rule about sun/shade for coleus. The leaves are thin and do not hold much water, so they can be damaged easily. Keep in mind that low light (shade or dappled shade) outdoors is not the same spectrum as indoor lighting. They seem to do best during the hottest days on the side of the house that gets morning sun. That option may not be possible for you.

Your "European style" planter sounds interesting. I hope you will be able to mix and match after the pots are in if you find some like differing conditions.


Wyoming, MI

Yup, I found with outdoor Coleus that the most ideal conditions are morning sun followed by partial shade - and humid days. The worst I feel the happier they are :-) Cool nights that get to 50F or so, or maybe a bit cooler (not too much) are fine provided the daytime temp gets warm.

Indoors they want lots of 5500-6000K light. Any warmer and the red spectrum causes them to get leggy and seed. I'm pretty sure what I need to build lightwise for fall. I'm also going to try and get them growing hydroponically as they get bigger in the summer and I can make more test cuttings.

Side note, but I found a Persian Sword at a store and snagged it up because I always liked this plant in my garden. Some botonists say it's related to coleus. The Persian Sword did very well under my test lights, which is neat because it's a very striking plant.

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