Growing Coleus Indoors During Winter

Carlsbad, CA(Zone 10b)

Hello all! I've been reading in this forum and enjoying your beautiful photos but haven't participated. You all sound so knowledgable that I was hoping you could help me with a few questions about growing coleus inside for the winter.

I was late in purchasing them this year and have about six I got in the last two months and never got around to planting them into their official 18" ceramic group pots. They still look great, but I know they'll start to go downhill in the next few months and I'll loose most of them over the winter. (I'm in Coastal So. California, Zone 10.) I usually just tear them out and plant something else in their pots for the winter, but since they're still in their 4" to 6" nursery pots and easy to move around I was wondering about bringing them inside for the winter. I thought I could pot them up into 8" plastic pots, put them in baskets and bring them inside. We have an indoor atrium area that's about 90 sq. ft. with an 8' x 8' skylight about 20 feet up. I have about a dozen house plants (Ficus, Pothos, Schefflera, Peace Lily, etc.) in pots there and they all do well. Some coleus would certainly add nice pops of color over the winter. We rarely use the furnace because of the high ceilings (they looked good when we bought the house but sure wreak havoc with heating and air conditioning,) so wouldn't get dried out from heat.

My questions are:
1 - Do you think this would be enough light? When planted in their pots outside most get a few hours of filtered sunlight. Unfortunately given the layout of the house I don't have any bright windows.
2 - From the reading I've done on this forum it sounds like I should use a systemic insecticide to avoid mealy bugs, etc. if I do this, I'm assuming because of the lack of circulation indoors. Would you agree? Any suggestions on type/brand?
3 - Any other suggestions for care that would be different from outside?

Thanks in advance for any information and advice you can provide.

(Judy) Simpsonville, SC(Zone 8a)

1 probably enough light but winter indoor light is not as intense so be prepared fo the new leaves to be a different color. When you move back outside new growth will revert to summer color.
2 I use a neem oil based insecticide from Gardens Alive catalog/website. It smells slightly like oranges and garlic at first but smell disappears when dry and it gets rid of bugs without harming plants or you.
3 my suggestion with coleus is learn to root cuttings. When plants get old and leggy you can start a whole new generation of plants and keep your favorite colored ones. This summer I pinched off a few from a neighbors bright re coleus with he permission of course. Growing them in sunny window at work and by next spring will pinch off bits to plant on pail and to gift back to the neighbor. Coleus are so fun and easy. Great winter indoor interest and then in spring gets a new lease on life from cuttings.economical too.

Mount Laurel, NJ

I use Bayer 3 in 1 Systemic for Trees and Shrubs. Bayer told me it's different than the one for roses and that the roses one was not advisable for containers. Using the usage guide on the label, I figured about 1/8 to 1/4 tsp is the amount for a 2 in container. I wait until the cuttings have had about a week in the soil, then apply to top of soil and water in slightly, being careful to not let it run out the bottom. You only need to apply it once while it is in this pot. If you repot or put outside then you might want to apply again if you are having any problems.

Danville, IN

The Bayer systemic is wonderful and I haven't seen the first sign of mealybugs on my over-wintering coleus or scale on any of my other plants in my sunroom. Having to apply it only once per year is a real plus.

Mount Laurel, NJ

Now I need to take my own advice and apply it to my plants this year! I have been very lax in taking care of my coleus in the basement. A few times I have even neglected to water them. Time to start posting some reminders around the house. Already I have too many and they are not getting enough light. I should cut them back and throw out the cutting (instead of the inclination to pot it up for yet another plant).

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I tend to keep all those cuttings, too, and it's silly because we really don't need 100 or 200 of the same coleus. Mine are fine now, in the kitchen and on the porch, but soon they will all be on the porch so the amaryllises can show off in the kitchen.

I have notes all over taped to doors and pen holders and my garage shipping area to TIE UP DAHLIAS. One guess what I never get around to doing.

Carlsbad, CA(Zone 10b)

Thanks to all for the tips about trying to grow my plants inside this winter. It just started getting a bit cold the last week or two so I'm going to bring what's still in good shape inside and see how it goes.

However, I just today realized that when I put them back outside in March or April that the hummers who love the flowers will be sipping from them so I don't want to use any systemic insecticides which would contaminate the nectar and pollen and then get into their systems. I do pinch most of the flowers off as soon as I see them, but sometimes they develop enough for the bees, butterflies and hummers to eat at before I get to them.

I'll have to be extra diligent about keeping an eye on the inside coleus and use a soap spray if I see any critters.

Wyoming, MI

I build my own LED light fixtures and the past couple of years have been doing some research into lighting requirements for agriculture growth. As a side benefit I've applied some of my tools to seeing what coleus requires to grow indoors. I'm in Michigan, and have never been able to migrate Coleus indoors in the past.

I moved my coleus indoors about two months ago, and things are going well. However, what I found is Coleus requires rather absurd amounts of intense yet diffuse light to keep it happy over the winter. I'm up to 11,000 lumens, and those are LED lumens mind you, in an area about 3x6 feet, and I'm looking to double that. This is roughly equivelant to a 4x4' T5 HO fixture, which cost about $100 if you shop on the net.

Those of you with heated all season sun rooms or living in more southerly states can probably get away with keeping them that way. Otherwise, a large window or slider in a northern state will likely not suffice - at least in my experience. Coleus prefers light on the warm side, about 4000-3500k, but will die if placed under orange or red light. It's critical though the plant have light that's spread out and not coming from a single point like a halide. This is why fluorescent fixtures work well. My DIY LED bars are 4' long and can go up to 8,000 lumens, so that's why they work. Most commercial LED lights are very dense clusters and they won't work.

Cut down fertilizer, use a house fan pointed at them to keep air circulating (this is important), and cut the plants lower so that lower stems get some light. Try to get them above 70F at least for a little bit during the day. Funny thing is my coleus species with frilly leaves like Norris and Felix actually thrive under these conditions. With no UV to contend with my Norris is actually colored up better than outdoors, and is growing nicer. However, my my 'arrow' pointed species with thinner leaves don't grow nearly as nice, but still do OK. I've learned the hard way that other house plants aren't very appreciative of this light level and I move them way further away. Seriously though.....coleus gobbles water and light like a dang coral.

Pittsford, NY(Zone 6a)

I live in Z6a and bring coleus in for winter.I also take cuttings in September and root them on the deck until night temps reach below 50*
I continue to take cuttings from whole plants all winter.
Coleus go a bit dormant for me until March when daylight is longer and sun is warmer.Mine are in a big south facing livingroom window.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Mine are all doing well and in need of taking cuttings already. That may be due to the sunny window, which can help promote mealybug. I'm keeping a close eye on them.

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

I think my indoor coleus will sue me for negligence. It has been a difficult winter.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Mine did very well. Only one died and I do think it was my fault.

No problems so far.

Carlsbad, CA(Zone 10b)

It got cold before I took clippings so I'm starting over, and already got three little 4" ones last week. I'm going to try to be more organized next year.

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

The plus is tht the sweet potato vines have wintered well.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Mine, too. All thanks go to you for encouraging me to root them and grow them!

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