Blooming Coleus Plant Goes to School

Hi Judy,
One of my students recently brought this plant to school to spruce up the classroom. Could you please help me in identifying it?
Thanks so much,
Scott

Hi Scott,

Plants-and-Tools-002

Your plant is called a Coleus Plant. Here are some care instructions for a Coleus Plant.

Light
Very bright lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light. is a must for a Coleus Plant. Coleus Plants can even gradually get used to a few hours of direct sunlight. Florescent grow lightsThis is an artificial light source that helps plants grow when there is not enough natural light. These lights attempt to provide a spectrum of light similar to what the sun provides. Orchids & African Violets can be encouraged to bloom all year & herbs and salad greens can be grown indoors. Different plants require different light spectrums. Natural sunlight provides the full spectrum of yellow through violet that plants need for photosynthesis. Red is best for encouraging flowers and vegetative growth and blue helps regulate strong foliage growth. Just as with color spectrums, different plants need varying degrees of light intensity. The wattage & how close the light is to the plant determine the intensity. Some plants need to be 10”-12” from the light, others can be 36” away. Plants need a rest period, so lights shouldn't be left on all of the time. There are three main light categories: short-day plants need about 12 hours of light; day neutral plants need 8-12 hours; long day plants need 14-18 hours. Many types of grow lights are available: Fluorescent lights are the cheapest & produce 2-3 times more light than the incandescent. Full-spectrum fluorescent produce a balance of cool & warm light that mimics the sun. Metal halide lights emit an intense, bluish-white light & seem to be the most popular grow lights used today. The high pressure sodium variety produce a yellow-orange color that convinces plants to produce fruit & flowers. LED grow lights are relatively new inexpensive, bright, long-lasting lights that produce less heat & use less electricity.(Wikipedia/Gardener’s Supply Co.) help make the foliage leaf color of a Coleus Plant even more spectacular.

Water
A Coleus Plant is a fast growing houseplant and dries out more quickly than many other indoor plants. Allow the top inch or two of soil in a Coleus Plant to dry out before watering. Frequent wilting due to under-watering causes the leaves of a Coleus Plant to develop crispy edges, dull colors, and brown spots. Over-watering a Coleus Plant results in root rot.

fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small.
The best fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small. for a Coleus Plant is fish emulsion. If fish emulsion is not available, feed a Coleus Plant monthly with a basic balanced plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength.

Temperature
A Coleus  Plant likes warm temperatures between 70-85 degrees though it can survive in temperatures as low as 55 degrees.

Humidity
Coleus Plants plant like high humidity.

Flowering
Pinch the small flowers off of a Coleus Plant as soon as they appear to encourage the beautiful leaves to grow.

Pests
Mealy BugsSee a picture, learn to identify and treat Mealy Bugs, a houseplant pest that leaves sticky,white, cottony residue on houseplants., AphidsSee a picture, learn to identify, and read about Aphid houseplant pests in the Glossary of Houseplant411.com., and whiteflyWhiteflies are small gnat-like insects, covered in a powdery white wax; they feed on the sap of plants. This causes leaf-drop and weakens the plant in general. Whiteflies secrete a sticky substance called honeydew while they feed. The flying adults lay eggs on the tops of leaves, but it is the immature nymph stage, feeding unnoticed on the underside of the leaves, that does the real damage. Yellow sticky cards are a good way to trap the flying adults and prevent new eggs. Spray the Green Solution to get rid of the feeding nymphs on the underside of the leaves. are plant pests attracted to a Coleus Plant. Check your Coleus Plant weekly so these pests don’t get a foothold on too many of the vibrant colored leaves. Washing a Coleus Plant frequently with warm water helps keep insects away. Once infested, spray a Coleus Plant with the green solutionIf you don't want to use a commercial chemical product to treat plant pest problems try the “Green Solution.” This is a mixture of water, alcohol, biodegradable liquid soap, and mineral oil. Always test any spray on one or two leaves to be sure it won’t damage the plant. Depending upon how severe the infestation is, you can use these ingredients in varying proportions. If there are only a few pests, dip a Q-tip in alcohol and gently swab them off. For a more widespread problem, start by using a spray of warm water mixed with a few tablespoons of biodegradable soap. If that doesn’t cure the problem, make a solution using 8oz. water & 8oz. alcohol, add two tablespoons of biodegradable soap and two tablespoons of mineral oil. Spray all areas of the plant. Use this solution on leathery leafed plants (except palms), never on fuzzy leafed plants like African Violets or Begonias. For palms, omit the alcohol from the Green Solution. Never spray a plant that’s sitting in the sun or one with very dry soil.     (recipe in Glossary) and also place a Yellow Sticky Insect Cards on the soil to trap flying insects.

Diseases
Because a Coleus Plant likes high humidity, powdery mildewPowdery mildew is a plant disease that puts a grayish white powder on plant leaves and stems. View a picture of this plant disease and learn how to treat it. can be a plant disease problem.

Soil
Use a quick draining well-aerated potting soil for a Coleus Plant. Add sand or perlite if the soil is too heavy.

Pruning
Pruning is extremely important to keep a Coleus Plant full. A Coleus Plant produces small inconsequential flowers and these flowers should be removed as soon as they appear. If the flowers remain on a Coleus Plant and go to seed, a Coleus Plant thinks it’s time to die. Pinching back the tip growth encourages lateral growth on the stems and keeps a Coleus Plant bushy.

propagationRead how to propagate houseplants by Plant Division at HousePlant411.com
A Coleus Plant is easily propagated from stem cuttings.

poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222 The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants [Paperback]is an excellent reference to keep around if you have young children and pets. Plant Info
A Coleus Plant is a slightly poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222 The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants [Paperback]is an excellent reference to keep around if you have young children and pets. houseplant with a #1 toxicity levelThese are general guidelines that describe how poisonous certain houseplants are. It's possible for an allergic reaction to occur from contact with any houseplant, toxic or non-toxic. If there is ever a concern, call: Poison Control Center: ******1-800-222-1222****** Level #1: Houseplants with low toxicity, may be mildly irritating, especially the sap of the plant. Level#2: Houseplants with medium to severe toxicity. Eating parts of these houseplants may result in vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains, skin irritations, and breathing difficulties. Level #3: These houseplants are  very poisonous. When eaten, especially in large quantities,  severe vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains, skin irritations, and breathing difficulties can occur. Level #4: These houseplants are extremely poisonous. Eating parts of these houseplants can be be life threatening. Every plant listed in our Popular HousePlant guide has a section explaining whether or not it is poisonous and, if so, how poisonous. Amaryllis, alocasia, dieffenbachias, crotons, ivies, azaleas, lilies, and philodendrons are just a few of the highly poisonous plants we use in our homes and offices all of the time. If you don't know whether your houseplant is poisonous, go to Ask Judy on the HousePlant411.com website, send her a picture of your plant, and she'll let you know if the houseplant should be kept away from small children and pets. See colorful pictures and get more information about poisonous houseplants in Don’t Feed Me To Your Cat! A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants  .