Starting Coleus From Seed

newbilacApril 30, 2011

I am very new to starting plants from seed and have chosen coleus to start with. I just bought a packet of "Rainbow Mix" seeds. It sounds like I may have chosen one of the easier plants to grow from seed by luck. I mostly am interested in try to save some bucks as opposed to paying greenhouse prices to start with until I see if I am going to have any luck propogating from cuttings. I am very new to this and have lots of questions. I have some seedlings up and just getting their first set of true leaves. I started them in the jiffy pots that you can get at Wal-mart. The kind that you add water to and they swell up. So far so good. I have been putting them outside on days when it is warm and sunny and keeping them under some 6500k compact flourescent bulbs on days when it is cloudy, cold, or raining. Some of my questions are.

1. When do I need to get them planted or into bigger

pots? 4 leaf stage? bigger?

2. Is a dilute mixture of miracle grow ok for nutrients at

this stage? Is there something better? Should I wait a

little longer to feed them much?

3. Are there any particularly common problems or pitfalls

that can arise when raising coleus from seed?

(diseases, common mistakes, etc.)

I have sooo many questions right now I really appreciate any help from the experienced coleus gardners out there.

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I am starting coleus from seed for the first time too ("carefree mix"), so I am not and expert. I would recommend you transplanting them soon. Its difficult to keep those little peat pots an even moisture - they tend to be either to dry or to wet.

I started mine in a flat, then transplanted them into 3oz cups when they were tiny, just starting their first set of true leaves. Most of them have three sets of true leaves now and I will pot them up to 9oz cups soon.

Your fertilizer diluted to at least half the strength of the recommended dilution will be fine, but they don't really need any fertilizer until they have at least two sets of true leaves.

I dont know of any common problems - I am hoping they are as easy to grow as they seem so far.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 8:26AM
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The above advice is good. The most common problem is keeping the mix too wet, causing root rot. Al

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 9:30AM
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gardenmom2(IN Zone 6)

Can coleus be direct seeded outside???

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 8:13AM
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I am trying some direct seeding outdoors along with my indoor/potted efforts and I have had very little success with the outdoor planted seeds. I have been keeping the outdoor seeds watered but our temps here this year have been sloooowwww to warm up and I suspect this is seriously limiting my outdoor success. My indoor plants that were started a few days after my outdoor seeds are quite a ways ahead of the direct seeded and I have far more of the indoor plants.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 1:21PM
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dsb22(z7 VA)

if growing from seed doesn't work out, coleus grows really easily from cuttings. Cut a branch off an existing plant, take off the bottom leaves. Put in a glass of water so that there are 4-5 nodes (where the leaves were) under water. Roots will develop from the nodes. When there are plenty of roots, remove from glass, dust with rooting hormone and plant.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 9:35PM
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It has warmed up here finally and the seedlings are doing great. Some have a pretty good sized second set of leaves and just the beginnings of the third set of true leaves. Couldn't be happier with my success so far. I also found a few plants in a four pack at a local greenhouse that were getting too tall and spindly so I bought them with the idea that I would use the top half for cuttings and plant the bottoms right away. The cuttings already have started rooting and I potted them up tonight and I have them under a T5 flourescent bulb. So if they live I will have twice the plants for the same money and more to look at this summer.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 11:02PM
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I'm trying to start coleus from seed indoors with grow lights and a heating mat under a Burpee wick-style tray system that keeps the plug trays wet through a mat ( The grow lights are LED grow lights. And I have a thermostatically controlled heating mat (80 degrees) under the whole thing. The soil is the peat pellets that came with the Burpee trays, augmented with some Jiffy-mix where needed.

Other plants are doing fine, but the 76 coleus are really struggling. After germinating, most remain tiny, just the seed leaves or perhaps starting a couple more, after 2 months. There are a few that have done better (3rd-4th set of leaves), but that is probably only about 8 plants out of the 76. Overall, I give myself a D :-(. And as you can see, I've really barred no expense in my attempt to do this right.

One of the earlier notes mentioned too much water. I wasn't worrying about that because of the "automatic" wicking nature of the seed trays. But the soil is soggy. Is that a real/known problem for coleus?

Thanks for any help/advise.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 10:59AM
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Those expandable dirt pellets are garbage. Does it look like good dirt to you? Does it look fertile? Of course not. It is it just a convenient way for the manufacturer to supply you with the bare minimum quality product. Throw them away. They may work OK with TLC but not great. Get Miracle Grow garden soil. I swear by that stuff.

So many times these plants we have come with a good story. I was trying to get rid of my drug habit and I discovered that the best way to lose one addiction is to pick up another! I found gardening. Well I and my partner found out thru this website of a scheduled swap meet in Sheldon Ct. We live in Connecticut but on the other side and it was raining like I have never seen. We could hardly see as my partner drove. We got lost but finally found the place. Thank goodness there was at least a roof!

We were amazed that anyone else showed up but they did! We had so much in common. We were like long lost family members. One of the things I got in trade was a cutting of Coleus in a plastic bag. It was the most common one that you most often see. Well the lady I got it from went on and on how when she graduated from college that these beautiful plants adored the entire auditorium where the ceremony took place. It meant so much to her and it meant so much for her to relate the story. I have treasured the plant she gave me ever since.

I still have it. From time to time you have to re-root it as it tends to get woody and die. You don�t need chemicals, just stick a stem in water and in no time it roots just like that. It might be wise to change the water now and then. Pick away the big leaves.
On growing them from seed I tried it once. I dumped a packet under a holly bush and nothing�at first... But then a month or so later they popped up. They do seem to do well in shade or partial shade or peek-a-boo sun/shade.
Some that I have rooted from the momma plant have done wonderful in full sun! Some wilt. It is hit or miss. The trick is you can always keep them going by picking off a good stem and rooting it in an indoor window sill.
It has been 8 years and I still have the same plant going this way.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2011 at 9:34PM
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My hubby went to the Dollar Store and came back with a lot of flowers seeds, so I thought I would experiment with a couple of pots of Coleus, I have a package in one pot covered with plastic on my bookcase under the flourescent lamp, the other I have in the picture window both are under a piece of plastic. Is it possible to have some sprout the second or third day of being planted? The ones on my bookcase look like they are sprouting already, I did not know they could sprout so fast.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 3:06PM
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Yes, Coleus grow like weeds:) Unfortunately, it's a very bad time to plant them unless you have a greenhouse environment.
What? a month and a half till you frost ?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 3:09PM
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fieldofflowers(3 or 4a)

Writing about my past experience growing Coleus:

Lighting: shoplight with T8 lights about a foot or two above the seeds. I leave it on most of the time, and gage by how the leaves look. Bleached - too much light. Colorful but not bleached - just right.

Time to plant: (for my zone 4)
Early to mid February. By June the coleus should be about the size as other coleus bedding plants, or a little smaller.

I pinch back to keep them manageable and not leggy. I may stick what I pinch off in soil to multiply the seedlings.

When it comes to sowing tiny seeds I don't burry them. I sprinkle the seeds on the top of the soil in a covered container. I have best luck if I start off in a small shallow container such as a clear deli container, then transplant into cells right away. (after they get their 1st set of true leaves or second.)

I also experimented last year direct sowing into cell packs. I didn't like it as much. It was too much soil and moisture.

Rainbow mix - I loved the variety and huge leaves. I didn't like that these don't seem to tolerate full mid afternoon sun. At least where I had them, they wilted the same time every day.

Carefree mix - seem to tolerate sun much better. I wish this was a regular item I could find. I'm hoping the seed will go back in stock so I can buy some for 2015.

I've also had good luck with giant exhibition this year. They looked like bushes by late August.

This post was edited by fieldofflowers on Fri, Sep 5, 14 at 11:39

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 11:33AM
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Just for spring info. I found this thing on pinterest that is fantastic for rooting cuttings. You take a plastic pot - place a clay pot with no hole in it inside plastic pot - fill around it with soil. Fill clay pot with water -- take cuttings, and I dip mine in cinnamon instead of rooting hormone, and fill the pot with the cuttings. You won't believe how fast they root.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2014 at 11:46PM
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You don't grow Coleus from seed to save money, you do it because its fun!

You can buy Coleus annuals at practically giveaway prices at the local Wally World or greenhouse but what fun is that?

And as someone mentioned they do grow super-easy from cuttings. I have one plant that is over ten years old. I have kept her going by simple cuttings in water. No need for hormone with this one.

And I did grow from seed outside one year. I dumped the seeds behind a Holly and forgot about it. A month later I had tiny little plants!

Growing outside though is hit or miss.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2014 at 11:09AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I just received my order of coleus seed from Swallowtail Seeds and planted them under lights yesterday. I hope I'm not too far ahead of schedule, but I have some time off work, so thought I'd get organized. I'm Going to prep containers for Wintersowing, next. I'm procrastinating doing more mundane house cleaning.


    Bookmark   December 3, 2014 at 11:33AM
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They make great houseplants. Once you got them started and they are big enough, just put them with your others on the window sill.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2014 at 6:55PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Follow-up on my seeds. Every one sprouted, but a week later they got beheaded by hungry mice--every single sprout. So, I put out traps, and I think I'll wait for a few more months before I try to plant seeds again. And I'll try to find some way to protect them from mice.


    Bookmark   December 13, 2014 at 11:55AM
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That cinnamon thing is indeed interesting. I'm going to have to give it a go as they say across the water. Oh, and does it matter which cinnamon works best: the Far East variety, or Ceylon cinnamon?

Incidentally, I'm trying coleus for the first time from seed, and I ordered a nice assortment from Outside Pride over at Amazon. Today, I was comparing things, while looking for some "Under the Sea" coleus, and checked things at Amazon again. While I was there I noticed that Outside Pride was really taking a beating from some of the disgruntled customers, who had bad luck with getting their seeds to sprout.

Does anyone know anything about the company's reputation of late? I had done a Google search of "Outside Pride", and on the fourth link down, there was an official investigation by the Better Business Bureau. It seems there are a lot of unhappy campers with Outsidepride over at Amazon and also at Dave's Garden.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2015 at 1:15AM
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WhtRos(USDA z5a IL)

Coleus is about the easiest there is to start from cuttings. You don't need to start them in water unless you want to. I just cut a 3-4" piece, remove the bottom leaves and stick them in potting mix. I do a lot of cuttings and put a clear plastic dome over the tray until they take hold. Covering the cuttings with something is essential. If you don't have a dome, try using plastic wrap or a plastic bag. Don't seal them too tight or they'll mold. I drilled holes in my domes so they get a little air. You can take the cover off when you can't pull the cutting up with a gentle tug. Have fun with your project. I so enjoy watching everything grow until I can get outside. I'm like a mother hen with all my cuttings and seedlings. Barbara

    Bookmark   January 16, 2015 at 11:50AM
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