How to Grow Coleus as a Tree

How to Grow Coleus as a Tree: Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing, Planting, and Maintenance

How to Grow Coleus as a Tree
How to Grow Coleus as a Tree – Photo by Putulu Ningombam: via

Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) is a versatile and vibrant ornamental plant known for its striking foliage. While typically grown as a compact herbaceous plant, with proper care and pruning, coleus can be trained to grow into a tree-like form, adding a unique touch to your garden or indoor space. In this article, we will explore the step-by-step process of growing coleus as a tree, covering everything from selecting the right coleus plant to ongoing maintenance.

1- Choosing a Coleus Plant: When selecting a coleus plant for tree-forming, consider the following factors:

a. Growth Habit: Look for coleus varieties with an upright or columnar growth habit. These varieties naturally have a more vertical tendency and are better suited for tree formation.

b. Sturdy Stem: Opt for a coleus plant with a thick, sturdy stem. This will provide a solid foundation for the tree-like structure and support the weight of the foliage as it grows taller.

c. Vibrant Foliage: Choose coleus cultivars with attractive foliage patterns and colors that complement your garden or indoor decor. Coleus offers a wide range of foliage options, including variegated, multi-colored, and solid hues.

Planting Coleus
Planting Coleus – Photo by Angela Chacón: 

2- Planting Coleus: Follow these steps to plant and establish your coleus tree:

a. Location: Select a location that receives partial shade to full sun, depending on the specific requirements of your coleus variety. Coleus generally thrives in well-draining soil but can adapt to different soil types.

b. Container or Ground: Decide whether you want to grow your coleus tree in a container or directly in the ground. Containers offer flexibility and ease of maintenance, while planting in the ground allows the tree to establish deeper roots.

c. Soil Preparation: Prepare the soil by incorporating organic matter, such as compost, to improve drainage and fertility. If planting in a container, choose a well-draining potting mix.

d. Planting Process: Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball of your coleus plant. Place the plant in the hole, ensuring that the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Backfill the hole and gently firm the soil around the plant. Water thoroughly after planting.

3- Pruning and Training: To encourage the coleus to grow into a tree-like form, follow these pruning and training techniques:

a. Central Leader Selection: Identify a central stem or leader, which will be the main trunk of the tree. Select a strong, healthy stem and remove any side branches or stems competing for dominance.

b. Stake or Support: Insert a stake or support next to the central stem and gently tie it to provide stability as the tree grows taller.

c. Regular Pruning: Pinch or prune the side branches regularly to maintain a more upright growth habit. Remove any weak or crossing branches to maintain a clean and balanced structure.

d. Top Pruning: To encourage branching and a bushier tree shape, periodically prune the top of the central stem. This will help create a fuller canopy of foliage.

4- Maintenance: To ensure the health and longevity of your coleus tree, consider the following maintenance practices:

a. Watering: Coleus prefers consistently moist but not waterlogged soil. Water deeply when the top inch of soil feels dry, especially during hot and dry periods. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot.

b. Fertilization: Feed your coleus tree with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer or a water-soluble fertilizer diluted according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Apply fertilizer every four to six weeks during the growing season.

c. Pest and Disease Control: Monitor your coleus tree for common pests such as aphids or spider mites. Treat infestations promptly with organic or chemical controls. Additionally, ensure good air circulation around the plant to prevent fungal diseases.

d. Winter Care: In regions with frost, coleus is typically grown as an annual. However, if you wish to overwinter your coleus tree, bring it indoors before the first frost and place it in a bright, cool location. Reduce watering and fertilization during the dormant period.

How to Grow Coleus
How to Grow Coleus

Conclusion: Growing coleus as a tree can be a fascinating and rewarding experience. By selecting the right coleus plant, implementing proper pruning and training techniques, and providing consistent care, you can create an eye-catching coleus tree that adds height and visual interest to your garden or indoor space. Enjoy the vibrant foliage and unique charm that a coleus tree brings to your botanical collection.