Coleus are one of the great mysteries of life. Most prefer shade outdoors, especially the lime-green cultivars. But inside over the winter, the larger-leaf versions tend to become leggy if they don't receive good light. And nothing is sadder than a stretching coleus. Not only are the smaller cultivars, such as 'Inky Fingers' and 'India Frills', easier to accommodate indoors size-wise, they also don't readily show the earmarks of any light deprivation.
Pinching and pruning are critical for coleus. Without nips and tucks, they're going to get leggy or deteriorate into blossom spikes. And most gardeners agree the blossoms on coleus detract from the show. They're mauve, small and blah, and they divert the focus from those fantastic coloured leaves.
Other than the light requirements and pruning admonition, there's not much else to warn with coleus. The succulent stems break easily when you shuffle them around, it's true, so I select a permanent location for my plant and leave it there.
Image: Coleus (Solenostemon cvs.) make surprisingly easy houseplants. The old standby 'Lava Rose' coleus (pictured here) does just fine in an east-facing window beside Juniperus xpfitzeriana 'MonSan'.
Excerpted with permission from The Unexpected Houseplant: 220 Extraordinary Choices for Every Spot in Your Home by Tovah Martin (Timberland Press, $23).