Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Turn a Coleus Into a Tree

By Sharon Sweeny ; Updated September 21, 2017
Coleus leaves develop a wide range of interesting patterns and colors.
Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

Native to the island of Java, coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) is also called flame nettle or painted leaf. It is grown primarily for its intensely colorful and interestingly marked foliage. Coleus thrives outdoors in partial to full shade. It is also widely grown as a houseplant, thriving in brightly lit locations indoors. Technically an annual, coleus will grow indoors as a houseplant for many years without producing flowers or seeds, although it blooms and produces seeds readily when it is grown outdoors.

Snip a cutting from healthy new growth anywhere on a coleus plant. Ensure the stem of the cutting is straight. Do not pinch the growing point.

Push the cut end of the cutting into a 2-inch pot filled with equal parts vermiculite and peat moss. Put the pot in a protected, partially shady location, and keep it watered until roots form in two to three weeks.

Fill a 6-inch pot with quality, indoor potting soil. Insert a bamboo stake near the center of the pot, offset to one side by 1 to 2 inches. The bamboo stake should be the same height as you want the final height of the trunk of the coleus.

Remove the rooted coleus from the 2-inch pot, and plant it in the center of the 6-inch pot, near the bamboo stake.

Tie the coleus loosely to the bamboo stake with strips of raffia.

Place the coleus in partial shade in a protected location. Continue loosely tying the stem of the coleus to the bamboo stake as it grows. Do not remove any leaves along the stem at this time. Fertilize the plant weekly with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer, mixed at half the strength stated on the label.

Pinch the growing tip of the coleus when it grows just beyond the top of the bamboo stake. This will cause it to branch out, beginning the process of creating a canopy on your coleus tree.

Pull off the leaves along the "trunk" of the coleus after it begins growing new branches.

Pinch the growing tips of the branches in the canopy, removing the beginning of leaf set number four, when each branch has three sets of leaves. New growth will continue from the junctures where the leaves grow from the stems, creating a thick, lush canopy.

Transplant the coleus into an 8- to 10-inch pot when the root system outgrows the 6-inch pot.


Things You Will Need

  • 2-inch pot
  • 6-inch pot
  • 8- to 10-inch pot
  • Vermiculite
  • Peat moss
  • Indoor potting soil
  • Bamboo stake
  • Raffia strips
  • Water-soluble houseplant fertilizer

About the Author


Sharon Sweeny has a college degree in general studies and worked as an administrative and legal assistant for 20 years before becoming a professional writer in 2008. She specializes in writing about home improvement, self-sufficient lifestyles and gardening.