Coleus are colorful, easy-to-grow plants that are often kept indoors and outdoors in container gardens or as part of landscaping. A common issue many have with coleus is limp or wilting leaves.
This is often caused by over or underwatering, but there are a few other things that can cause this as well. In this article, we will go over the main reasons your coleus may be suffering from limp leaves and cover some basic plant care to help keep your plant happy, healthy, and thriving.
Why are my Coleus Leaves Limp and Drooping?
One of the simplest issues that may be affecting your coleus is a lack of water. These plants like their soil to be kept moist, so if you test your soil and find it dry, a thorough drink should be enough to perk your plant back up.
This is an easy enough task to accomplish for a landscape plant, but if your coleus is planted in a pot it may be a bit more challenging. Underwatering can often lead to soil that is hydrophobic and unable to absorb water. If you pour water into your plant’s pot and it simply runs out the bottom without absorbing, you may have hydrophobic soil.
To solve hydrophobic soil, you can either repot your plant or place the pot into another container and fill that container with water about halfway up the coleus pot. The soil will begin to absorb water through the drainage hole and after about 6-8 hours should be hydrated again.
Coleus tend to be very thirsty plants, but too much water can cause its own set of issues. If you test your soil and it is soggy and oversaturated, it could also have root rot. Root rot can cause the leaves of your coleus plant to wilt or even turn brown.
To check your plant for root rot, you will need to remove it from the soil and look at the roots. If they are brown or smushy they are rotten and need to be removed. To remove them you can use sharp sanitized shears or, if they are rotten enough, you can wash them underwater and remove the dead roots with your hands. If there are still some healthy white roots left, you can repot your plant in fresh soil and it should recover.
If your plant doesn’t have any healthy roots left, your best bet for saving it is to create cuttings and propagate them in water until they grow new roots.
3. Not Enough Nutrients
If you are growing your plant outside in the ground, you likely don’t need to worry about this one, but if your coleus has been in the same pot for a while and you don’t regularly fertilize, the coleus leaves could be drooping due to a lack of nutrients in the soil.
To remedy this, you can repot your plant in nutrient-rich but well-draining soil. My preference is 1 part Fox Farms Ocean Forest to 1 part perlite, but you can use whichever potting soil you prefer.
After repotting your plant, you will want to start fertilizing it regularly. Your options are to use a pelleted slow-release fertilizer in the spring. This will slowly release nutrients into the soil every time you water and will last for 6-9 months. You can also use liquid fertilizer diluted to half-strength about once a month in the spring and summer.
Good soil and a good fertilization schedule should keep your plant’s leaves upright and thriving.
4. Not Enough Light
Coleus plants prefer to be kept partially shaded so they can get a good amount of bright indirect light. This is relatively easy to accomplish if you are growing your plants outside. Simply place them in an area that is shaded during the hottest part of the day from around 11 am-4 pm, but that isn’t shaded in the morning. If you are keeping your plants indoors, you will want to do the same, which can usually be accomplished by placing your plant a few feet from an east-facing window.
You will know if your plant isn’t getting enough light because it won’t absorb water as quickly as it should and it will likely start to have spindly growth in the direction of the light source. Not enough light can lead to poor water absorption and root rot, which can both cause limp leaves.
5. Too Much Light
Like water, you can have too much of a good thing with light. A plant that is getting too much light will likely absorb water faster than it normally would, which can lead to dried-out soil and a thirsty plant. If you notice your plant’s leaves are drooping and/or are getting burnt around the edges, it’s likely due to too much light and or too much heat.
The best way to remedy this is to move it to a place that is better shaded or a little further from the light source.
How to Keep Your Coleus Happy
Keeping coleus happy generally comes down to just a few simple care steps. Make sure they are getting enough water, light, and fertilizer to thrive. Coleus usually dry out very easily, so if you want to prevent this you can place non-cedar mulch over the soil of your plant. This will lock in the soil moisture and keep it from drying out. You will still need to stay vigilant about your water schedule, but if you forget to water, your plant will let you know by drooping.
These plants generally grow well, but if you want to encourage bushier growth, you can pinch them back at the stem. This will teach the plant to send out growth on the sides instead of the tops.
If you want to keep your plant year-round, you will need to bring it inside during the winter unless you live in USDA growing zones 9-10. It’s likely that even if you bring it inside, it will go through some dormancy in the winter, so slow down on watering and don’t fertilize it during the fall and winter seasons.
Follow all these tips and your coleus should be thriving in no time!