Growing Coleus From Seed

I am just assuming that if you are reading this page you have coleus seeds (or other seeds) in hand or somewhere near…or perhaps you are just thinking of trying your hand at growing them this year. In this post I am going to try and be brief with the years of coleus wisdom I’ve learned over decades of growing them.

If you are sowing coleus seeds purchased from The Flower Ark Etsy Shop I will let you in on a bit of their history; this past year I grew over a hundred plants in pots and throughout my garden beds. The seeds you have purchased were harvested this Autumn from these parent plants.

Visit the Flower Ark Etsy Shop for Coleus Seeds, Watercolors, and Pressed Flowers

The plants have cross-pollinated for years. In Autumn, I collect the seeds pollinated for me by the bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.. I let my harvest dry thoroughly and then give the seeds a rest period in my fridge. Cold stratification is not necessary to grow coleus, but it doesn’t hurt them either.

I recommend using seed starter medium to sow the coleus indoors. Outdoor soils have many organisms and growing the seedlings with success in garden soil indoors is near zero. Last year, several customers who left feedback on the Etsy site, reported having near 100% germination. 

J.M. May 26, 2020 5 out of 5 stars Honestly I was super pleased and my seedlings sprouted in 4 Days!!! I followed the instructions on her blog love it 😊 thank you so much.


Elle Apr 4, 2020 5 out of 5 stars
I am a very very happy buyer!! The seller is beyond amazing, super helpful & wonderful in every way. Wish I could give her 10 stars. I have 100% germination on the seeds I planted! They sprouted in 5 days! I’m excited to plant my next group. Fast shipping too!!


J.C. Jun 2, 2020 5 out of 5 stars All germinated! some I put 2 in one pod. They are heathy with lots of colors VERY PLEASED. And her packaging can’t be beat 100% outstanding purchase!!!


T.K. Aug 27, 2020 5 out of 5 stars I have a beautiful Coleus plant in my kitchen now!


I use plastic salad trays, rotisserie chicken servers, etc., to start my seeds. Anything scrupulously cleaned with hot water, soap, and perhaps even a rinse off in a bit of hydrogen peroxide, works for starting the seeds. (Clean after creating drainage holes-see two paragraphs below for drainage technique.) Most importantly, the container you use needs a clear lid or plastic wrap on the top.

To the novice, the seed starter medium can be tricky to use. At times it seems almost impossible to get it wet. The best approach is to dump the starter in a container and add water at least 24 hours before planting. Stir it up several times during this period, and if it is still dry add more water in small amounts throughout the day.

While the seed medium is absorbing the water, prepare your containers. They must have holes in the bottom or some sort of drainage. I’ve found a trick for making easy and quick holes in my containers. I take them outdoors, place them on a flat area of dirt or grass, then using an ordinary hammer and Phillips screwdriver I drive the sharp end of the screwdriver through the plastic into the earth. This is a stable, easy way to create drainage. Make sure to clean away any dirt or debris before using the container.


It’s time to sow the seeds! To avoid damping off disease I sow the seeds using a wet pencil point method. Dip pencil tip into water, then touch it to one seed and place that seed, using the pencil, on the top of the pre-moistened sowing medium. You can find detailed instructions in the links at the bottom of this page. If you sprinkle the seeds, inevitably, some fall close together and develop fungus, or your best colored sprouts will be so entwined and root locked, you will not be able to separate them without sacrificing one or all.

Do not cover the seeds with seed starter or soil, coleus need light to germinate. 

Place the container in a very warm spot. A few places that work are a seed sowing heating mat, or placing the container on top of the fridge or freezer, near a heating vent, or in a very sunny window with several hours of strong daylight. (When using natural light move the trays away from the cool window at night until the seeds sprout.)

When most of the seeds have germinated remove the lids or covering. At this stage the seedlings do well with medium to high light; lack of light will cause leggy growth.

After you have removed the covering try to check the sprouts at least twice daily to avoid drying out. Even a few hours of indoor heat and dry soil can cause seedlings to wilt or die. On the flip side, soggy saturated soil can cause root rot…it’s best to allow the soil to become nearly dry and then add a bit of water.

Watering small seedlings can be tricky. A heavy stream of water will drive them into the soil, most likely causing their demise. To avoid this mistake I use a pointed tip container and gently water around the small seedlings. One of my prized possessions is the slant tip watering bottle I purchased from Amazon. Reasonably priced, it has been perfect for small sprout watering. ( I believe it is a hair color application bottle.)

Coleus seeds grow very slowly. To grow plants to a good size for my Mid-Atlantic state of NJ, I sometimes begin growing them right after Christmas. Coleus make excellent houseplants too.

The techniques I’ve shared can be used for sowing and growing many smaller sized garden seeds from seed, through sprouts, to garden-sized plants. Don’t think all these instructions mean growing coleus and other small seeded plants is hard, if it was, I wouldn’t have had success in growing them myself.

Below are several posts I’ve made over the years with information on growing coleus. Thanks so much. Kathy from The Flower Ark Etsy Shop.

Planting Smaller Seeds

Hardening off for outdoor garden planting

Growing for Vibrant Color

Coleus Cuttings  – Extending the Life of Your Plants

Let There Be Light!

Different lights will create different colors and light patterns in your leaves. Recently I brought this beautiful coleus indoors as a cutting. Because the cuttings root better out of sunlight, I placed it in a shady window. The leaves that grew as the plant was developing roots are much lighter in color and a more subdued pattern. The light yellow is also a pretty look. When I placed the newly rooted and planted coleus under strong lights the new leaves immediately began to exhibit the original outdoor colors and patterns. It’s always fun to move new plants around in different locations to see what will bring out your preferred colors and patterns. Have fun growing your coleus.


My close focus photograph of these coleus sprouts is rather blurry, but I only took the one shot, and it is a perfect example of the problem-solving tip I want to share today. When planting small seeds, even specially blended seed-starting soil can be full of lumps, small twigs, and other woodsy debris used to create the mix. Luckily for me, only one of my coleus seeds was placed on a ‘clod’ of dirt. The seed sprouted fine, the problem arose when the small root tried to reach the moisture beneath it. The hard clod of dirt it was planted on created a barrier and the sprout withered a day or two after emerging from the seed. To give future seeds a better chance I filled the bottom of the container with about 1.5 inches of seed starter, then using an old sifter, I added about 1/4 inch of finely sifted seed starter mix. This makes a huge difference in the success of growing small seeds. After sifting, place the container in a shallow pan of water and allow the mix to wick up more water. If the bottom layer of seed starter is sufficiently drenched, the sifted layer will absorb plenty of water for sprouting. Make sure and cover small seedlings with plastic wrap or another type of lid to ensure uniform moistness through the sprouting stage.