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Should You Deadhead Coleus? Why This Matters & What To Do

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Should you deadhead coleus? Many people have asked me whether they should be cutting off any flowers that form on their coleus. This post answers this question, and more, so keep reading to find out exactly what to do as I demonstrate on my own plants.



First I’d like to clarify this topic because there is some misinformation and confusion about this.

Coleus is actually a very tender perennial and can live for many years. But for those of us that live in cold winter regions, they will behave as annuals because they are not hardy and are very sensitive to cold and will die when it gets cold enough.

Generally, if you live in zones 10 or 11 or warmer, your coleus can live outdoors year round.


The short answer is yes! No one grows coleus for their flowers. We grow them for their beautiful, colorful foliage.

By removing any flowers that are developing, you’re helping shift the plant’s energy from growing flowers and seeds, to putting energy into growing foliage instead. It will also help keep the plant much tidier (and also encourage a bushier plant)!


First, let’s take a look at what coleus flowers look like.


As soon as you notice this, you can do one of two things. You can either pinch the tips off with your fingers, or snip it a little further down like in the photo below.

In the photo below, the flowering has progressed a lot more, and it’s time to cut it off.


You can see in the photo above that there are multiple flower spikes, so I pruned it a little further down. It’s OK to remove some leaves! This will not harm the plant at all. In fact, this is my preferred method. I prefer to take off the flowers, as well as some of the leaves underneath.

In fact, by trimming it a little further down, you’ll stimulate the plant to grow some new side branches of foliage.

Often times, you’ll already see them on the plant, and once you trim the plant, you’ll stimulate those side branches into growing.


In the photo above, you can see where I cut off the flower spike, and there were already two small branches present. These side branches will now start growing.

Here is another example below. This time, I’m trimming my trailing coleus.


I decided to cut off the whole flower spike as well as one set of leaves.

If you want to take this one step further, there are certain coleus varieties that will hold off on flowering until pretty late in the season. Some hold off longer than others.

From the ones that I’ve grown so far, I’ve found that the following varieties won’t even start to bloom for me until late summer or early Fall! These include:

ColorBlaze Wicked Witch

ColorBlaze Wicked Witch Coleus in mid-August and no signs of any flowers.

ColorBlaze Torchlight

Me with my ColorBlaze Torchlight Coleus in August with no signs of flowers yet.

ColorBlaze Chocolate Drop

This is one of my favorite coleus ever! It is a trailing variety and is a very vigorous grower.

ColorBlaze Chocolate Drop Coleus in mid-August and no signs of flowering yet.

ColorBlaze Golden Dreams

ColorBlaze Golden Dreams Coleus in mid-September 2021 with no flowers forming yet.

One coleus that DID start to produce flowers by the end of July or so was ColorBlaze Rediculous. But it’s no problem at all, and nothing a little pruning can’t fix. Who can resist this gorgeous red foliage of ColorBlaze Rediculous?

After a quick pruning, the plant is looking great!


So, should you deadhead coleus? I say go for it. There are numerous advantages:

  • You’ll direct more of your plant’s energy into growing more leaves, which is why we grow these plants to begin with.
  • Your plant will look tidier and neater.
  • You’ll be encouraging a bushier plant by lightly trimming.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Do you grow Coleus? Comment below. I’d love to hear!


Thursday 28th of March 2024

This is the thing, once flowering starts there is no stopping it, fait accompli. Even if you cut off the flowers new leaves will not grow in their place because in fact just more flowers will grow from the next nodes down. This is why breeders try selecting for no flowers at all or very late flowering.

The plants are hard-wired to flower as the days get shorter and cooler, once it's started even if you cut the entire plant down to its last two leaves those last two nodes will still only produce flowers. If you dead-head the plant it also just gets shorter and shorter as you will basically be cutting it down every time you remove the new flowers replacing the ones you remove. At that point they tend to go into decline earlier than if left alone. Flowering is at the end of the season with most new varieties, so you may as well just let them flower. Bees like them a lot as long as you haven't used systemic pesticides because then the bees will die instead.

If you live in the South of Florida there is also no stopping them ultimately bolting (flowering) going to seed at the end of the rains. I tend to leave them alone because they set seed and you get some very interesting and attractive garden worthy seedlings that look nothing like the parent. You can select the ones you like and pull up the ugly ducklings. However I do take cuttings off the parent months before flowering at the height of the season if I want more like the parents. Wait for a wet front and then stick them in the ground where ever you want them. Once flowering any cuttings you take will also just produce flowers.

Makes you wonder why in heavens name they don't just breed for flowers, nice big, lovely and blue (mostly) white flowers. Along the lines of Plectranthus but with wildly pretty leaves. Win win.

After the dry season if you left the dead flower spikes and branches decline naturally you can then at the start of the wet clean them up and cut them back right down to the semi woody growth, just stumps or as far back as the stems are still alive. They will then send up new growth like perennials would. For pot plants in colder climates you could do the same, leave them under cover in their pots just watering s tiny bit then cut them back in Spring after all frosts are past, trim the roots and replant. Not all varieties are vigorous enough for this treatment but the rampant growers usually are. After a few years you need to replace as the old wood loses its viability, mostly rotting and falling over.

So don't panic about flowers, cutting them just slows down the inevitable by just a tiny fraction, before the next set of flower buds powers up beneath your cut.


Tuesday 26th of March 2024

I live in Philippines and I also love coleus. My problem with them is that they become woody and brittle after a while. Is that happened to you or am I doing something wrong? What you do to get them so bushy?

Raffaele Di Lallo

Thursday 28th of March 2024

Hi Lina! That is completely normal! The varieties that I grow are naturally bushy. If you aren't growing types that do this on their own, you can pinch the growing tips or trim your plant routinely in order to encourage more bushiness. Good luck!


Friday 8th of March 2024

Hi. I was wondering how to fix a coleus that is ALREADY leggy. Should I snip off the leggy part and replant? How does that work?

Raffaele Di Lallo

Tuesday 12th of March 2024

Hi Michelle! Yes, you can definitely do that. I have a blog post showing how:


Sunday 3rd of March 2024

Very good tips. I was just pinching the flower tips. I will try cutting further back. You have some really beautiful looking plants. A couple years back I had over 50+ varieties. I'm down to about 20 now. It was hard to take care of so many cuttings and small plants on the window sills,

Raffaele Di Lallo

Sunday 3rd of March 2024

Glad you enjoyed the tips Lori! And yes, it can be very challenging to manage all those plants :-)


Monday 22nd of January 2024

I was give a coleus last September. It was in a jar of water. I put in near my kitchen window and it’s grown tall and leggy. I know why, my question is, why all the research says it doesn’t like to be soggy just moist, yet my coleus is doing well it it’s jar of water. I do plan to cut the flowers as you suggested and plant it in a large pot early this spring and put it outdoors. Just wondering why it’s flourishing in a jar of water. Has a great root system.


Thursday 25th of January 2024

Hi Michelle, that is a great question. It mainly has to do with the amount of oxygen at the roots. In water-logged soil, there won't be much oxygen available to the roots and this is why plants can rot when they are in wet soil for extended periods. If you're just growing in water, there is actually more oxygen available at the roots. I'm oversimplifying, but I hope it makes sense.