Botanical name: Coleus blumei
Synonyms: Coleus scutellarioides, Plectranthus scutellarioides
Coleus commonly called Painted Nettle offers a multicolored display of foliage and a bewildering choice of hybrids making beautifully colored houseplants. The usual height is 1-2 ft, but dwarf varieties are available. Most but not all have nettle-like leaves. There are also ruffled ones, frilly ones and wavy-edged ones. There is no basic color; almost every conceivable mixture can be found. There are some attractive single-colored varieties but the usual choice is for the multi-colored varieties. This bushy plant is soft-stemmed and needs regular pinching out to stop the plant from becoming leggy and defoliated. Pinch off the flower spikes as soon as you sight them as they will detract from the beautiful foliage. It requires the use of soft water, regular misting and a moist soil at all times.
Painted Nettle prefers bright light. Keep it away from direct sunshine as it can lead to scorching of the leaves. Too low light dulls the colors and may cause leaf drop. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.
Water Painted Nettle liberally during the growing season to keep the soil moist at all times. Reduce watering in cold weather to keep the soil slightly moist as growth is minimal. Avoid waterlogging as it can lead in root-rot. Use soft water as hard water can cause white spots on the leaves. Learn more on how to water houseplants.
Average warmth with a minimum 130C is ideal for Painted Nettle. Protect the plants from cold draughts as they can cause leaf drop. Learn more on temperature for houseplants.
Average room humidity is ideal for Painted Nettle. Do not mist the leaves as water on the leaves can cause white spots on the leaves. Set the pot on a wet pebble tray to raise humidity especially in very high temperatures.
Feed Painted Nettle with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer every 2 weeks during the growing period. Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time may lead to fertilizer burn. Learn more on feeding houseplants.
Cut back the leggy foliage of Painted Nettle and repot during the growing period. Use a rich, free-draining soil and a pot one size larger. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole(s) to prevent waterlogging which can lead to root-rot.
Pruning Painted Nettle involves regular removal of dead foliage to maintain the plant neat and tidy. To encourage a bushy, compact growth, regularly pinch of the growing tips. As the plants age, they become straggly. Cut back the stems during the growing season and repot the plant to rejuvenate growth. Pinch off the flower spikes as soon as you sight them as they will divert the plant's energy from developing the beautiful foliage. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.
Painted Nettle can be propagated during the growing season from stem cuttings or from seeds.
Propagating Painted Nettle from stem cuttings
Take stem cuttings of about 4-5 in. length from a healthy Painted Nettle Plant. Insert the cuttings in moist rooting soil. Place in warm shaded place and maintain the soil moist until new growth emerges and substantial growth has been observed. Transfer to individual pots and begin routine care. For a fuller plant plant several cuttings in one pot.
Propagating Painted Nettle from seeds
Sow Painted Nettle seeds at the beginning of the growing season in moist soil. Place the set up in a warm shaded place. Maintain the soil moist until the seeds germinate. Once germinated, move the set up to a cool shaded place and maintain the soil moist until the plants are well established.
The cause of brown and shrivelled leaves in Painted Nettle is too dry air especially where the temperatures are to high. To raise humidity, set the pot on a wet pebble tray.
In young Painted Nettle, leggy stems are due to low light or failure to pinch out the growing tips. In old plants, it is a natural characteristic of Painted Nettle; take stem cutting and propagate new plants or cut back the stems during the growing season and repot the plant to rejuvenate growth. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.
Underwatering is the cause of wilting leaves in Painted Nettle. Maintain the soil moist at all times while taking care to avoid waterlogging by ensuring that the pot has adequate drainage and the soil is free-draining. Learn more on how to water houseplants.
Sudden death in Painted Nettle is due to waterlogged soil. This is an indication of Root-rot disease. Avoid waterlogging by ensuring proper drainage of both the soil and the pot.
Painted Nettle (Coleus blumei) is non-toxic to humans but mildly toxic to pets. They contain a toxic substance which causes vomiting, diarrhea, depression and loss of appetite in pets if ingested.