So I picked up a couple of mid-sized Coleus plants (a 'Ruby Dreams' and a 'Dream Catcher') from the local nursery today. I plan to put them in a shady area which gets indirect light for a few hours a day.

I didn't know about Coleus plants and looked them up when I got home. Some websites mentioned they were an annual but others mentioned they were a tender perennial and hardy to zone 11. I'm in USDA zone 10b - will this survive the Southern California 'winter' (and can I do something to ensure that) or will it possibly die off before next Spring? I love the look of these plants so would hate to plant and care for them only to have to replace them come spring.

  • 3
    I'd add to the answer given already, if they're in pots and it gets too cold,you can always move them indoors. They are tender perennials and were often grown as houseplants here in the UK, lasting for years with proper care. – Bamboo Aug 27 '15 at 11:57
up vote 6 down vote accepted

It's listed as an annual many places because any amount of frost is likely to be fatal to an unprotected plant. Fortunately, in your zone frost is not really a certainty.

If the winter is on the mild side (for your climate) your coleus could probably make it through unprotected. If you make an effort to shelter the plant; coverings, mulching around the roots etc. you can likely improve your odds even in an average year. An unusually chilly winter might kill it, but might not if you protect it. In my experience, planting perennials 1 zone below their lower range can be pulled off if you're careful or lucky. You might lose some years, but on the average you might just get away with it.

If they are potted plants, it would be easier and more effective to just move them inside.

  • Thanks. Winters are definitely on the mild side, so will take a chance with these. – seekay Aug 27 '15 at 18:43

I live in Massachusetts, zone 6a, and have grown Ruby Dreams and other coleus varieties from seed for a number of years. They last deep into the fall, when temperatures drop down into the forties. As soon as they start to look chilly, meaning the leaves become crumpled and droopy, I dig them up, pot them and keep them inside for the winter.

When the danger of frost has passed, usually late May in my area, I replant some in their favorite partly-shaded spot under the trees, and keep others in their containers. Although they thrive nicely either way, those in the ground usually exhibit more abundant growth, both in height and width.

Based on my experience, I definitely support your idea of trying to overwinter your lovely new plants. If they become distressed, you can always get them out of the ground before they die! If they end up growing well for you, I highly recommend adding more varieties.

  • Thanks. I had somehow always thought that digging them up and replanting would be too much for me to take on, but maybe that isn't a bad idea after all :) – seekay Aug 28 '15 at 4:22

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