Coleus is a perennial shrub chosen mostly for its vibrant and varied colors. While the flowers are neat, they are often considered small and insignificant. That’s why it can be frustrating when the leaves aren’t the bright, vibrant colors they are supposed to be.
If your Coleus leaves are turning white, the likely cause is too much direct sunlight exposure.
Too much sun, and you are likely to have a plant with bleached white leaves; too little can provide you with a plant without much vibrancy. While other issues can cause a lack of color, such as watering, temperature, soil, and fertilizer, sunlight is the most common problem and should always be looked at first.
You can have a bright and brilliant Coleus in your home or yard by fixing the problem. Thankfully, the fixes are easy and quick with all of these issues.
Why Is My Coleus Losing its Color?
If a Coleus starts losing its color, that is usually a sign that your Coleus is getting too much sunlight. While Coleus do like sunlight, too much direct light can drain their color. Instead of direct light, look for a space where your Coleus can have bright but indirect light most of the day.
Sunscald from too much light is the most common reason Coleus leaves turn white. So if your Coleus is losing color or turning white, it is likely due to too much direct sunlight.
The only time that a Coleus can handle a lot of direct light is when they naturally have very dark leaves. Otherwise, indirect light is best.
Thankfully, to fix the problem, all you have to do is move the Coleus to somewhere else. They need a lot of indirect sunlight but not full shade. If you give them direct sun, making sure they get it in the early morning is best, as the heat and sun’s strength are lower during the morning.
While sunlight is the most common reason for a Coleus to lose its color, it isn’t the only reason.
Underwatering and overwatering can cause your Coleus to lose color in the leaves. When Coleus has too little water, they will wilt, and the color will brighten or fade altogether. With overwatering, root rot and lack of nutrients in the soil can cause the Coleus leaves to lighten or lose color.
Coleus prefers moist soil but not staying thoroughly wet. They can handle some drought conditions, but the leaves and color may suffer in turn. You generally don’t want more than the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil to be dry for the best conditions.
Depending on your soil, drainage holes, pot size, heat, and sunlight, the frequency you have to water may change, so checking the soil often is best.
Temperature stress is another reason your Coleus may have its leaves changing color or losing color. Coleus prefers temperatures around 60 to 75°F (16 to 24°C).
They can handle temperatures outside of this range, though it isn’t their ideal. Anywhere between 50 and 90°F (10 to 32°C) is okay for your Coleus. However, anything colder than that, and they will start to die, even hardy, bushy Coleus. Any hotter and your plant will begin to die as well.
Both too hot and too cold can cause your plant to lose color in its leaves if the leaves don’t just fall off altogether. However, since it can be very hot because it is sitting in direct sunlight, hot temperatures are more likely to lead to white leaves.
Improper Potting Soil
Coleus needs soil that can hold a little moisture but is also well-draining. There are potting soils out there that are specific to Coleus, providing rich nutrients and the right level of moisture. However, any free-draining or well-draining potting soil is best.
If your soil doesn’t drain well, and your Coleus is sitting in water, it may get root rot. Root rot can cause leaves to fall off, change color, and the plant to become soggy and squishy.
Overfeeding and underfeeding your Coleus can lead to issues. Additionally, using the wrong fertilizers rich in nutrients that Coleus doesn’t need can cause problems.
Too much fertilizer in the soil can inhibit your plant’s ability to draw up water, which can cause less color in the leaves. But nutrients are also necessary to add color to the leaves, so too little can make your leaves look bleached out or drained of color.
Coleus needs to be fertilized about once a month during the growing season and none at all during winter and fall when it stops growing. A 1-1-1 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium is acceptable (NPK).
Most of the time, a liquid or slow-release fertilizer does the best as it doesn’t overwhelm your plant with many nutrients at once and allows a little to leach into the soil at a time.
How Can I Improve My Coleus Color?
Coleus colors are heavily influenced by light. Putting them somewhere that they can get a lot of bright but indirect sunlight is best. Many Coleus can’t handle direct light and may start to burn or bleach from too much light.
However, your Coleus can also lose color when it isn’t getting enough sunlight. This can be pretty standard in the winter when there is just less light, but it may indicate that your plant isn’t receiving enough light in the summer.
How Do You Keep the Color in a Coleus Plant?
Coleus will naturally lose color in the winter, as there is less light in the day that your plant can get. However, if you don’t want them to lose their colors in the winter, using artificial light is the best way to prevent that.
Using grow lights in the winter ensures that your Coleus is still getting the light it needs.
Do Coleus Like Sun or Shade?
There are varieties of Coleus that can handle full sun, and some can tolerate shade. However, they generally do best with a lot of bright but indirect light, especially indoors. A little shade is fine, but too much can also cause your leaves to lose their colors.
How Often Should Coleus Be Watered?
In containers, Coleus may need to be watered as much as twice a day to every few days. There are a lot of conditions that can affect how much you have to water your Coleus. Therefore, it is best to just check the soil before watering again. Since they like not being fully dry between waterings, you just want to let the first inch (2.5 cm) dry out before watering again.
This also prevents you from overwatering, which is just as harmful as underwatering.
How to Save Overwatered Coleus?
The best and fastest way to save a chronically overwatered Coleus is to repot the plant. Take the plant from its wet soil, trim up any damaged areas such as roots, stems, and leaves, spray some fungicide onto the plant, and then put it into a new pot with new soil.
However, if you have only overwatered your Coleus once, you can ensure that the soil dries out a bit before watering again.
Will Coleus Leaves Grow Back?
New leaves and stems will grow back if your plant hasn’t been damaged beyond repair. First, however, you must ensure your plant is now in ideal conditions. Additionally, your leaves may not grow back from the same place, and damaged leaves will rarely repair themselves.
This means you may have new stems with new leaves growing, or your leaves may grow back on the same stems if they are still healthy enough to produce new leaves.
Coleus leaves make up most of the beauty of the plant. They can be solid green, red, dark purple, and more. However, sometimes these leaves will only show up in ideal conditions.
If your plant’s leaves are starting to turn white, too much direct sunlight is the most common cause, as Coleus needs a lot of bright but indirect light to maintain its traditional coloring.
Your Coleus needs bright, indirect sunlight for the best leaf color. However, underwatering, overwatering, extreme temperatures, improper soil, and too much fertilizer can also change the color of your Coleus leaves.