Learn how to make a beautiful and eye-catching Coleus Topiary. I’m walking you through the step-by-step process on how to make this stunning addition for your home and garden.
How to Grow a Coleus Topiary
Did you know you could turn coleus into a topiary? Well, you can, and the end results are stunning. (If this is new to you, don’t feel bad because I just found out this year too.)
This post is a little different in that I don’t have a completed project to share with you. I didn’t want to wait until the end of summer to write this post because then you couldn’t enjoy the project with me and hopefully try if for yourself. So, I decided to write the post now and will continue to update it as I grow my coleus topiary. I think it will be a fun way to do a project together.
To give you an idea of how a completed topiary will look, I have included some images of the final result, so you have an idea of where we are headed. I’ve sourced all of the photos to their original creator and hope to eventually replace them with the results of my own coleus topiary journey.
Image Source: NY Topiary
Images Source: Better Home & Gardens
As you can see, the results of this project are truly stunning. Coleus come in a variety of colors, leaf shapes, textures, etc. While I had originally intended to only grow 2-3 of these Coleus Topiaries, I ended up with 12. I just couldn’t resist all of the beautiful coleus varieties. Plus, I wanted to ensure I had several successful topiaries (so if one or two don’t make it, I’ll be certain to have a few that do).
With all that being said, let’s get into the process. I hope you’ll purchase some coleus plants and come along on this creative adventure with me!
Growing a Coleus Topiary:
1. Buy A Coleus Plant
You’ll need a coleus plant to start. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you’re welcome to start your coleus plant from seed. If not, most garden centers and nurseries sell coleus. It is available in a variety of colors, sizes, leaf styles, etc. This process of creating a topiary should work with any of the coleus varieties, so choose the one you like best.
If you want a particular height for your final topiary be sure to check the tag to see the max growth height for the variety you are selecting.
Also, I like to select a plant with an obvious center stem/trunk like the plant pictured above. I found these pretty easy to find, though one of my coleus had several main stems/trunks. This style will work too, but first you will need to eliminate all of the stems but one.
2. Pot Your Coleus
Next, plant your coleus in your chosen pot. I don’t like to go too big to start, but want to make sure the plant’s roots have enough room. Keep in mind that you will likely need to replant your topiary as it grows.
Choose a heavy pot as eventually your plant will be top heavy and the right pot will help to prevent your topiary from falling over.
3. Pinch Leaves
Once potted, choose one stem to serve as your trunk. Then, remove all of the other stems with pruning shears. Coleus stems can be very fragile, so take your time and be patient.
If there are single leaves on your main truck you can leave those on the trunk as they will help fuel the plant’s growth. You can remove them later or they may eventually just fall off on their own.
4. Stake Your Coleus
To help support your topiary during it’s growth, insert a stake with a length close to the desired height (around 2-3 feet) in the pot near the trunk. (I’m using these bamboo stakes.) Attach the trunk to the stake with garden ties.
As the plant grows, continue to attach the trunk to your stake. Over time, the main stem will harden and become more of a woody trunk. Even at this stage, the trunk isn’t super sturdy, so the stake will be essential for the life of the plant.
5. Pruning Your Topiary
In addition to continuing to attach the trunk of the coleus to the stake as it grows, you’ll also want to continue pruning off any additional stems that will emerge. You’ll just want a cluster of leaves at the top which will eventually result in a foliage-free trunk.
Once your topiary reaches close to the desired height for your project, pinch off the top. This will stimulate more branching from from the cluster of leaves at the top which will eventually form your topiary.
Then, as your topiary ball starts to grow and form, continue to pinch the stem tips at the top of the plant. This will help to create a dense ball of foliage.
You’ll also want to pinch off any flower spikes. You want the plant to put the energy into the foliage; the flowers will will drain the plant of resources.
6. Be Patient and Have Fun
Like any topiary, this process doesn’t happen over night. I’m assuming this will take an entire summer and then some. If you want beautiful results, know that this process will take time.
Other Helpful Coleus Topiary Growing Tips:
Your coleus with thrive in moderate light to shade during the summer months.
Coleus prefers brighter light in the winter with several hours of direct sunlight.
Water regularly as coleus tend to be thirsty plants. Do not overwater or allow the coleus to sit in soaking water as this can cause the stem to rot.
Use a 10-10-10 water-soluble fertilizer at 1/4 strength every week from March to October.
Avoid strong winds and heavy rain as these can damage your coleus.
As your topiary grows, it’s likely that you’ll need to repot it at least once or twice a year.
I know that coleus grow fairly quickly, but I’m not sure exactly how much progress we’ll make in one summer. The good news: you can bring a coleus inside during the winter months and it will continue to grow and thrive. (Or so I’ve been told.)
And that’s it!
Looking for more unique garden projects? Try these:
- Grow a Dahlia Garden
- Plant my Favorite Hanging Basket for Shade
- Make a Cocktail Garden
- Create a Modern Kitchen Herb Garden
- DIY Succulent Planter
While your coleus topiary will take some patience and care, the end results will be worth it.
As you can see from my photos in this post, I’m still in the early stages of this process. When I have significant updates to share, I will republish this post to the main page of my website. You can also follow me on Instagram @inspiredbycharm and/or subscribe to the IBC Mailing List to stay up-to-date on my topiaries’ growth.
I hope you’ll join me in growing a beautiful coleus topiary (or in my case, 12 beautiful coleus topiaries). Ha!
Coleus Topiary UPDATE:
Here’s is a look at how my topiaries were doing about 3/4th of the way through the season. I had intentions of taking more pictures but they were hit by frost and destroyed. I really loved this process and plan to do it again this year.