How To Pinch a Coleus

Coleus mixed with Basil and Collard Greens

Coleus get leggy mid-summer, particularly in full shade. They grow tall and get stiff limbs and flowery tops. To promote more leaf and color, the best thing to do is to pinch the flowers off of the coleus so the plants continue to bush and grow more leafiness. “Pinch” is another term for “ripping the freaking tops off the plant” – in other words do not be delicate! One must be tough and heartless when pinching a coleus. Pinch like you mean it!

Above you see Coleus inter-planted with Georgia Collard Greens and Sweet Basil from Bonnie Plants in a full shade vegetable garden. Pinching keeps the coleus at the same height as the other plants and also extends the life of the plant because once it flowers it gradually declines the rest of the season.


  1. Grab the stem of the plant between your thumb and finger, just above the top leaves. Dig your fingernail into the stem, pinching the stem completely off the plant.
  2. Pinch at 6 to 8 inches tall or when flowers develop. Coleus flower from mid-summer all through the end of the season – continually pinch off the flowering portion of the plant to encourage leafy growth.

Coleus pinched back

Special Note – Because the FTC requires it, I am letting you know that Bonnie Plants supplied me with herb and vegetable plants I used in this shade planting. I donate a large portion of the herbs and vegetables I grow in my soil-improved garden to the local food pantry when harvested. All opinions are my own and the basil tasted like heaven this year – just so you know.

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  • Reply
    Lisa M.
    July 15, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Hi Shawna,
    I live not too far from you in Wheaton and am wondering if you are having a lot of earwigs this year. At least, something is eating my potted coleus and petunias, and I think it’s earwigs. (The Japanese beetles have just arrived too, but I can squish those.) I’ve always had some damage, but not like this. Are you experiencing the same thing? And what do you do about it? I don’t want to spray a bunch of nasty chemicals, but I really hate those buggers!

  • Reply
    Arthur in the Garden
    July 15, 2013 at 5:17 pm


    • Reply
      July 16, 2013 at 4:55 pm

      Thanks Arthur!!!

  • Reply
    Katie (@KatieGMG)
    July 18, 2013 at 11:15 am

    I love these plants but did not know this helpful tip. Thanks, lady! (sexy comments)

    • Reply
      July 18, 2013 at 11:42 am

      Thanks much! PINCH! PINCH! PINCH!!!

  • Reply
    Debbie McMurry
    July 18, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Thanks for the great tip. I didn’t know to pinch off the flowers so going right out and pinch away!
    Love your garden yard.

    • Reply
      July 18, 2013 at 11:42 am

      Thanks Deb. Much appreciated.

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