How to Grow & Care for Joyweed (Joseph's Coat)

Joyweed plant with deep purple and green leaves clustered together

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

If you are looking for a unique addition to your garden, you might like a fast-growing eye-catcher like joyweed. This plant comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes, and its variegated foliage is the real star of the show. The dark green leaves feature pink, orange, red, yellow, copper, or purple splotches. Some are multiple colors dappled into one plant. They flower, but the blooms are small and act as accents to an already vibrant plant.

Start growing these plants indoors in late winter and transplant them outdoors after the last frost date. Some varieties of joyweed make a great ground cover, while others can grow as tall as three feet. They can be kept inside, adding to the appeal of this tropical plant that acts as an annual in northern climates.

Common Name Joyweed
Botanical Name Alternanthera ficoidea
Family Amaranthaceae
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 6-12 in. tall, 1- 1 1/2 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Moist, well-draining
Soil pH Slightly acidic to neutral
Bloom Time Fall
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 10 to 11 (USDA)
Native Area South and Central America

Joyweed Care

Caring for joyweed is a breeze, and they are easy to propagate from too. This plant is a low-maintenance species, as long as it’s growing in well-draining soil in full sunlight in a hotter climate. It is pretty pest-resistant too.


Joyweed is an invasive tropical species in Palau, the Philippines, and Australia (Queensland).

Joyweed plant with dark purple leaves clustered as ground cover

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Joyweed plant with coppery and deep purple leaves closeup

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Joyweed plant with purple leaves clustered with new growth

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault


These plants come from hot, sunny climates, so they thrive in a lot of light. Joyweed is known for its bright foliage colors, but these eye-catching hues only shine in full sun. These plants can tolerate partial shade, but they may lose some of their coloring and take on a leggy or lanky look.


Joyweed loves rich, fertile soil. Not only does this give the plant the nutrients it needs to stay healthy, but it also allows crucial drainage. Before adding joyweed to your garden, be sure to amend the soil with plenty of organic matter or compost.


Joyweed needs a lot of water to stay happy. Give it at least an inch per week. Soggy soil can kill joyweed, and drought can too. Keep soil moisture consistent to help you to avoid any problems. Let the first inch of the soil dry out before watering to avoid overwatering. If you forget to water, you may notice that your joyweed is quick to wilt, but don’t panic. These plants spring back quickly with a good drink.

In the winter, whether outside or inside, your joyweed will not need as much water as it does in its active growing months. So hold back and give your plant a drink when the top 2 to 3 inches of the soil is dry.

Temperature and Humidity

Since joyweed is native to warm, humid climates, it cannot survive freezing temperatures. Therefore, in zones 10 to 11, it can be kept outside year-round as a perennial. However, these plants are annuals in most other USDA zones.

Joyweed is native to humid areas. This makes keeping a regular watering schedule very important. In addition, adding a layer of mulch to your outside plants will help maintain the needed moisture in the soil.


If planted in rich soil, joyweed does not require much fertilizer. Too much fertilizer can burn and kill the plant. However, in poor soil, your joyweed would do well with liquid fertilizer, such as fish emulsion during the summer months.

Fertilize in-ground plants every two months. For plants in containers, every two or three weeks is best. During the winter, you will want to withhold fertilizer. This will allow the plant to rest during its naturally slow-growing season.

Types of Joyweed

The Alternanthera genus has hundreds of varieties. They have a wide range of colors and sizes. Some are green or gold, while others are deep maroon. Some make a great ground cover and reach up to 1 foot in height, while others can grow as tall as 3 feet. Here are some popular varieties:

  • Alternanthera 'Partytime': Vibrant pink, green, and yellow leaves
  • Alternanthera 'Gail’s Choice': Grow as tall as 3 feet; boasts deep purple foliage
  • Alternanthera 'Little Ruby': Great ground cover; showy ruby and burgundy foliage


Your joyweed may need to be pruned during the summer to keep it from getting leggy. This is a perfect opportunity to use the trimmings to create more plants.

Propagating Joyweed

Propagating your joyweed is easy and can be done by cuttings or division. If you do not want to reduce the size of your original plant, propagating with cuttings is the way to go. The cutting can be placed in water until roots form, and then it can be transferred to moist soil.

Potting and Repotting Joyweed

Joyweed grows wonderfully in containers. They make beautiful, vibrant hanging baskets and can be kept inside. When choosing a pot, be sure to find one with drainage holes. Soggy soil can quickly kill your plant, so good drainage is a must.


Joyweed grows well in a pot, thus keeping this plant in a container is a great option for those living in areas with harsh winters. Move it inside as the temperatures drop as this plant will not survive cold winters outdoors.

  • How do I care for joyweed indoors?

    Provide as much direct sun as possible for brightly colored foliage. Joyweed can tolerate a lot of direct sun. The plant is low maintenance and thrives in well-draining soil in containers.

  • Does joyweed bloom?

    Joyweed is primarily grown for its foliage. The plant has clusters of small white blooms that attract bees and butterfies, but they are a relatively insignificant feature.

  • How long does joyweed live?

    Joyweed is often grown as an annual because it cannot survive freezing temperatures. However, in USDA zones 10 and 11, it can live 5 years or longer.

Article Sources
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  1. Alternanthera sessilis (sessile joyweed). CAB International Invasive Species Compendium.