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

This fast-grower is prized for its mounding and spreading ground cover varieties

Joyweed plant with deep purple and green leaves clustered together

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

If you want a unique addition to your garden, you might like a fast-growing eye-catcher like joyweed or Joseph's coat. This plant comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes, and its variegated foliage is the real star of the show. This plant is winter hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11, only returning yearly as a perennial in the hottest parts of the United States. Most people grow it as an annual or keep it as a houseplant in a bright window.

The dark green leaves feature pink, orange, red, yellow, copper, or purple splotches. Some are multiple colors dappled into one plant. Joseph's coat produces flowers, but the blooms are mini accents to an already vibrant plant.

Start growing these plants indoors in late winter and transplant them outdoors after the last frost date. These are easy to care for and grow by giving water during drought and fertilizer monthly during the spring and summer growing season. Some varieties of Joseph's coat make an excellent ground cover, while others can grow as tall as three feet. This tropical plant has a weedy growth habit, but isn't invasive in the United States.

Common Name Joyweed, Joseph's coat
Botanical Name Alternanthera ficoidea
Family Amaranthaceae
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 6-12 in. tall, 1-1.5 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Moist, well-draining
Soil pH Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time Fall
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 10-11 (USDA)
Native Area South America, Central America

Joseph's Coat Care

Caring for Joseph's coat is a breeze, and they are easy to propagate. 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.


Joseph's Coat 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. Joseph's coat is known for its bright foliage colors, but the eye-catching hues only shine in full sun. These plants can tolerate partial shade but may lose some of their coloring and take on a leggy or lanky look.


Joseph's coat 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 Joseph's coat to your garden, amend the soil with plenty of organic matter or compost.


Joseph's coat needs a lot of water to stay happy. Give it at least an inch per week. Soggy soil can kill Joseph's coat, 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 prevent overwatering. If you forget to water, you may notice that your Joseph's coat 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 Joseph's coat 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 Joseph's coat is native to warm 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.

Joseph's coat 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.


Joseph's coat does not require much fertilizer if planted in rich soil. Too much fertilizer can burn and kill the plant. However, in poor soil, your Joseph's coat 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. For the amount to use, follow product label instructions. During the winter, you will want to withhold fertilizer. This will allow the plant to rest during its naturally slow-growing season.

Types of Joseph's Coat

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, 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': Grows as tall as 3 feet; boasts deep purple foliage
  • Alternanthera 'Little Ruby': Great ground cover; showy ruby and burgundy foliage

Companion Plants for Joseph's Coat

Plant Joseph's coat with species that have similar water and sun requirements. They complement plants known for their foliage, such as elephant ears, cannas, caladiums, and coleus. Their colorful leaves also accentuate flowers like impatiens, lobelia, begonias, and petunias.


Your Joseph's coat 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 Joseph's Coat

Propagating your Joseph's coat is easy and can be done by cuttings or division in the spring or summer. If you do not want to reduce the size of your original plant, propagating with cuttings is the way to go. Here's how to propagate Joseph's coat:

Water propagation is the easiest way to develop roots, but the stem can root within a month by direct planting in soil. To propagate by stem cutting:

  1. You'll need pruning snips or sterilized scissors to snip at least a healthy two-inch stem and a clean jar or container with water. Alternatively, you will need a small pot with moistened soil.
  2. Remove the last leaves of the stem and submerge the cut end in the soil or water.
  3. Place the plant in a bright window.
  4. You'll be able to see the roots in a clear jar of water within a few weeks. To check if the cutting is rooting in the soil, gently tug after a month. If the stem doesn't pull out easily, it has rooted.

Division is used to make a large plant smaller. You will divide the plant and its roots into smaller sections, transplanting them to grow separately. To propagate by division:

  1. You'll need a spade, soil, and a new container or planting location for your divided plant.
  2. Dig out the parent plant and its roots with the spade. Divide the plant in half or thirds with pruning snips, shears, or scissors. Keep the roots intact as much as possible (a little root breakage is acceptable).
  3. Transplant each divided section into a container with moistened soil or plant it in the garden with full sun exposure.

How to Grow Joseph's Coat From Seed

Although cuttings or division is the easiest way to propagate Joseph's coat, you can also grow it from seeds. Sow Joseph's coat seeds indoors in late winter. Place in a warm spot under bright light. After they've sprouted, only transplant them to a sunny location outdoors after the danger of any frost has passed. Space the plants about 6 inches apart.

Potting and Repotting Joseph's Coat

Joseph's coat grows wonderfully in containers. They make beautiful, vibrant hanging baskets that can be kept inside. When choosing a pot, find one with ample drainage holes. Soggy soil can quickly kill your plant, so good drainage is necessary. If your plant outgrows its current pot, opt for the next size up and fill with fresh potting soil before transferring the plant to its new home.


Joseph's coat grows well in a pot; thus, keeping this plant in a container is an excellent option for those living in areas with harsh winters. Move it inside as temperatures drop; this plant will not survive cold winters outdoors.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

This plant is not commonly threatened by insects or disease, but like most other plants, it can fall victim to mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites. If you have a bad infestation, apply neem oil solution to the stems, leaves (including the undersides), and soil. Also, it can be susceptible to fungal and bacterial diseases like root rot and leaf spot disease.

Common Problems With Joseph's Coat

This plant is relatively easy to care for if given ample sun and warm temperatures.

Wilting or Browing Leaves

Leaves that look dehydrated are underwatered or are getting too much sun without enough water to replenish it fast enough. To remedy this situation, gradually give it more water.

Yellowing or Pale-Colored Leaves

Foliage that starts to dull or turn yellow, especially its lower leaves, can be a sign of overwatering or root rot. To remedy this problem, immediately stop watering. Allow it to dry out.

If you notice dark spots on the bottom of the stem where it meets the soil, pull up the root ball and inspect it for rot. You might be able to save the plant from root rot by using sterilized scissors and cutting off browned or blackened sections of the roots. Treat with a plant antifungal and replant it or put it in a sterilized container with fresh soil. If most of the plant is rotting, including most of the stem, discard it.

Overly Green Leaves

Young Joseph's coat plants with dark green leaves are a sign that the plant does not have enough sunlight. Place the plant in direct sunlight, but do not give it too much light too fast; the leaves might get burned.

  • How do I care for Joseph's coat indoors?

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

  • Does Joseph's coat bloom?

    Joseph's coat is primarily grown for its foliage. The plant has clusters of small white blooms that attract bees and butterflies but are a relatively insignificant feature.

  • How long does Joseph's coat live?

    Joseph's coat is often grown as an annual because it cannot survive freezing temperatures. However, in USDA zones 10 and 11, it can live five years or longer.

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