It’s Flashy, It Streaks, It Glows, It’s Coleus!
With increasing interest in using foliage in our gardens and containers the coleus plant is quickly becoming the go to plant of the season. With new varieties every year it is even more versatile than it has been in the past. It’s most attractive feature, colorful foliage, comes in a wide array of combinations. It is also stepping out into the sun with new varieties of sun coleus that can thrive in more sunny conditions.
Planting and Care
Like any plant it is important to understand the conditions it requires to grow and thrive. Coleus prefer warm conditions and are the first to freeze on cold nights. It’s best to wait until the threat of frost is past before you plant them outside. The majority of them grow well in the shade as long as they receive some direct sunlight throughout the day, preferably morning sun. The newer varieties of sun coleus grow best in part sun conditions (approximately 4-6 hrs of sun/day). Like most plants they prefer consistent water and do not like to be over-saturated.
Starting a new coleus plant is quite simple. Most can be grown from cuttings by snipping a small 2” length and putting it in water, it also helps to pinch the tip off to promote root growth. Once roots have formed plant the cutting in a well drained container and water at least once a week.
Coleus plants do flower and some are quite attractive. Many people however prefer to pinch these flowers off as they begin forming. This helps promote more rounded branching and leaf growth which is usually what is desired with this plant. Later in the season if you want to collect seeds and grow your own coleus the next year, let the flowers mature and produce seeds.
Designing with Coleus
When planning your beds and containers one of the most important factors is sunlight. Knowing how much is available will dictate which varieties of coleus to use. When you are at the greenhouse take a moment to read the tags and learn how much light is recommended and what the mature size will be.
One of my favorite ways to use coleus is in a container with other bold colored flowers that mirror similar tones in the coleus leaves. In the shade try planting with begonias, ferns, new guinea impatiens, licorice vine, or bacopa. For sunnier planters try verbena, lantana, salvia, supertunias, snapdragons and biddens. Take into consideration what color your container is. The pinks in this coleus perfectly match the container and really create a fun look.
I have also seen many appealing containers and plantings that have a mixture of different coleus colors and textures. These are especially easy to maintain because there are no spent flowers to worry about.
Using coleus is a great way to add extra color to your perennial beds. Consider planting coleus alongside hosta, ferns, brunerra, astilbe, salvia, daylilies, and ornamental grasses. Even when some of these plants aren’t blooming you will have vibrant colors to liven up the space and create interest. In the fall, after the frost, remove the wilted plants from your garden and now you will be ready to replant in the spring.
A lighter colored coleus like Wasabi is a great way to illuminate a shady area. In contrast if you want to create a bold backdrop for other bedding plants ‘Black Dragon’, ‘Redhead’ and other dark colored coleus are a good choice.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. There are an endless amount of color and texture combinations. These recent introductions ‘Bone Fish’ and ‘CocoLoco’ are great examples of how unique coleus can be.
Always ask the staff at your local nursery or garden center for help. Most would love to take some time and assist you in creating a fun container that fits your needs. If you are looking for more information about coleus or some inspiration head on over to our pinterest page and start planning.