Known for its variegated foliage, Coleus is a wonderful, low-maintenance plant that will add color to outdoor containers. Take cuttings in the fall to keep this delicate annual plant going through the winter.
Coleus coleus belong to the mint family or lamiaceae. While traditionally shade tolerant, some modern strains will also thrive in the sun. Be sure to ask your nursery about the variety. Leaf colors include: green, yellow, pink, red, purple, and maroon. The plant flowers occasionally at the end of long stems; Cut the stems for a more compact, bushy plant.
Coleus is easily started from seed indoors about 10 weeks before the last frost date in your area.
Expose the plants after all danger of frost has passed.
Choose a place sheltered from the wind. Coleus stems break easily.
Coleus need well-drained soil.
Water the plant thoroughly after planting.
Keep the root ball moist, but not too wet, for the first week after planting.
Coleus will rot if overwatered, so only water when the top inches of soil are dry.
Pinch frequently growing shoots of young plants to encourage branching and bushier growth.
Fertilize in midsummer with a liquid fertilizer at half the recommended strength.
Cut off the flower spikes in late summer to extend the life of the plant and encourage the growth of new variegated leaves.
In cooler regions, before the first fall frost, take cuttings from your plants and place them in water to root.
Plant the rooted cuttings in small pots and keep them near a sunny window for the winter.
Plant the coleus outdoors in spring, once the danger of frost has passed.
There are more than 600 Coleus strains to choose from!
Coleus for penumbra:
‘Brilliancy’ has bright red leaves with jagged green edges.
‘Fishnet Stockings’ has light green leaves with dark purple veins.
‘Mardi Gras’ is compact and has red, green and yellow leaves.
‘Japanese Giant’ has large burgundy leaves with pink and purple hues.
Coleus for partial to full sun:
‘Pineapple’ has bright lime gold leaves with burgundy stems.
‘Solar Shadow’ has green leaves with dark red jagged edges and tips.
‘Alabama Sunset’ has brick red leaves with yellow edges.
WIT AND WISDOM
Coleus was a popular plant in Victorian gardens.
Coleus is a member of the mint and deadnettle family.
Coleus was first discovered in 1853 in the mountains of Java, now Indonesia’s most populous island.
Insect pests to watch out for include aphids, mealybugs, and whiteflies.
Stem rot and root rot can occur if the soil is too wet.