Imagine: You have a spot in the landscape where a large splash of color is needed. Preferably brilliant, show stopping color. It might be in the yard, around a veggie plot or in boxes and pots on your patio or deck, but it needs to be dramatic. In such circumstances foliage color is better than flowers since the leaves last all season while flowers tend to come and go. You can have a swath of bright pink running through your perennial bed one year, a river of chartreuse the next, and a grouping of another color in years to come.
Name: Plectranthus scutellarioides aka coleus
Type of Plant: In warm, tropical areas (Zone 10-11) this is a herbaceous perennial but in most of the US we grow coleus as an annual. Older, typically seed-grown varieties grow best in part to full shade. But newer types that are propagated by cuttings often tolerate full sun.
Why I love this: Coleus used to an annual plant that was fairly high-maintenance. You had to consistently clip off the flowers so that the plants wouldn’t set seeds and stop growing. And the flowers were pretty wimpy as well, so if you didn’t deadhead the plants they looked kind of ratty. But in the past twenty years many breeders and home-hybridizers have worked on improving these plants. Many of the coleus now for sale have larger leaves and don’t start to set flowers until later in the fall. Many varieties are also sun-tolerant so they’ll grow in just about any location.
A Word to the Wise: For plants that perform well all summer and don’t flower early, look for cutting-propagated plants. (The plants sold in six-packs are seed grown and will flower early and often. Buy potted plants for less maintenance.)
Unless you’re planting a coleus in a container, using more than one is a good design decision. One plant makes a spot of color, but five or more create excitement!
If you’re passionate about coleus, connect with The Coleus Guy!