Image by Gord Webster
By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)
Perhaps you know them as painted nettle or poor man’s croton, depending on where you’re located, but for many of us we simply know them as coleus plants (Coleus blumei). I, for one, love them, as do many others. They have some of the most stunningly colored foliage—in combinations of green, yellow, pink, red, maroon, etc. Coleus also have a wide variety of leaf sizes and overall shapes. This means that no matter what area you are looking to put coleus, you can find one that will be perfect. These plants are great for adding color in the garden (or home), especially in those dark, drab-looking corners.
Growing Coleus Plants
Coleus is probably one of the easiest plants to grow and propagate. In fact, the plants root so easily that you can even start cuttings in a glass of water. They can also be propagated by seed indoors about 8-10 weeks prior to your last expected spring frost.
Coleus can be added to beds and borders for interest or grown in containers. They need fertile, well-draining soil and usually perform best in areas with partial shade, though many varieties can also tolerate sun.
When growing coleus, keep in mind that these beauties can grow rapidly. Plant coleus close together as bedding plants or tuck them into baskets and containers for a fast growing and spectacular addition.
Care for Coleus Plant
Caring for coleus is just as easy. They need to be kept moist, especially newly planted coleus. Container plants also require more frequent watering than those grown in the garden. Although it’s not required, the plants can be given a boost of half-strength liquid fertilizer during their active growth in spring and summer.
Their spiked flowers usually appear in summer; however, these can be removed if desired. You can also pinch the shoots of young coleus plants to produce bushier growth.
Another factor in coleus care is overwintering, as these plants, which are considered tender annuals, are highly susceptible to cold temperatures. Therefore, they must either be dug up, potted, and brought indoors for overwintering or grown through cuttings to establish additional plants.