Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Color in the Garden - Try Coleus


Here in northern Vermont we have four distinct seasons, maybe five if you throw in mud season. When it’s finally safe to plant (average May 30 where I live) we look forward to as much color as we can pack into our gardens. Discreet waves of color are pretty, but most of us like big splashes to cheer us through our very short summer.

I am turning more and more to coleus to achieve this effect. Most coleus grown from seed needs and prefers shade, while coleus grown from cuttings likes full sun. In fact, at least here in northern Vermont, the more sun, the brighter the color.

What follows are two photos of the same plant I had hanging in the house all winter. One side was facing the sunny window and one side was facing the inside room.

Coleus benefits from moist soils or regular watering and I always pinch off any flowers to encourage foliage growth. Coleus were popular in the Victorian era as a house plant, and today’s souped-up varieties combine brighter and unusual colors with distinct ruffling and textures. An easy way to show off the colors is to plant them in contrasting color groups.

I grow one novelty type coleus called “tilt a whirl.” It kind of twists as it grows and customers like it.


Fishnet looks sweet right now, and should shape up to a really neat plant.


Florida city yalaha has a bright center.


Coleus are easy to grow and if grown in a pot, they are fine inside all winter. I cut them way back before bringing them inside and continue to trim them back during the winter as well. In the spring I have a huge plant with lots of room for cuttings to pass on the color.



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