The old varieties your grandmother grew now have exciting cousins. Plant developers have expanded on the natural variation in leaf colour, shape or pattern, and today, the range of cultivated varieties now available in nurseries is amazing.
Colours "range from deep, velvety crimsons and purples to gentle pinks; from screaming oranges and scarlets to delicate creams and yellow-greens. Individual leaves may be solid or veined, flecked, or bordered with contrasting colors," says Ray Rogers in his book, Coleus: Rainbow Foliage for Containers and Gardens.
Here are eight beautiful varieties to illustrate the point.
Their growth habit does vary, though. Some (like 'Henna' pictured above, and in the container, right) grow in an upright form, some grow in a mounding form, and some creep or trail. These habits are exactly what makes coleus so valuable as both a bedding and container plant.
You are welcome to download the recipe for this container featuring 'Henna'. I call it Scheherazade. Look for the file in The Potting Shed.
- All coleus prefer evenly moist garden soil.
- Fertilize ONCE a month with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer.
- Keep soil evenly moist, but avoid over watering.
- Monitor light intensity. Although sun-tolerant, variations in exposure can have a dramatic impact on leaf color. 'Wasabi' for instance, will bleach if the light is too intense.
- Incorporate a timed-release fertilizer at planting time.
- Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks.
- Most gardeners remove the small lavender-blue flowers these plants produce.
- Pinching back is key to promoting fuller growth.
Watch this short demonstration of pinching back coleus.
Check out this article with tips on starting plants from cuttings: Crazy For Coleus: History and Care
Top coleus container - South Pleasant Nursery
Coleus varieties - White Flower Farm
Container featuring 'Henna' - therebloomsagarden.com