This member of the mint family comes in a wide range of foliage coloration, leaf texture, and plant form. Considered a herbaceous perennial in its native range of Southeast Asia, coleus are used primarily as annuals. Previously grouped into different species or classified as hybrids, coleus are now all placed under Solenostemon scutellarioides. While modern coleus breeding focuses on new color combinations and foliage characteristics, other considerations of sun tolerance, delayed flowering, more prolific branching and unique forms have also become more prominent recently.
Coleus: Shade, Sun or Both? Coleus has long been considered a shade plant but they thrive well in part shade and can languish in deep shade. In fact, their best leaf coloration is achieved with morning sun and some degree of afternoon shade. For varieties that do well in both shade and part sun, look for these series: Kong
Some varieties can take quite a bit of sun as long as they are not allowed to dry out. For sunny areas, consider the series of Wizard and Versa.
Coleus Care in the Garden: Coleus are quite tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions. They enjoy the heat (below 95 degrees F) and languish below 55 degrees F. Cold, overly damp soils can result in leaf drop and encourage disease. Plant coleus after any danger of frost has passed when soil temperatures have warmed sufficiently and evening temperatures are above 60 degrees F. Avoid too wet or too dry conditions and the extremes of a significantly low (or high) pH. Light fertilization is recommended, particularly in containers.
Not To Flower or To Flower? Since Coleus plants are primarily used for their foliage, it is recommended they are pinched back every few weeks to prevent flower formation. This directs the plant’s energy into additional branching and foliage creation instead of flowering, thereby creating a fuller plant. Coleus left to flower may lose vigor as the plant puts energy into seed production. When pinching off flowers, do so throughout the entire summer to create a full, lush plant. Pinch just above a set of leaves or branching junction for the best appearance (don’t leave a stub!).
But wait, bees love Coleus Flowers! “Blooming coleus may be thought of as unsightly, but not to a bee. A member of the mint family, these small blooms are very attractive to bees,” mentions Michigan State Extension in a recent post titled Gardening for pollinators: Smart plants to support pollinators. Many newer varieties do not start flowering until later in the season, so removing the flowers becomes less of an issue. Pinching and trimming the foliage is still recommended to keep the desired form.
Designing With Coleus Solid color varieties such as Redhead and Lime Delight Premium Sun (both bred for the sun) can be very impactful and make a statement in the mixed border while those with variable coloration may become “color echoes” for neighboring plants with similar or contrasting flower and/or foliage colors. The repetition of coleus colors and form can lend unity and harmony in the garden. Also, consider the impact of mass plantings. Foliage with lighter coloration can provide illumination in shadier locations while dark colors (for example, any coleus with Chocolate its name) in the same setting will create depth and contrast. Consider coleus just one of many available tools in your gardening “toolbox.”
Coleus in Containers All coleus have excellent container potential if given an adequate volume of well-draining soil mix, sufficient drainage holes, reasonable nutrients and the proper sun exposure. Avoid windy locations as coleus can be prone to breakage in extreme winds. Slow release fertilizers with a balanced mix of nutrients are recommended for your containers although half-strength liquid fertilizer applied every 2 weeks over the growing season should be sufficient. Coleus do not show their best coloration if over fertilized so be conservative. You may want to consider water retention additives to help alleviate some watering needs, particularly in sunny locations. Container size is a factor as the volume of soil should accommodate substantial rooting by coleus and any other plants that are involved in the design.
Not the plant that our Grandmothers or moms would have raised. Give them a try in your garden.
Taken from http://ngb.org/2017/05/16/coleus-color-all-season/
Till next time this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty, Iowa
I promise it will be spring again with nice warm weather and sun will be out.