This versatile plant comes in hundreds of varieties that are ideal for any Central Florida garden.
The beautiful foliage of coleus, with its vivid colors and brilliant patterns, has long been a favorite among gardeners. Typically a shade-loving plant, coleus have evolved dramatically over the last few years, and new breeding has increased colors, sun tolerance and durability.
Coleus are known for their ease in care—just plant them in areas ranging from full sun to part shade and provide adequate moisture. Coleus are “indicator plants”—they will be the first plants to tell you when your garden needs water by their wilting leaves, but they quickly revive after watering. Look for varieties labeled “sun coleus” if the area to plant will be in 6 or more hours of direct sunlight per day.
Selecting just one or two varieties of coleus for your garden may be a difficult decision. The many choices of colors—lime green to bright red—and textures—fine, dissected leaves to large, bold foliage—will keep you wanting to try more.
Plant growth is improved through pruning, which will encourage the plants to become full and large. Although coleus produce delicate, spiked flowers, you may choose to pinch off the blooms so that more energy is available for stem and foliage growth.
Coleus is easily propagated, and small cuttings will often be all that a gardener needs to start a new variety. Simply suspend your cutting in a glass of water, and you will soon see small white roots emerging along the stem. These can be shared with friends or planted in your own garden to enjoy throughout the warm spring and summer months.
The increasing popularity of this plant has led the National Garden Bureau to select coleus as its “2015 Plant of the Year.”
Keri Byrum is assistant director of Harry P. Leu Gardens, Orlando.