Low-maintenance coleus are a true delight to grow

Published 5:16 pm Tuesday, April 9, 2024

By Eddie Smith
MSU Extension Service

I have always been amazed at the diversity of colorful coleus plants. Their foliage offers a dazzling array of impressive hues and patterns.

The most remarkable aspect of coleus plants is undoubtedly their vibrant leaves.

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From fiery reds and oranges to deep purples and lush greens, their colors span the entire spectrum. Many varieties have intricate patterns of stripes and speckles, adding an extra layer of visual intrigue to their already stunning foliage.

The secret behind the kaleidoscope of colors in coleus lies in the pigments present in their leaves. Chlorophyll, carotenoids and anthocyanins work together to create these mesmerizing hues while also aiding in photosynthesis and providing protection against environmental stress.

Take, for instance, the Kingswood Torch variety.

Its foliage is a luxurious burgundy or maroon, often accented by contrasting edges in shades of green. What truly sets it apart is the striking torch or flame pattern in a faded reddish-pink hue adorning the centers of its leaves.

Then there’s TerraScape All That Jazz, a recent addition to the coleus market.

Its lush green leaves are adorned with intricate center patterns in burgundy, maroon and yellow. The colorful interplay of these patterns on the foliage is mesmerizing, effortlessly drawing the eye and adding a dynamic flair to gardens and landscapes.

Another newcomer, the TerraScape Solar Fire, showcases vibrant lime-green leaves with maroon veins radiating from the center. What sets this variety apart is not only its striking coloration but also the unique texture of its leaves, adding depth and character to its overall appearance.

For those seeking to infuse their landscape with a burst of vibrant energy, the ChargedUp Electric Lime coleus is an absolute must-have. Its bright, lime green foliage, accentuated by lemon yellow leaf veins, commands attention and ensures it won’t go unnoticed in any setting.

Of course, solid-colored foliage can also make a bold statement, as evidenced by the Redhead coleus. With its vivid, solid red leaves, this variety becomes even more intense in strong light, adding a dramatic flair to garden beds or container arrangements.

I’ve found coleus to be incredibly versatile in terms of where they can grow. They thrive in different light conditions, from full sun to partial shade, though preferences may vary among cultivars.

Consistent moisture is key for their well-being, as they prefer soil that’s kept consistently moist but not waterlogged. Regular fertilization supports vigorous growth and ensures their foliage remains bright.

Coleus serve practical purposes in landscaping and gardening. They’re perfect for adding splashes of color to flower beds, containers or mixed plantings. Their compact size also makes them ideal for edging paths or filling in gaps in garden arrangements. Plus, they can be grown indoors to brighten a room.

When it comes to propagation, coleus plants are quite forgiving. Stem cuttings root easily in water or soil, making them a popular choice for expanding your collection. Alternatively, seeds can be sown indoors ahead of the last frost date or directly outdoors in warmer climates.

In my experience, coleus plants are a true delight to grow. Their breathtaking foliage and low-maintenance requirements make them a must-have. With a little care and attention, these colorful wonders bring joy and beauty wherever they’re planted.