Coleus is actually one of the easiest annuals that we can grow in our gardens along the Gulf Coast. Oddly enough it is actually a tender perennial by definition. But, unless you go to the trouble of propagating cuttings in November (before the first actual frost), we normally treat them as annuals. In other words, we let them die and pull them out of the ground and just plant new ones next summer. Because it is such a fast grower, you can actually take cuttings all summer long. CLICK HERE to learn more about propagation made easy.
10 years ago, coleus was almost always a "shade- loving" annual, but thanks to advancements in hybrids, there are many varieties of "sun-loving" coleus on the market. And for the ones that thrive in sun, they should say Sun Coleus somewhere on the label.
The main tip I hope you go away with today is that Coleus (sun or shade loving) need to be pinched back continuously to enhance their growth. Letting the plant go to seed, or form those tiny little lavender flowers, will shorten the life of the plant. Pinching back these seed heads is exactly what the phrase says: Pinching with the fingers to remove the tip of a growing shoot to encourage lateral growth. TAKE A LOOK.
One of the newest hybridizations to come along with Coleus is the massive leaf variety known as Kong Coleus. When I talked about the Kong Coleus last year during these email tips, I did note that they were designed mostly for the shade. Turns out that if the Kong Coleus is grown out in sunnier conditions to begin with they can put up with as much sun a Vinca does at this time of the year. That just means you need to ask a lot of questions about whether the Kong Coleus you're seeing at a retail garden center was propagated in more sun or more shade. Thus, that will be the environment it needs to be grown in. I was talked into about two-dozen six-inch containers of Kong Coleus from Great Western Growers this past May, and Paul Lanham the head honcho over at Great Western, told me that his were grown out in sun. So, I planted mine in full sun with much trepidation and low and behold, they look magnificent. And just like the other coleus mentioned above, I have to keep them pruned back at least every few weeks.
Bottom line, like I noted last year, you have got to see these things whether for the shade of for the sun, the spread and size of the leaves is remarkable.
Besides caladiums (which also has specific varieties for the sun and shade), I can't think of any easier plant to grow this summer that will give you a unique splash of color that doesn't entail the use of typical flats of flowers. In almost all cases (whether for sun or for shade), remember that they need to be planted in a bed with very good drainage. This may be why you see them excel in large containers consistently. Coleus also tends to feed on just about everything. I have used Nelson's Color Star as a food for coleus for years with great success. But I've heard success stories with Watch Us Grow, Medina Hasta Gro, Miracle Gro and sprinklings of left over lawn food. (3-1-2/4-1-2 formulations) But for ultimate growth, just remember any time you see a coleus go to flower/seed, pinch back that seed/bloom head so that you get bigger and better lateral growth.
Be sure to check out Randy's event page to see where else Randy will be for the next few weekends. Bring your plants, bugs, and diseases for identification purpose.
And you can still purchase a copy of my new book
Until our next issue, here's to great gardening from the GardenLine, heard exclusively weekend mornings 8 a.m.-noon on TALKRADIO 950 KPRC.
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