530 Coleus x hybridusCommon Names: Flame Nettle, Painted Leaf Family: Lamiaceae (mint Family)
The over 200 coleus varieties we now enjoy in our gardens are hybrids derived from several species. Most of these are succulent evergreen perennials. They vary in height from 1 to 6 ft (0.3-15.2 m). The distinguishing feature of coleus is it's beautifully colored and patterned leaves. These leaves are velvety to the touch and vary in size from 1-8 in (2.5-20.3 cm) in length. They come painted in a startling palette of colors from florescent yellow, to red, pink, white, maroon, and cream. One of my favorites is a striking metallic purple and violet. The light blue or lavender flowers are usually unimpressive and tend to detract from the glory of the plants foliage.
Coleus Blumei is a parent of many of the coleus hybrids, it is native to the island of Java (Indonesia). Another parent is C. pumilus which is also native to Indonesia and to an area extending across the East Indies to the Philippines. Other species used to hybridize the many varieties of coleus come from Africa, India and Central America.
CulturePrefers a light well drained soil. In most varieties, the flowers aren't much to look at. If you don't remove them as they appear, at least remove them when they fade to keep the plants from looking scruffy Light: Shade to bright sun depending on the variety. If grown indoors provide space near a bright window. Moisture: Provide adequate moisture - varieties grown in bright sun require frequent watering. Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 10. Coleus hybrids are tender perennials that are typically grown as annuals in most areas of the U.S. Coleus can be lifted in the fall, placed in containers and overwintered indoors. Propagation: The best way to propagate is by cuttings which root easily. The seed is very small and must be germinated under warm conditions - a real hassle. I prefer to buy small plants in cel-paks to make sure that I get exactly the color and pattern I want. Seeds gathered from the garden produce offspring that are variable and usually quite unlike the parent plant.
Because they are inexpensive, most gardeners treat this plant as an annual, disposing of old plants in the fall and replacing with new plants in the spring. Coleus is a perfect choice to brighten shady areas with bursts of color. Creates striking effects when used in mass plantings. Also great in containers indoors (provide light and humidity) and out. Coleus is the low maintenance king of the flower bed and border.
Coleus can provide dramatic effects in a short time with little effort on the part of the gardener. Because it is so easy to root cuttings, even the cash challenged gardener can propagate enough plants to really put on a show. Durability and ease of propagation have made the coleus a school-time favorite for teaching kids about plants and botany.
Steve Christman 01/16/99; updated 2/10/04