Chris Fedderson — MacroFine Musings
In Coleus-beration with:
Kathy Lawler — Guest Blogger
In our college days no dorm room or apartment was complete without one or more potted specimens of: Boston Fern, Schefflera, Spider Plant, and, of course, Coleus. Back then our collective taste in houseplants was about on a par with our taste in beer; we’d happily drink brands now consider un-palatable, and we’d keep our houseplants no matter how raggedy, misshapen, or bug-ridden they were.
We’ve all come a long way since then, and so has our friend, Coleus. Having recently re-ignited an appreciation in all things gardening, there was still one plant we just couldn’t wrap our heads around wanting in our yard. It was Coleus. It wasn’t until we built our Uber-Fun Yard Pots that we had a reason to even explore Coleus.
Back then, it seemed Coleus had just one look: “normal” leaves, green with a dab of color in the middle, and trailing stems. Now, OMGoodness! There are now about a billion new cultivars of Coleus. Curly leaves. Small leaves. Big leaves. Purple. Red. Maroon. Yellow. Some leaves don’t even have any green at all! We’ve got stand-up varieties. Trailing ones. Shade-preferring and full-sun-tolerant choices. Seems there are now Coleus varieties available to satisfy any, and every, gardening need — indoors and out. We had great luck growing them last year, so this season we added several more varieties. We purchased Burgundy Wedding Train, Electric Coral, El Brighto, and several more they are doing really well.
The variety and color of this annual wins big for us! We love the constant color of the foliage and what they bring to a yard — you don’t have to wait for blooms to have color. Another interesting think about Coleus is that depending on the conditions they are grown in — perhaps the soil or the sunlight vs. shade, or maybe the day/night temperature — their colors change making them all the more enjoyable.
One thing about Coleus that hasn’t changed though, is its ability to grow from cuttings. We’ve rooted them in a glass of water and we’ve rooted them by simply sticking new cuttings into consistently moist potting soil. Planting them directly in soil has won for us, but you have to be able to bear that they will look horrible for a week or two after doing this. They look like they are going to die any minute but then one day — they perk up and start going crazy.
To root in soil, you need cut off stalks 2-3 inches longer than you want to have protruding out of the soil. Choose stalks where you have leaves at the bottom that you can cut off so the node will be the source of your new roots. Poke a hole in the dirt (I use a nail, a huge 40d one) and then gently insert the stem and carefully and pack soil around it.
Using cuttings is a great way to experiment with pairing up different looks in the same pot. Try a stand-up variety like Eruption with a trailing type such as Trailing Green Olives. Or mix a bunch of them in a planter. Or mix a bunch of them with several other different species. Coleus with Fountain Grass, Sweet Potato Vine, and Variegated Trailing Viola, perhaps. The possibilities are wide open!
So, go through your old yearbooks. Look up your old friend, Coleus. Invite Coleus into your home for a visit. You’ll be happily surprised with what you discover!
Thank You for visiting,
— Chris and Kathy
P.s. What unusual pairings have you tried in either your yard in your houseplants? Do you have a favorite combination? Let’s share stories and try each other’s combos!
I am a Virginia-based photographer and gather my images while hiking in parks and natural areas here at home and in the locations I travel to. I also love to visit arboretums and botanic gardens to find unusual and exotic subjects.