No flowers needed with this foliage!

Out in the garden, coleus, Plectranthus scutellarioides, prefers partial shade where the foliage is less likely to get roasted during arid and warm summer weather. It is grown as a warm season annual instead of as a perennial, because it gets so tired through winter, and can be killed by even a very mild frost. Its sensitivity to exposure in the garden is probably why it is more familiar as a houseplant.

The flashy and sometimes deeply lobed foliage is variegated with any combination of green, chartreuse, yellow, orange, red, burgundy, pink, white, brown and almost black. Flower spikes should be snipped as they develop to keep foliage dense. The tiny purple flowers are not much to brag about anyway. Large plants can get to two feet tall and broad. Cuttings root easily in rich and regularly moist potting soil or just plain water. Seeds need sunlight to germinate, so should only be pressed onto the surface of damp potting soil without getting covered, and misted daily.


15 thoughts on “Coleus

    1. Wow, I never had it self sow before. But of course, I neither grow it in my own garden, nor tend to it where it grows at work. It might grow from seed there, only to be pulled as weeds. However, I do not believe that it blooms much. When I grew it as a houseplant, it would not stop blooming, but the floral stalks got snipped off before going to seed.

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      1. White is not a great color for coleus. Nor is is common. There is a bit of white in the middle of the leaves of the specimen in the illustration, but it is really just creamy white with mostly pale yellow. There are many plants that excel at more ‘colorful’ colors than white, either foliar or floral, such as coleus and crape myrtle.

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      2. I used this picture because of the good contrast. I prefer the rich burgundy sorts because that is what I remember from the 1970s. I dislike modern cultivars of most plants, but some of the modern cultivars of coleus look like the old classics.

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      3. As much as I prefer white, it is not the best color for every flower or variegation. It is actually rather boring for crape myrtle, which really should be brightly colored. Coleus and caladiums really excel at bright or rich colors.

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    1. Yes, they were more popular as houseplants for a long time until the late 1970s or so. My kindergarten teacher grew them in our classroom. I do not know why they ever lost popularity.


    1. They both have their appeal. I prefer coleus mainly because it is familiar. Caladium has a distinctly tropical texture though, as well as potential for silvery patterns that coleus lacks.


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