Sun coleus offers colorful foliage

Published 8:33 pm Sunday, October 3, 2021

By Gary R. Bachman
MSU Extension Service

All the gardeners I know try really hard to keep their landscapes colorful even when the temperatures and humidity are keeping them inside. Smart gardeners use a secret weapon for color in the heat of the summer: colorful foliage.

Plants with colorful foliage hold their color better than many of the warm-season flowering annuals. There are several great, colorful foliage plants, but my favorite is the coleus. This foolproof landscape plants provides vibrant color all season long, from planting in the spring to frost in the fall. We can even plant coleus in our full Mississippi sun.

Sun coleuses have rich and diverse colors, many of which are highly variegated. They offer a kaleidoscope of colors and combinations, but I lean towards planting the red or predominately red selections.

Here are some coleus varieties that have been great performers in my Mississippi home landscape.

Coleosaurus has brightly colored foliage that generates lots of attention. Its foliage is vibrant dark red and lime green, creating a bold contrast of colors.

A good selection from the Main Street coleus series is Oxford Street. This plant has an upright and spreading growth habit. It displays serrated, pointy leaves that remain cherry red with distinctive lime-green edges.

Marquee Box Office Bronze has unique foliage that is both elongated and serrated. This selection grows up to 24 inches tall with stunning bright-red to maroon foliage.

Redhead is an older favorite that brings landscape drama. The muted red leaves have small serrations on the edges, and they keep their terrific, bright red color when grown in shady conditions, unlike other coleus varieties.

While not a truly red coleus selection, I want to include Rustic Orange. This plant brings a bright, vibrant orange punch to any landscape. The edges of the foliage are yellow with serrations, adding landscape texture.

But what if you have a shady corner or patio and would like to include coleus? These sun-loving coleus selections will look great in these conditions, but the color development can be muted.

Coleuses are easy-to-grow, low-maintenance plants that are almost foolproof when grown in well-drained landscape beds or containers and consistently watered through droughty periods. They are also excellent in baskets as filler plants, especially when grown in combination with a vining or cascading plant.

Since we grow coleus for its boldly colored foliage, there is no point in letting it use energy to develop flowers. Pinch these off to help develop a bushy plant. Newer varieties have been bred to resist flowering until late in the season, if at all.