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More about Coleus

Solenostemon is a genus of perennial plants, native to tropical Africa, Asia, Australia, the East Indies, the Malay Archipelago, and the Philippines. They are commonly known as Coleus, a name which derives from an earlier classification under the genus name Coleus, species of which are currently included in either Solenostemon or another genus, Plectranthus. They are best known for their bright colors, and variety of foliage forms.
Coleus are typically grown as ornamental plants. They are heat-tolerant, though they do less well in full sun in subtropical areas than in the shade. In cultivation in temperate areas, they are often grown as annuals as they are not hardy and become leggy and unattractive with age. In bright hot areas, the colors of the plant will typically be more intense in shaded areas than in full sun, and the plants will require less water there. Although they are technically a “tender perennial” (even the slightest frost will cause them to die), they are most often considered to be an annual plant by growers and seed producers.
The plants grow well in moist well-drained soil, and typically grow 0.5-1 m tall, though some may grow as tall as 2 meters. Your Coleus should be planted in a light, quick draining, commercial potting soil. Place it where it will receive several hours of bright light (south window) each day, or provide artificial “grow” lighting for best leaf color, and fullest plant. Coleus plants will adapt to a wide range of temperatures above 55 degrees, but will grow best when they are kept between 70 and 85 degrees. Keep the soil evenly moist, but never soggy. Feed your Coleus plants monthly, with a diluted (50% mix) liquid house plant fertilizer. Flower buds must be pinched off as soon as they develop to prevent the plant from producing seeds. If your intent is to grow your Coleus as a house plant, the seed may be sown indoors, at any time of the year. If the seedlings are destined for a garden location, they should be started indoors, at least 10 weeks before your last expected frost, so that the plants will be well developed when it is time to plant them outdoors.
You can create a clone of your favorite Coleus by taking softwood stem cuttings at any time of the year. Use a sharp clean knife to cut the stem just below a leaf node. Remove the lowest leaves, dip the cut end into a rooting hormone and insert it into some fresh, sterile potting soil. These cuttings will be ready to use as a bright garden accent by early June. They will also root quickly when set in moist sand or vermiculite, or even in a glass of room temperature tap water.
Coleus are also quite striking when they are planted in a container, and grown as a house plant. By removing the flower spikes as they develop, and keeping the plant pinched back, the Coleus can be kept in a perennial state for several seasons. Coleus plants are widely available in a variety of sizes ranging from bedding plant “six packs” to massive specimen sized hanging house plants. The intensity of light which the plant receives will also have a direct bearing on the intensity of the foliage coloring. Some varieties may produce their best color in light shade, while others look best in bright lighting.
Coleus plants should not be set into the landscape until the minimum outdoor temperature is 50 degrees F. Although Coleus plants will usually survive in full sun, the foliage color tends to intensify in light shade when they are grown outdoors. Plant them twelve inches apart in rich, moist, well-drained soil with a neutral or slightly alkaline pH. Feed monthly with a liquid all purpose (10-10-10) fertilizer. Pinch the center stems out when the plants are 4 to 6 inches tall to induce bushier growth, and be sure to pick off the flower spikes as they form.

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