Anyone who has ever tried rooting Coleus blumei from cuttings knows how easy it is to grow them.
Many of us got our first house plant – a coleus that way, but did you ever try growing them from seed for a really plentiful supply and to avoid having to winter over so many?
It’s so simple, it’s almost like growing radishes!
Coleus seeds are a little larger than those of petunias, and although they may be sown at any time of the year when warmth can be furnished, seeds sown during February will produce plants of just the right size for outdoor use in May.
Use a planting medium like one used for african violet care in a pot three or four inches deep or any other type of container with plenty of drainage.
An easy method for planting the seed is to mix it with a bit of finely screened peat or clean, dry sand and sprinkle over the seed bed.
Do not cover the seed, but give the top of the bed a gentle firming with the palm of your hand. Set the container in warm water so that moisture comes from the bottom and will not disturb the seed.
When the water has reached the top of the soil, remove the pot from the water and place a piece of glass or cellophane over the top to conserve moisture.
Place the container in a shaded, warm place to await germination. Be sure that the soil does not dry out one drying after the seeds have begun to swell will be likely to ruin your chances for seedlings.
Germination should occur in about ten days. The seedlings will need ventilation and sunlight if they are to grow strong.
A match stick under the glass, or a few holes punched in the cellophane should provide this until the seedlings are growing well perhaps in a week’s time.
As they grow and appear stronger, remove the covering entirely. Transplanting will be necessary as soon as they begin to crowd each other in the seed bed.
Coleus are as easy to transplant as anything you’ll ever grow. Put them in individual pots, cans, or group them in a flat a few inches apart.
Uses of Coleus
When seedlings have four to six leaves you’re ready to use coleus like paint from a tray wherever a spot of rich color and velvety texture is needed.
Almost no two seedlings will have the exact same leaf pattern or coloring. At this time pinch out the top two new leaves to encourage branching and a more sturdy, bushy plant.
Coleus are ideal for formal gardens, in a border, or to heighten the effect of some blossoming plant by repeating its flower hue. I’ve seen this done effectively in a garden surrounding the museum at Denver, Colorado.
They cannot be excelled for use in planter boxes, urns, and porch boxes outdoors.
They may be combined with begonias, petunias, wandering jew, or any other plant commonly used in this sort of planting.
In Missouri last summer I saw a most striking planting of assorted coleus seedlings on the east side of a shade garden where they received full sun until early afternoon.
On either side of the garden entrance two white ornamental iron urns were set, planted with coleus whose leaves were of the richest wine velvet with a tiny leaf edge of green.
To take up the reddish-purple of the coleus leaves, this landscaper was smart in using something unusual… achimenes.
When you set seedlings outdoors they may need to be shaded for a few days; but once they are established, they can stand plenty of sunlight, and it seems to make their colors more vivid.
However, the best outdoor use of coleus is to bring color to a spot not reached by sun – for unlike so many plants, coleus tolerates shade.
The best window garden specimens are often those grown against a plate glass shop window or one given sole domain in someone’s bright picture window.
For such individual use, a good variety is one whose leaves are deep, soft red edged delicately in light green. Specimen plants should be turned frequently and judicious pinching of new growth stimulates denseness.
Likes and Dislikes
Coleus like a fertile soil and liberal doses of organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion or liquid food water. Care should be taken not to overwater.
While plants do grow quickly and use much moisture, extreme wetness, especially if conditions are cool, will cause rotting.
Coleus have one foe-the cottony mealybug. If your plants get a good case of this gnawing little horror, pull out the whole mess; then buy a packet of seed and grow some new plants.
Try coleus in your busiest living area for they are wonderfully savable. No cause for concern when over zealous pets or youngsters in a fast game of indoor ball devastate your plants.
If they’re coleus you can pick up the pieces, stick them in water in a glass or jar and soon you’ll have rooted coleus cuttings ready for potting. And quite decorative they are in process!
Even a badly battered mature plant will put out new growth, particularly if it can be moved to an outdoor location.
Coleus are ideal for the casual grower who is more interested in creating a pleasing decorative effect than in the plants themselves.
They are a standby as color accent in the all foliage planting and they are encouraging material for children or any beginning gardener. No waiting for blooms; with coleus the color is there from the first!