Coleus Plants

The Martha Stewart Show, November 2009

Gardening expert and author Ray Rogers is a fan of colorful coleus plants -- they're easy to grow, adaptable to indoor containers or the garden, and require very little fertilizer.

Available in countless varieties, they can make a wonderful present for anyone who loves to garden -- turn propagated coleus plants into charming holiday gifts by downloading and attaching this Coleus Care Tips tag to them.

Coleus Care
Coleus plants kept indoors during the winter can often suffer from too much heat and a dry environment. During the winter, they need as much sun as possible.

Water once a week if kept in a sunny window. Also, keep an eye out for mealy bug, which the coleus plant is prone to getting. To get rid of these pests, either squish them or spray the plant with a low-toxicity insecticidal soap.

Propagating Coleus
To propagate coleus plants, begin by choosing a healthy looking stem (free of less-than-healthy looking leaves, bugs, disease, or dirt) that is at least 6 inches long. Remove any flower buds or small leaves at the tip, as well as the woody-looking part at the base of the stem.

These cuttings can now be used in one of two ways:
1. Take the cuttings with three or four nodes (the places where the leaves are attached) and remove the lowest pair. Then place in water or moist potting mix. You won't need to place a bag over the cuttings unless the air is very dry.

2. Take the cuttings with one or two nodes, and cut back the leaves from the stem. Stick them into oasis wedges, place them in a brightly lit spot, and keep them moist.

Plants Seen on the Show
Pink Chaos
With a vibrant pink color, this coleus variety can easily take the place of a flowering plant. With elongated leaves that often look like they're moving, this plant thrives in the morning sun.

Sunn's Green and Gold
Like most coleus plants, this variety grows quickly. With shades of green, yellow, and white in the leaves, the plant appears predominantly bright green and often seems to glow from a distance. Be sure to pinch off the flower buds when you notice them, as their pointy blooms will divert the plant's energy away from making leaves.

Tiny Toes
With tiny, elongated leaves, this plant is a perfect choice for a topiary. The variety grows very quickly, making it an excellent filler in a pot or as a mounded ground cover. The more sun it receives, the more yellow it will show.

Meteor
With bright-red and yellow leaves, this variety is a perfect plant to brighten up a dreary winter day and will take in all but the strongest sun.

Odalisque
A trailing plant with bendable stems that will hang gracefully from a container, this variety can also be used as ground cover in a garden bed -- try mixing it with other plants so its leaves bob, weave, and cascade.

Resources
For more information, visit showplants.net and check out "Coleus: Rainbow Foliage for Containers and Gardens" (Timber Press). Additional coleus information can be found at coleusfinder.org and davesgarden.com.

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