Coleus, or Solenostemon as they’re officially known these days, are a colourful and highly variable group of plants from the Mint family. These plants have been cultivated since Victorian times, and have gone in and out of fashion numerous times through the years. It appears they are enjoying a bit of a ‘retro-revival’ right now, becoming popular again for tropical or Balinese-style gardens.
The number of cultivars of this plant is mind-boggling. There are numerous different leaf shapes and growth habits, and come in just about every colour you can imagine (except blue!). They are unbeatable for adding intense colour to a landscape, or just as a bright potted specimen. Coleus are generally considered a short-lived annual in cooler climates, but in Brisbane they are a perennial. Winter will reduce their appearance but they bounce back very rapidly in Spring. During the warmer months these plants grow vigorously into a small shrub, most varieties attaining a height of 40-90cm. Water well while it’s actively growing. Reduce watering significantly over winter. Best grown in part shade, ideally with protection from afternoon sun. Plants grown in heavy shade will not keep their colour.
Most Coleus have a small blue flower on a short spike. However, it’s recommended that you remove the flowers when they appear, not only to save the plant some energy but also to keep the plant compact. Regular tip pruning results in sideways branching, producing a thick and full-looking plant.
Coleus suffer few pest and disease issues. However, grasshoppers love them and can be very damaging. Preventive sprays such as Neem Oil may have some effect. Diligent removal by hand is probably the most effective method though.
Easy to care for. Coleus do best in part sun on rich well-drained soils. Does not suffer any major pest issues but get attacked by grasshoppers. Will not tolerate frost. Fertilize with a slow release fertilizer such as Troforte.
Extremely colourful foliage