Coleus is like the girl who wasn’t popular in high school and has found herself, all grown up, receiving the praise and attention she never got before; even though she’s always been there, in the shadows, quietly doing her thing. Well, maybe it’s not the most accurate comparison, but I like to think my coleus are getting their just rewards for hanging on, even when they lost favour a few years ago with home gardeners and were replaced by flashy flowers with hot-coloured blooms. Coleus, like that unpopular girl, has so much going for it, and all it takes is for someone to point it out and remind us that yeah, that coleus is pretty cool with its funky colour-splashed leaves and shady disposition.
Coleus are annuals, at least here in my barely zone 4 Ontario garden. They are fairly tender: at around 12degreesC they kind of shut down. And a touch of frost?? Forget about it. Beginning of the end of coleus. But if you treat them as an annual: they are show-stealers. There are over 50 species of coleus. Head out to any garden centre in the spring and you’ll see them: ranging from deep, almost black purples to the most acid of chartreuses. And that there is probably the single most difficult part of growing of coleus: deciding which ones make the cut at the nursery. Prized for their outrageous leaf colours, coleus do have little flowers that pop up mid-season, but it’s a simple snip-snip to get rid of them if you want, or if you’re like me and grabbing a pair of scissors to deadhead is too much work, just ignore them. The flowers, in my opinion are insignificant enough that they don’t detract from the fabulous foliage. What you get is this great colour impact without any of the drudgery of deadheading or the pain of waiting for blooms to actually happen. It’s really win-win.
Coleus can tolerate some sun and there are even some newer varieties that thrive in a sunny garden. However, it’s not how I make use of my coleus. I plant mine on my front north-facing porch. A porch that has zero sun after the giant tree on my lawn leafs out. The coleus happily thrives there, in pots. Maybe they’re not as bright as they could be with a bit more light, but to tell you the truth, I really can’t tell the difference. They look so vibrant in comparison with the green on green on green color scheme I have going on in my garden, that they are often the topic of conversation when guests pop by (let me just say now that I never thought I would utter that sentence. Like ever.).
One of the coolest things about coleus for the home gardener is the ease with which it can be transplanted from cuttings. No need for root hormones here. Sure, coleus is only $2.99 a pot at the nursery, but it costs pennies to make a cutting and transplant it into a pot for the winter. So, you not only save a few bucks, you get this pop of colour in your home, and you get to brag that you grew it all by yourself (#ibragaboutitallthetime).
Okay, so you want to try your hand at making coleus transplants from cuttings? Here’s the how to:
DIY Coleus Transplants
Take some cuttings of the coleus you’d like to replant. I like to leave a longish stem, to make it easier for the plant to sit in water. Put the cutting in a small glass with water. I keep mine in a window with indirect light.
Keep an eye on the water level. Those coleus do like to drink (party animals).
It takes about two weeks or so to see those little roots developing at the end of the stem. Once there are a few long roots poking out, you’re ready to plant.
I use a potting soil that has vermiculite and pearlite and have found it successful. But use whatever potting soil works best for you. Just make sure it has good drainage. I recommend giving the potting soil a good water before planting the coleus cutting. Place plant near a window (north and east facing are best). Enjoy the fruits of your labour!