Memories from my Grandma's Garden - coleus

Memories of My Grandma’s Coleus

Coleus – A great foliage plant

I can remember seeing this plant when I was a little girl. My grandmother grew it year round. She was a pastor’s wife and the parsonage was always, in my little girl’s mind,  a really pretty house. I can remember a home in Elkton, KY in which the living room had a bump-out bay window and her couch was at that end of the room with plants behind it.

And she grew coleus there.

To me, it seemed she could grow anything. She had ferns and rubber plants, prayer plants, and philodendron among many others. She would pinch off a branch of the coleus and put it into an old washed jelly jar and my Mom would take it home. I remember helping to balance the little jar on the drive home. I felt so responsible for the little plant.

My Mom would set the jar on the kitchen window sill and make sure we kept water in the jar. Then magically, roots would appear on the little stem and in a week or ten days, we could plant it up on its own.

Then we had a plant that we could pinch and give away. Gardeners are like that. Most of them love to give a cutting or a pinch of something to someone who admires a plant that we grow.

The scientific name is Solenostemon scutellaroides  and I hear it is also called Painted Nettle, but coleus is such an easy name, I really think painted nettle is not often used. It sure isn’t a”sticker bush.”

Coleus - Beautiful colors in the summer sun or shade

These plants are hardy to Zone 10-11 so it is not something I can grow outside all year in my Ohio garden. But I can grow it all year by pinching off branches and rooting them to bring indoors and having a plant inside all winter season. Since they are so colorful, this is really nice to do. But be sure you get a healthy branch with no “hitchhikers” or you may regret it. Washing the branch can usually get rid of them.

Most common to infect a coleus is spider mites and whiteflies. So be sure to wash them thoroughly when bringing indoors, and through the year in the garden, use insecticidal soap weekly.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]A coleus brought indoors will drop some leaves but this is just a reaction to the change in temperature and lighting. It will recover shortly and thrive.[/su_pullquote]

These plants seem to just glow in the garden. The colors are so varied that you can complement almost every plant in the garden. I love it paired with creeping Jenny, sweet potato vine, and it looks good with your growing chrysanthemums bushes as you wait for them to bud and bloom. The texture of the leaves is soft and and the colors are deep and bold in some varieties and more subdued in others. There are varieties to grow in the sun and shade, but I think the shade varieties show up more elegantly in the garden..

Coleus can be grown by seed indoors about 8-10 weeks prior to your last expected spring frost.

Flowers on the Coleus

Coleus as a Complimentary Plant-

As for the flowers on coleus………..meh!  These are like small wispy stalks that are not pretty to me. When I see the little bud beginning, I pinch that off. Pinching is what makes the whole plant get bushier and bushier and this is what I want.

So my advice would be to pinch those off so that your plant doesn’t say “I’m done” and start getting shabby. We want to keep her looking good for all season. We don’t want the plant to use all of its energy to make the flowers. We want more branches and leaves!

Try this plant and you will not be disappointed. It is colorful and easy and fast growing. What else can you ask? And be sure a share a pinch with a friend.

It’s tradition!

Have you grown coleus? How do you like it?

Typical Cell Pack You Purchase - Coleus -
The 6 cell pack in garden centers.

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