If plants had superpowers, the coleus plant would be one of the most powerful. Its ability to bring color, texture and shape to any garden is unmatched.
It’s the rainbow on the ground. Among the many plants and flowers that Teresia Kinuthia sells in her garden center along Nairobi Ngong’ Road, coleus are barely resting.
“They are popular because of their colorful foliage, different textures and shapes. Unlike seasonal flowers, coleuses stun daily. Plus, they are low maintenance, pest and disease resistant, easy to propagate, and can be pruned to any desired shape,” says Ms. Kinuthia.
It has eight varieties of the plant in single-colored or multi-colored varieties.
Plant a garden with coleus
The versatility and beauty of a coleus plant make it easy to style. Plant it individually or in groups by combining its different colors and textures in pots or in the ground. Alternatively, combine it with other plants for an exotic look. In a small garden, coleus plants will be a real tonic, says Anabelle Njoki, a coleus lover in Nairobi.
“Since there is no end of season, use it to create a focus or focal point.”
When using a layering system common in gardens leaning against a wall, give this tropical plant a front row seat allowing it to shine as it does not grow tall.
Let it light up edges and borders to maintain the look of the garden as the days go by, or create blocks of color using its varieties of solid hues. “If your flower beds are in shady areas, select a shade-tolerant variety to add spice,” shares the entrepreneur.
Take advantage of the flashy colors of coleus to ward off the moody mood of nooks or to soften the edges of stairs.
Arrange it around your garden furniture but in a contrasting color to make it more fun.
You can also use coleus plants at the base of trees as a mat over the root system. This adds a chic touch to the base. Also, place hanging baskets dripping with glory and aura of coleus near the doorway or garden walls to create a bright air garden.
Popping it into pots individually or in groups works. Due to their different colors, you can plant several in one pot or mix and match.
However, repotting in layers with other plants adds coolness. To make such a pot, you need a thriller, a filler and a spill. Single or mixed coleuses are perfect as fillers. An excellent combination with coleus is a croton and ivy.
“The trick is to strike a balance between light and dark varieties and warm and cool tones,” adds Ms. Njoki.
Propagate a Coleus
“Using a clean pair of scissors, cut two to three inches off the shoot from the plant. Remove all but two pairs of leaves,” says Ms Kinuthia.
“Take this cut section and plant it directly in your potting soil but in indirect sunlight. New life will start to appear after two weeks.
You can also place the cut part in water and under direct sunlight, refilling the water if necessary and changing the water if it looks cloudy. Once the roots emerge, plant the newly rooted plant in potting soil.
“Give new plants plenty of water and plenty of room to thrive. When watering, avoid spilling water on the foliage of the plant to minimize fungal infections,” adds Ms. Njoki, who waters her coleuses early in the morning to protect them from humidity.
“To avoid pests, a mixture of oil and soap on the underside of the leaves will render the plant uninhabitable.”