Unlike most others, the foliage of Coleus Carefree is not heart-shaped but resembles oak leaves, with big, lobed foliage in dazzling rich shades of jade, gold, red, and many pastels.
The bushy plants reach just a foot high and wide, and thanks to their self-branching habit, never need pinching to encourage side shoots, Very uniform in shape within the series, each plant is a little different both in colouration and in leaf shape, so that a large garden planting is particularly attention-getting.
This pleasingly unique Coleus, Carefree can be used just about anywhere to provide an anchor of exotic colour and/or texture in beds and containers. They shine as either the stars or the supporting players in the garden and no houseplant is as dramatic or as easy to grow and care for.
Coleus eventually produces woody stems and can be trained as standards. To do this, pinch out side-shoots and support the stem with a 3ft cane. When the plant reaches the desired height, pinch out the top shoot and keep removing lead shoots.
Sow all year round or in Late Spring for outdoor plants
Sow all year round for pot plant . For the garden, sow 10 to 12 weeks before the last expected frost , they will then be well developed when it is time to plant them outdoors.
Sow seeds onto a layer of moistened, sterile potting soil in a shallow tray, do not cover as they need light to germinate. Cover with glass or plastic to retain moisture, until the seeds have germinated. Place in a warm (21°C/ 0°F), bright (not full sun) place.
When the seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant into individual pots. Seedlings should always be held by a leaf, never by the stem.
When pricking out coleuses note that larger and stronger plants often have poorer quality foliage. When all danger of frost is past the plants may be set out in the garden. Plant them twelve inches apart in rich, moist, well-drained soil
Fertilise with a diluted (50% mix) liquid fertiliser, too much feeding with high nitrogen fertilisers, encourages soft growth and poorer quality foliage.
Grow them outside in a semi shady spot in the warm months and move them inside to a well lit window in the winter. They should be kept at a 15-20°C (60-70°F) over winter. They will survive down to 10°C (50°F) but only if kept dry. Losses to rot and fungal diseases are high if the plants are allowed to get cold and damp. Coleus is very durable, you can cut your plant back severely if needed (almost back to the soil level).
The intensity of light which the plant receives will have a direct bearing on the intensity of the foliage colouring. Some varieties of coleus may produce their best colour in light shade, while others look best in bright lighting.
Best in pots as house plants, or in the warmer conservatory, coleus can also be grown in containers or window boxes alongside other temporary summer planting. They can also look good bedded out with salvias, rudbeckias, gaillardias and other late-summer flowers in the red-yellow end of the spectrum in warm borders.
The roots of coleus are known from ancient times, where it served as a stand in for Salvia divinorum, in shamanistic rituals. Not much research has been done on the psychoactive chemicals within the plant. The effects resemble those of psilocybin, which is found in psilocybian mushrooms.
Two coleus species were in cultivation here by the 1860s, C. verschaftelti and C. blumei, and the first coloured-leaf variety appeared at a Royal Horticultural Society show in June 1861, introduced by William Bull, a nurseryman of King's Road, Chelsea. Seven years later the RHS organised a promotional auction of new hybrids. One plant fetched 59 guineas, expensive now, but in those days was an enormous sum.
Meanwhile Bull had bred about 150 varieties, of which he was marketing the best 18, cannily timing new releases to coincide with mentions of the plant in the gardening press. The breeding and propagation of sports was so frenetic that Gardener's Chronicle of 1869 dubbed it "coleus fever". Varieties have changed little since then and we're still working with essentially Victorian material.
Several years ago, the powers that be changed the name to Solenostemon but in a blatant act of taxonomic defiance, we refuse to call them anything but Coleus.
Ray Rogers - Coleus: Rainbow Foliage for Containers and Gardens:
This book is the most comprehensive work ever written on coleus, covering over 225 varieties with almost 400 spectacular photographs. The last half of the book (almost 100 pages) is an encyclopedia of the various coleus cultivars. The categories are in themselves quite informative. First there are the trailing ones (great for hanging baskets and container gardening), then they are broken down by leaf shape and size (elongate, fingered, duckfoot, twisted, and little), and then it starts to get really interesting. The next and largest section is “Cultivars by colour or pattern”. There are 26 sub-categories in this section! Red with green edge, Red with orange edge, Red-Orange with yellow edge, Yellow with red flecks or patterns, Green with red edge, and on and on. The last section is called Unique Cultivars and these are the ones that defy categorisation. The pros and cons of each variety are discussed in detail.
The chapter on Coleus in the Garden is just incredible. It’s mostly pictures with detailed captions, but wow, what pictures. The colour, shape and texture combinations with other plants is positively psychedelic. And when coleus are combined with other tropicals (such as croton) it’s as good as it gets! Coleus are after all from Java.
The photo captions are remarkably thorough, sometimes explaining what’s wrong and how to avoid it. Rogers lets us know that the same cultivar can have lots of different names, and lets us know what they all are. He tells us what to expect from the different seed mixes. If you weren’t a big coleus fan when you opened the book, you will be by the time you close it.
Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, www.timberpress.com, 2008.
978-0-88192-865-5, 288 pages, colour photographs, hardback.
|Packet Size||25 Seeds|
|Synonym||Coleus blumei, Solenostemon blumei, Ocimum scutellarioides|
|Common Name||Coleus, Painted Nettle. Flame Nettle|
|Other Common Names||Other|
|Hardiness||Tender Perennial often used as an Annual|
|Foliage||Oak-shaped Leaves in Brilliant Reds, Greens, and Golds|
|Position||Full Sun or partial shade.|
|Soil||Rich, moist, well-drained soil|
|Time to Sow||Sow all year round for indoor plants or sow in late spring for outdoor plants|
|Notes||Often grown as an Annual|