This delectable coleus will have you enamoured with its velvety chocolate-brown foliage. ‘Dark Chocolate’ is breathtaking, its foliage looking even darker in partial shade, its leaves neatly "pinked."
Its colouring shades darker in part or light shade and leans to burgundy in full sun. Very showy, Dark Chocolate makes an impression, even from a distance.
Happy to grow in full sun if given plenty of water, this adaptable coleus also smoulders in the shade. No matter how hot your summer days get the foliage will not turn green.
Neat and well-branched, especially if you pinch the growing tip a few times when the seedlings are young, this coleus reaches 30 to 35cm (12 to 14in) high and about 25 to 30cm (10 to 12in) wide, a good size for containers or the middle of the annual border.
Very easy to start from seed, ‘Dark Chocolate’ displays its colourful glory from the moment its tiny new leaves emerge until hard frost. The leaves are coloured and scalloped from the moment they unfurl, so growing this coleus from seed is a delightful experience.
Sowing: 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 30cm (12in) 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.
Pinch the centre stems out when the plants are 4 to 6 inches tall to induce bushier growth, and be sure to pick off the flower spikes as they form. For a bushy plant Continue to pinch out new shoots. Coleus is very durable, so you can cut your plant back severely if needed (almost back to the soil level).
Coleus 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.
At some point it will set tiny flowers on tall stems, but these don't do much for its looks, and can be snipped off. You don't want anything blocking the view of those velvety chocolate-brown leaves.
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 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 scutellarioides but in a blatant act of taxonomic defiance, we refuse to call them anything but Coleus.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 10 Pelleted Seeds Seed Form Supplied as easy-to-sow pelleted seed.
Packed in plastic phial for ease of sowing
Family Lamiaceae Genus Solenostemon Species scutellarioides Cultivar Dark Chocolate Synonym Coleus blumei Common Name Painted Nettle. Flame Nettle Hardiness Tender Perennial often used as an Annual Foliage Chocolate-brown with scalloped edges Height 30 to 35cm (12 to 14in) Spread 25 to 30cm (10 to 12in) Spacing Plant 30cm (12in) apart 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