Coleus: Flame nettle
Height 30-45cm (12-18in)
Planting distance 30cm (1ft) Foliage plant
Sunny site or dappled shade
Tender perennial grown as annual
Coleus blumei and its varieties are valued for their colourful, evergreen foliage – nettle-like leaves in various shades and patterns of green, yellow, red and maroon. Though most commonly grown as indoor pot plants, they look equally effective in formal beds and containers outdoors, where they provide a splendid setting for summer-flowering plants.
Flowers do appear – tiny blue and white tubular bells – but it is best to remove them as soon as buds form to encourage bushy foliage growth.
The following popular varieties have been developed from Coleus blumei. Some are in single colours, others are sold as mixtures.
‘Dragon’ is a mixture with large serrated leaves in reds and maroons edged with gold. It reaches 30cm (1ft) high.
‘Fairway’ has delicate foliage on 20-25cm (8-10in) high neatly-growing plants. Distinct colours in various combinations.
‘Fashion Parade’ has elongated, or deeply lobed, serrated or fringed leaves in shades of pink, gold, jade and scarlet. It grows to 30cm (12in) high.
‘Milky Way’ is a dwarf variety, to 15cm (6in) tall, with deeply cut leaves in either vivid or pale colours. Suitable for window-boxes and small pots.
‘Mini Coral’ is tiny, up to 15cm (6in) high and wide and of well- balanced shape; various leaf colour combinations.
‘Molten Lava’ has black and carmine leaves and reaches 23-30cm (9-12in) high.
‘Pineapple Beauty’ has yellow-green leaves with rich maroon markings. It reaches 30-45cm (12-18in) high.
‘Rainbow’ comes in a wide range of bright, rich foliage colours. It is a tall variety, reaching 45cm (18in) high.
‘Rose Wizard’ grows 25-30cm (10-12in) high and has foliage in shades of cream, bright green and pink; good for hanging baskets.
‘Scarlet Poncho’ has maroon leaves with lemon-yellow edging. Its cascading habit makes it an excellent variety for hanging baskets. The plants reach 30cm (1ft) high.
‘Wizard Mixed’ is a mixture of free-branching varieties, up to 30cm (12in) high, coming in a range of bright colours. The shoots do not need to be pinched out.
Sow the seeds in early spring under glass. Pot on as required or plant out in early summer, either singly or in groups, spacing them 30cm (1ft) apart. Coleus grow in any well-drained but moisture retentive soil, in sun or dappled shade.
Pinch out the growing tips and remove flower buds when they appear, to encourage sidebranching and healthy growth. Good colour forms can be propagated from tip cuttings taken in late summer and rooted under glass.
Pests and diseases