My Favorite Ornamental Is A Leaf

By Laura Miller | June 11, 2021
Image by Aravind S M
by Laura Miller
June 11, 2021

I love flowers. I plant the brightest, showiest annuals I can find each year, both in beds and in pots for the back patio. I love hot pink geraniums, orange impatiens, and rainbow-hued petunias, but a few years ago I discovered one of my favorite ornamentals is all about foliage: coleus.

Growing Coleus 

I started growing coleus after giving up on growing my beloved petunias on our shady back patio. Not only was the shade an issue, but the resident earwigs devoured them. I discovered the coleus section at my local garden center and fell in love with the variety of colors. 

Coleus is a tender annual and a member of the mint family. It grows well in shady spots, but I have since learned that some varieties like sun. I takes well to containers, which is where I put it for the summer months. Best of all perhaps, coleus is low maintenance. I don’t water it often. 

I do, however, pinch off the flowers as they appear. The flowers are unspectacular and only detract from the leaves. Also, to keep the plants from getting leggy, I pinch off top growth once in a while. 

My Favorite Varieties of Coleus

What I love so much about coleus is the endless variety of color, pattern, and texture. I like to mix and match for a spectacular display of color and leaf size. Here are some favorites: 

  • Chocolate Covered Cherry. This is such an evocative name. The leaves are bright red in the center, with a darker, chocolatey red around the edge and a thin green margin. 
  • Watermelon. Once again, this name aptly describes the leaves. They are bright pink in the center with an edge of green. 
  • Inferno. This one is truly unique, and a great addition to fall containers. The leaves are rich orange-pink color. 
  • Black Dragon. For pure drama, this variety doesn’t disappoint. This one does very well in shade and has deep, dark, purple-red leaves. 
  • Limelight. I love to add this one””or a similar variety called Wasabi, depending on what’s available””to contrast with all the dark colors, the red, and the orange. These two varieties are a solid chartreuse color. 

These are just a few types of coleus varieties you can try in your garden. As their popularity soars, you can find all kinds of new plants, from little dwarf varieties with small leaves to giants with plate-sized leaves. As an easy ornamental, coleus is hard to beat.

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