How You Can Grow Coleus In The Shade Garden

It’s an easy-to-grow shade garden plant that does well in container gardens as well.

Coleus ‘Fishnet Stockings’
Coleus ‘Fishnet Stockings’ from Proven Winners

Coleus is usually grown for its amazing foliage and not for the flowers. Luckily, they are easy to grow, easy to start from seed or cuttings and have a wonderful range of both colored leaves as well as leaf sizes.

They’re low maintenance. No picking of flowers and if they do produce them later in the season, I recommend you simply snip them off.

Quick Growing Details

  • Sun exposure — grow mostly in part-shade to shade although there are a fewadvertised varieties that will handle more sunshine than others. I note that many plant labels say “sun” as a general rule but in my experience, this is a shade plant.
  • Planting: Generally, coleus are planted about 2/3 of their height apart (give or take) An 18-inch coleus is then planted 12-inches apart.
  • Water and feed; It prefers a steady supply of water and regular plant food. In containers, I use a liquid fish emulsion in containers (Amazon paid link) and regular compost in the gardens. (Although I have been known to pump up the growth now and then with the fish emulsion.)
  • Pruning: If you want it to bush out, prune off the growing tips. Pinch off any flowers that develop, they’re not attractive and take away from the beauty of the foliage.
  • Cold tolerance: It is not frost hardy — a whiff of frost and it is pretty much done.
  • Height: it varies by variety — from low 18-inch plants to taller 36-inch varieties.
  • Propagation of hybrids is by taking cuttings

Some Coleus I’m Testing In My Garden

Coleus ‘Rediculous’
Coleus ‘Rediculous‘ from Proven Winners

Coleus ‘Rediculous (Proven Winners is under trial this year and I’ll have notes about its performance as the season progresses. Let me start by saying this plant was sent to me for test purposes.

Initial impression: early July. It’s growing well in the shade garden even in the high heat we’ve been experiencing.

After Season Report: Excellent plant. Good growth. No flowers so that was good. If I were growing it again, I’d pinch the top growth when it hit 12-inches tall to make it bush out a bit more. Plant next to a brighter colored plant to make it stand out in the shade.

Coleus ‘Colorblaze Alligator Tears’ Proven Winners

Coleus ‘Colorblaze Alligator Tears’ from Proven Winners. Good variegated coleus and it grow well in the deep shade. It did flower later in the season, unfortunately (I dislike coleus flowers as I grow them for the foliage) but given I gave it really poor soil and almost no care it was a good plant. I think it would be a much better plant if somebody loved it a little more and kept it well-pinched and bushy. (The one I planted out in the better garden was “enjoyed” by some critter)

Well worth a try if you like the variegation coloring.

I’ve grown this plant and it performed very well in my own garden. It made an excellent container plant for me (could be grown in a garden as well) and it contrasts nicely with the lighter — golden toned — coleus.

  • Height: 24–36 inches
  • Spread 18–24 inches
  • Growth habit: upright

Coleus ‘Torchlight’
Good variegated coleus and it grow well in the deep shade. It did flower later in the season, unfortunately (I dislike coleus flowers as I grow them for the foliage) but given I gave it really poor soil and almost no care it was a good plant. I think it would be a much better plant if somebody loved it a little more and kept it well-pinched and bushy. (The one I planted out in the better garden was “enjoyed” by some critter)

Well worth a try if you like the variegation colouring.

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How to Grow Acroclinium for Cut Flowers and Color

Acroclinium are easy to grow and the blooms make great fresh cut flowers

Acroclinium are easy to grow and the blooms make great fresh cut flowers for accenting a bouquet and as dried flowers for long-lasting decorations.

The best way to grow Acroclinium is to move to northern California, or to its native Australia. As I write this in the middle of a Canadian winter, I think that’s a very good suggestion in general.

The flowers will always be bigger if you live in warmer northern California than if you live in Ontario or New York State, but there are some things you can do to make sure that this cheerful flower reaches its full potential and brightens your yard.

Propagation

The best way to grow Acroclinium is to not try too hard. Seriously.

  • Indoors and out, this plant will prefer to be put in one place and left there, so avoid transplanting.
  • If you’re putting it in pots, make sure you put the seeds into biodegradable pots that can be put directly into the soil so as not to disturb the roots (peat pots work well).
  • Lightly press the seed into the surface of the soil and do not cover.
  • This seed will do better if it can see the sun, so the same goes for if you’re growing it inside a greenhouse or outside. The only difference for planting inside or out is the soil temperature.
  • If you’re growing in a greenhouse or sun porch, you can sow the seeds around March 15th in soil at 65°F/ 8°C.
  • Outside, wait a little longer until the average temperature is 61°F/16°C, around April or May.
  • Acroclinium seeds will take about 15 days to germinate, longer if they can’t feel the sun.

Naming

Acroclinium has been renamed Rhodanthe by the botany folks but the seed is still sold under the Acroclinium label.

Growing Conditions

If you’ve germinated Acroclinium into degradable pots, transplant the pots directly into the soil outside in mid-June.

The real trick with this plant is not to disturb the roots.

The plant yields one good stem per plant, and to make sure that this one stem will give the biggest flowers possible, feed liquid fish emulsion every second week from June through August, which will be your flowering season if you planted in May.

These plants like cooler days and shorter day length, which is why they won’t do so well in the hot summers of Ontario and New York.

Harvest the cut flowers just before they open to maximize the time they’re in your vase, and when they are fully flowered, hang them upside down to dry them.

This annual should grow between 14–24 in/ 36–61 cm. tall

Problems

Young plants are susceptible to aphids and tarnish plant bug, so keep an eye out and spray with an organic soap solution or try a blast of water applied at a strong enough pressure to knock the bugs off, but not so strong that it breaks the stems.

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