What colors do you associate most with fall? Here in our subtropical climate, we don’t get the level of fluorescent foliage we did growing up in the Northeast and Midatlantic — like the neon New England landscapes I saw last week while visiting friends in Boston. I mean, trees emoting in ruby, amber and highlighter orange! (Jumping out from a block of cyan that just screams “early-to-mid-October.”)
So this season we’re getting our fix with coleus. A plant known for its bold, often kaleidoscopic leaves, coleus first landed in our yard last year, in our vertical shade garden. Then this summer we doubled — tripled, quadrupled — down on our interest in this ornamental for our Whole Foods/Dark Rye collaboration.
The hybrid names should give you an idea of the outrageous range of colors: ‘Electric Lime,’ ‘Redhead,’ ‘Florida Sun,’ and ‘Trusty Rusty’ are a few examples from our terra cotta towers. Leaves are toothed and textured, and the patterning includes stark and tonal (‘Wasabi’), contrast-trim (‘Vino’), chaotically glitter-dipped (‘Henna’) and psychedelic pseudo-fractals (‘Stained Glassworks Copper’).
These plants are tropical, only hardy outdoors in USDA Zones 9 and 10, a perennial usually grown as an annual. An instant dose of landscape color, they thrive in bright indirect light to part shade; we grow ours under the light shade of our arbor. That said, full-sun coleuses are also easy to find.
Following some taxonomic housekeeping, species from what used to be the Coleus genus have been redistributed to the Solenostemon and Plectranthus genera. In fact, plectranthus is a synonym for coleus. Certain selections are reputed to have hallucinogenic effects. Others are used in Ayurvedic medicine.
The flower spikes are lovely but injurious; it’s advised that you not let your coleus go to seed, which will shorten the life of your plant and deform its leaves. So pinch out while in bud. (Advice that, you’ll see from the photos, we haven’t taken.) We also love the leaf arrangement, which apparently has inspired some pretty groovy radial blur fan art.
Bright idea. Check out some more shots of its fab foliage, below…
1. ‘Stained Glassworks Copper’
2. ‘Electric Lime’
6. ‘Florida Sun’
9. ‘Trusty Rusty’
What colors are blazing in your area right now? Let us know in the comments!