House Plant Index
THE FOLIAGE PLANT
Coleus blumei var. verschaffelti
||Blue, small, borne in racemcs
|Potting or re-potting time
||February, March, September
|Position in garden during summer
||Plant directly in garden
Coleus is a soft-stemmed plant familiar as and a garden and a house species. At one time it enjoyed wide popularity as a design and bedding plant. The fad waned with that of garden beds cut to resemble stars, flags, crescents, etc.
The leaves are irregularly toothed and marginally crisped. They are colored in whites, greens, yellows, and reds striped, mottled, and generally variegated. Their Javanese ancestry is vividly recalled by the exotic, tropical appearance of the plant.
Although irregular racemes of blue or lilac flowers are produced during the summer months, they should be removed while in bud, as coleus is grown for its foliage, which is far more colorful than the flowers.
Unfortunately, mealybugs regard coleus as their favorite meeting and dining place, and will rapidly destroy their host unless rigidly controlled. Careful attention, hose washing, and Black Leaf 40 will keep the pests in place, but a badly infested plant should be destroyed before other houseplants suffer from the pesky bugs.
Coleus is propagated by seeds or from cuttings. Sow the seed in March in a temperature of 65 degrees; they will quickly germinate, and are soon large enough to transplant into small, individual pots. Cuttings are usually taken in February or March from September potted plants; they readily root in moist sand. If you are fond of coleus, a wish to grow more than one or two specimens, it is advisable to keep making cuttings, for old plants tend to become leggy, as well as buggy, and their leaves lose much of the brilliance and color to be found in younger plants. Coleus requires lots of water, yet will sicken if its roots are allowed to stand in water from overflow drainage.