Feeling overwhelmed by the selection of beautiful coleus available? We hear that a lot! Some folks want to try coleus but are unfamiliar with the varieties and do not know where to begin. Others are familiar with the common varieties of coleus available in most garden centers but are looking to expand their horizons and buy something a bit more unusual. Taking into consideration the most frequently asked questions from our customers we compiled the following lists. These are suggestions only, and are based on our experience and experiences shared with us by our customers. No guarantees are implied by these suggestions and you might find that, in your climate and exposure, you have different results. Experimentation is part of the fun of gardening! Not every Coleus we carry are on one of these lists, and some Coleus varieties fit into more than one category, so please read the individual descriptions in the catalog before making your final selections. Remember that coleus varieties that are out-of-stock will not appear in the main catalog so some items on these lists might not be available to order.
Coleus that can tolerate sun:
Our most commonly asked question regarding Coleus choice is "which varieties will do well in full sun?" In their natural habitat, coleus grow on the forest edge in tropical conditions and receive partial, or dappled shade. Coleus generally look their best when given bright, indirect light. Full morning sun is tolerated by most Coleus as long as they are protected from sun by high noon and onward. Some Coleus tolerate sun better than others, and some survive quite well in full sun situations if they protected from wind and watered frequently. High quality potting soil helps as well as it holds water and nutrients longer. Coleus that are allowed to dry out repeatedly will go into rapid decline. The color and growth habit of coleus grown in full sun might differ from our catalog photos and descriptions. Many Coleus that tolerate full sun don't make this list because growing in full sun causes undesirable changes in their color and patterns.
The following Coleus have tolerated full-sun situations for us or our customers:
Abigail, Alabama Sunset, Allison, Beckwith’s Gem, Blackberry Waffles, Blair’s Witch, Brilliancy, Bronze Pagoda, Burning Bush, Campfire, Cantigney Royale, Chili Pepper, Chipotle, Copper, Darth Vader, Defiance, Dipt in Wine, El Brighto, Elfers, Fire Dragon, Fire Fingers, Florida Sun Rose, Fright Night, Gilda, Haines, Hot Embers, Hot Sauce, Japanese Giant, Kingwood Karnival, Lemon & Lime, Main Street Series, Marooned, Orange Ling, Purple Duckfoot, Red Head, Saturn, Solar Sunrise, Spiced Curry, Stormy Weather, Theatre Velvet, Trailing Black, Trailing Dark Heart, Trailing Garnet Robe, Trailing Red, Trailing Salamander, Trailing Queen, Trailing Lava Rose, Wasabi, Wild Streak.
For more information please refer to the individual variety descriptions for the words “Sun Tolerant.”
Coleus that need protection from harsh, all-day sun:
We feel that all Coleus fall under this category. By nature, Coleus do not grow in full-sun situations. Pigment has protective qualities, so you will find many of our pastels and varieties with white centers do not do well in full sun. Leaf thickness is a factor as well, since wafer-thin leaves burn more easily. Contrary to their reputation as a shade plant, Coleus do not thrive in deep shade.
Known as "Spillers," Trailing Coleus are excellent for growing at the edge of containers and window boxes, and make beautiful hanging baskets. They can also be used as ground cover. Trailing Coleus are the most likely of all types of Coleus to want to bloom, so pinch the ends regularly to keep flower buds from forming and to encourage branching.
Plant 3-4 per 10-12" pot for single specimen plantings in pots, hanging baskets, and urns. In mixed plantings, plant in open spots along the front and sides. In addition to spilling over the edge, Trailing Coleus will also weave themselves in and around the other plants for a charming effect. All Trailing coleus have small leaves ranging from 3/4 inch to 1 1/2 inches long.
Varieties: Terra Nova Valentine, Trailing Psycholeus, Trailing Strawberry, Trailing Burgundy, Trailing Dark Heart, Trailing Garnet Robe, Trailing Lava Rose, Trailing Plum Brocade, Trailing Queen, Trailing Red, Trailing Rose, Trailing Salamander
Mounding or Compact Coleus:
Depending on how you use them, mounding and compact Coleus can be either a "Spiller" or a "Filler" and are good for pot edges, garden-bed edging, hanging baskets, urns, and window boxes. Their dense growth habit makes them a good choice for situations that require a compact, bushy plant. Mounding Coleus make excellent, full hanging baskets for a protected area. Some of the more vigorous mounding varieties will require occasional pinching to retain a tidy form. Mounding Coleus generally have small and/or narrow leaves, but leaf size and plant height will vary. Some of the following are listed as upright growers in the catalog, but make this list because they have a compact, bushy form. Please consult the main catalog for photos, heights, and growth habit of individual Coleus.
Plant 3-4 per pot for single specimen plantings in pots, hanging baskets, and urns. In mixed plantings, plant in open spots along the front and sides.
Varieties: Aurora Black Cherry, Black Lace, Blaze, Bone Fish, Bonfire, Burning Bush, Cantigney Royale, Charley McCarthy, Chartreuse, Chili Pepper, Chipotle, Cuckoo, Curly Magenta, Enchantress, Fiona, Fire Fingers, Fire Mountain, Fright Night, Glennis, Gnash Rambler, Green Lantern, Hottie, Inky Fingers, Jillian, Jitters, Kiwi Fern, Lenny, Lime Shrimp, Main Street Fifth Avenue, Main Street Oxford Street, Main Street River Walk, Main Street Sunset Boulevard, Main Street Wall Street, Norris, Peridot, Pineapple Splash, Pink Poodle, Purple Duckfoot, Red Coral, Ruby Laser, Sizzler, Smokey Rose, Solar Flare, Spiced CurrySpicy, Thriller, Tiny Toes, Tammy, Terry, Wildstreak, and Yellow Dragon.
Medium and Tall Upright Coleus:
These are the "Thrillers" of the coleus world. Most of the upright coleus fall into this category and are too numerous to list, so please consult the main catalog for individual heights and form.
Plant 3 of one variety per 10”-12” pot for a high-impact display, or mix and match in your planters or landscape for stunning combinations. Please refer to the individual variety descriptions for more information.
The following coleus are not only tall in stature but have the biggest leaves of all the Coleus we offer:
Japanese Giant, King Crab, Mariposa, Red Head, Solar Shadow, Walter Turner
Coleus with the smallest leaves:
Bonfire, Cantigney Royale, Charlie McCarthy, Curly Magenta, Fire Fingers, Inky Fingers, Inky Toes, Purple Duckfoot, Red Coral, Sea Weed, Tammy, Terry, Tiny Toes, Trailing Dark Heart, Trailing Burgundy, Trailing Garnet Robe, Trailing Lava Rose, Trailing Plum Brocade, Trailing Queen, Trailing Red, Trailing Rose, Trailing Salamander, Trailing Strawberry, Yellow Dragon
Planting Coleus Combinations
Coleus just naturally seem to get along in a planting, so we seldom see a coleus combination that doesn't look great. When a combo is less than pleasing it is usually because there is too much going on, and there is no place for the eye to rest. We often recommend that if you plant a coleus with a busy leaf that you combine it with another that is a solid color. Light green and dark purple go with every other coleus color. Add in a third that compliments the others but maybe has a different leave shape or growth habit. To round out the combination would be adding one or two trailing coleus if it is in a tall pot or urn. For example, choose a busy-leaved coleus such as Allison, then pair it with a dark purple with an interesting edge such as Felix, and add a solid light green such as Big Blond. Echo the pinks and purples by using Trailing Plum Brocade as a trailer.
Sometimes a combination will look fabulous when it is first planted and all of the plants are roughly the same size. Young plants can be deceiving, though. Some will take off and grow like gangbusters, while other will plod along slowly, taking the whole season to reach their ultimate size. Plant the two together and you will find that the gangbusters will overcome and possibly even kill a plodder before it has a chance to mature. Check the detailed descriptions and if one is "vigorous" and the other is "slow growing" or a "slow starter" then they probably will not make good potmates.
Four coleus will amply fill a large pot. Minimum pot size should be 12" in diameter for medium combos and 15" diameter for large combos. Hanging basket combos will fill a 10 to 15 inch pot. Very large pots, kettles, urns, troughs, etc. may accommodate more.
Combinations may also be planted in the ground as vignettes. If you want your plants grouped close together for a clumping effect plant them 10 - 12 inches apart. Space them farther apart if you want to grow them near each other but as separate individuals. Coleus look great planted in and around other plants in the landscape, including perennials such as hosta and daylilies or annuals such as impatiens and petunias.
Growing coleus in pots allows you to move them around to suit the occasion, fill in drab spots in the landscape, and swap out tired pots with a fresh display. Just make sure that the coleus are in reach of a water source or be prepared to take a watering can to them as often as necessary!
For sample combinations and photos please visit our Rosy Dawn Gallery webpage.
Container plants and annuals that co-exist well with coleus:
Alternanthera, Bacopa, Banana, Begonia, Caladium, Calibrachoa, Canna, Colocasia, Fuchsia, Helichrysum, Heliotrope, Impatiens (all types), Ipomoea batatas (ornamental sweet potato), Ivy, Ivy Geraniums, Lamium, Nicotiana, Ornamental Grasses, Parrot's Beak (Lotus), Petunia, Scaevola, Setcreasea, Strobilanthus, Torenia, Vinca
Landscape perennials that co-exist well with coleus:
Astilbe, Ferns, Hakonechloa, Helleborus, Hostas, Heuchera, Lamium, Liriope, Myrtle, Ornamental Grasses, Pachysandra, Pulmonaria, Solomon's Seal, Tiarella, Tricyrtis, and Viola.
Rosy Dawn Garden Favorites
Even though we work with coleus 365 days a year, there are always a few that consistently take our breath away every time we see them! They aren't always the best sellers, either. We feel strongly that if people tried these plants they would be tickled pink!
Our Picks: Allison, Beckwith's Gem, Black Widow, Enchantress, Haines, Felix, Mariposa, Ruby Laser, Songbird, Tigerlily, Wasabi