Selection Guide

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 have grouped some of our coleus into categories. 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! Some Coleus varieties fit into more than one category, so please read the individual descriptions in the catalog before making your final selections.

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.
For your convenience, we have created a product category for sun tolerant coleus. Look for it in the center of our homepage or on the left navigation pane.

Trailing Coleus:
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. Most trailing coleus reach a height of up to 12” but extend down or sideways for up to 30”. 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 window boxes, plant at the front edge about 8”-10” apart. 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. Most trailing coleus have leaves ranging from 3/4 inch to 1 1/2 inches long.

For your convenience, we have created a product category for trailing coleus. Look for it in the center of our homepage or on the left navigation pane.

Mounding or Compact Coleus:
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.

For your convenience, we have created a product category for mounding coleus. Look for it in the center of our homepage or on the left navigation pane.

Tall Upright Coleus:
These are the "Thrillers" of the coleus world. For your convenience, we have created a product category for Tall coleus. Look for it in the center of our homepage or on the left navigation pane.
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.

Giant-leaf Coleus:
The following coleus have the largest leaves of the Coleus we offer:
Japanese Giant, King Crab, Mariposa, Red Head, Solar Shadow, Solar Sunrise, Glinda, Orange King

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 taller 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 Wasabi. 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 pot mates.
Four coleus will amply fill a large pot. Minimum pot size should be 12"-14” in diameter for medium combos and 16"-20” diameter for large combos. Hanging basket combos will fill a 10 to 15 inch pot. Very large pots, kettles, urns, troughs, etc. will 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 8”-12” inches apart. Space them farther apart if you want to grow them near each other but as separate individuals that don’t touch. 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!

Coleus definitely play well with others! Consider the water and light needs as well as the size of other plants when planning your combinations.

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.

   For sample combinations and photos please visit our Rosy Dawn Gallery webpage.