Color your world with sun coleus

Plus garden to do's for June & July
By L.A. Jackson
Color your world  with sun coleus

"Plants are green."

How's that for a safe statement? Houseplants, trees, shrubs, annuals, weeds — they are all green! Of course, there are exceptions, and one of the most colorful is the sun coleus. Scarlet, yellow, red, bronze, pink, copper, orange, salmon, purple — these and more are the simmering hues of the many coleus varieties that enjoy basking in the Carolina sun.

Normally reaching 18 to 36 inches tall, sun coleus selections show off a diverse parade of dazzling foliage color combinations flaunting continuous, sassy shows in the garden through the growing season until autumn.

This coleus loves the sun, but it is not a cactus and will wilt during hot, dry periods in the summer. However, planting in a well-mulched, fertile spot shaded from late afternoon sun will help cut down on the flop factor.

As sun coleus plants mature, many will begin to develop flower spikes. In comparison to their snazzy leaf colors, these small blossoms (normally lavender-blue) are negligible and can even detract from the main show. Pinching them off is a matter of personal taste, but removing the blooms also allows the plants to devote more energy towards additional foliage production.

This fall, you can bet the farm that these tender plants will be nailed by the first frosts. But why give up on them when it gets cold? Coleus can be easily propagated by taking 4 to 6-inch cuttings, removing the lower leaves and placing the sprigs in water. Roots will usually appear within two weeks, and in another week or two, the cuttings can be transferred to pots of growing medium. Placed in a bright window or under grow lights, they can then overwinter indoors until next year's planting season.

Garden to do's

June

  • Clip spent rhododendron blooms to stop seed formation. This conserves the plant's energy for next year's flower show.
  • Watch for leaf galls on azaleas and camellias. Pick off and dispose of any that are found.
  • Are you prepared for Japanese beetles? If you insist on using Japanese beetle traps, place them far, far away from any plants that have become these varmints' favorite meals.
  • Don't have time to dead-head spent flowers? Consider growing continuous blooming plants such as alyssum, impatiens, ageratum, salvia, cleome, scabiosa, lobelia and vinca that don't need constant visits from the "flower police."
  • Pumpkin seeds started by the end of this month outdoors should mature into jack-o-lanterns just in time for the Halloween season.

July

  • Deadhead the spent blooms of daylilies to prevent the plants' energy from going into seed production.
  • Production from the vegetable garden should be in high gear now, but, to keep even more crops coming, harvest such veggies as okra, cucumbers, squash, beans and indeterminate tomatoes every two to three days.
  • Prune lower leaves on tomato plants to save more energy for fruit production. However, resist cutting off any upper foliage that shields tomatoes from the sun because this natural covering helps prevent sunscald.
  • Going on vacation? Have a neighbor check in on your garden every few days to irrigate if necessary and pick any mature vegetables or spent flowers. Also, ask to keep the bird bath filled with fresh water.

About the Author

L.A. Jackson is the former editor of Carolina Gardener Magazine. If you would like to ask him a question about your garden, contact L.A. at: lajackson1@gmail.com

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