Flowers aren’t the only way to bring color to a garden. Today’s heat-loving coleus delivers instant vibrancy with (almost) zero effort.

By Kate Carter Frederick; Stylist: Scott Johnson; Photographer: Marty Baldwin
Coleus varieties

‘Gay's Delight' This lover of partial sun boasts brilliant chartreuse leaves with black-purple veins. Bold and bushy, it grows up to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.

‘Rustic Orange' Sunshine intensifies the leaves' warm hues. Training upright coleus varieties into a standard-which is a lollipop-shape tree form-heightens its dramatic effect. Pinch back stem ends regularly to promote dense branching.

‘Coleosaurus' Let this 2- to 3-foot-tall versatile variety live large, acting as a backdrop for contrasting plants in either a shaded border or a sun-soaked container.

‘Inky Fingers' Leaves shaped like little duck feet distinguish this variety. It trails to 18 inches-a great team player in a pot.

‘Kong Rose' The Kong series features compact plants (18 inches tall and wide) with extra-large leaves. Their high-contrast colors shine in shady spots.

‘Wizard Mosaic' Ideal for shade at the front edge of a border or container, this showy variety forms a 12-inch mass. (Pretty companions include impatiens and begonias.)

‘Campfire' Light up a border with fiery orange foliage. This variety glows with pink-red undertones, reaching more than 2 feet in sun or shade.

Planting Tips

Newer varieties of coleus thrive on heat and last dependably until frost. Start from cuttings, seeds or plants-most grow quickly and vigorously. Plant as annuals in well-draining, compost-enriched soil, and water to keep soil damp but not soggy, especially in sunny areas. Regularly pinch back stem ends and flower buds to promote dense, sturdy growth. Coleus are simple; the challenge comes in choosing from the ever-expanding array of varieties, with hundreds of new options introduced every few years. Choose a mix of bright hues to amp up beds, borders and containers in sun or shade, depending on the variety.

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