4 Reasons To Grow Coleus

Find out why coleus was named the annual of the year by the National Garden Bureau and why you should add this shade annual to your garden.

Each year, the National Garden Bureau selects one annual, one perennial and one edible as their “Year of the” crops. They are typically chosen because they are easy-to-grow, versatile and popular among backyard gardeners. The NGB recently announced that 2015 is the year of the coleus! If you’re not yet growing this amazing and beautiful foliage plant, let me tell you why you should start.

1. It tolerates part shade. Gardeners are constantly battling shady spots in backyards, always on lookout for pretty shade annuals. Sometimes it seems nearly impossible to find something with color to add that much-needed pizzazz to shady areas. Coleus is it. A lot of people think coleus is a shade lover. It will survive in the shade, yes. But for best results and more intense color, it’ll benefit from a little morning sun!

2. It can be grown in containers. Coleus have excellent container potential if you’re willing to put in the work to get it to thrive. You’ll need adequate well-draining soil mix, reasonable nutrients and proper sun exposure. Adding coleus to containers gives you instant color, unlike other plants. Plant it in a moveable container so you can plop it where you need some interest, especially if a shady area needs a little help.

3. It comes in a variety of colors. It should be noted that not only does it comes in a variety of colors, it’s often a combination of colors. And in a lot of cases, multiple colors with leaves that feature cool patterns or edging. Think, speckled, scalloped, large or small. Leaf color possibilities include green, pink, yellow, orange, red maroon, brown, cream and white.

4. It’s practically no-fail. Even the NGB touts it as having “significant gardening potential for almost all gardeners and their garden situations.” It’s great for beginner gardeners and anyone who doesn’t have a lot of time to commit to the backyard. There is one important chore it’s best to complete when it comes to coleus, though. It will flower, but you should pinch back the blooms. Because coleus is grown for its foliage, pinching back the blooms gives more energy to stem and foliage growth. Remember that important step and you’ll be wowed by coleus in no time.

Four shade annual coleus varietiesNational Garden Bureau
National Garden Bureau Clockwise from top left: Wizard Coral Sunrise, Wizard Velvet Red, Electric Lime, Vino.

Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten has more than 15 years of experience writing and editing birding and gardening content. As content director of Birds & Blooms, she leads the team of editors and freelance writers sharing tried-and-true advice for nature enthusiasts who love to garden and feed birds in their backyards. Since joining Birds & Blooms 17 years ago, Kirsten has held roles in digital and print, editing direct-to-consumer books, running as many as five magazines as a time and managing special interest publications. Kirsten has traveled to see amazing North American birds, and attended various festivals, including Sedona Hummingbird Festival, Rio Grande Bird Festival, The Biggest Week in American Birding Festival and Cape May Spring Festival. She has also witnessed the epic sandhill crane migration while on a photography workshop trip to Colorado. Kirsten has participated in several GardenComm and Outdoor Writers Association of America annual conferences and is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. When she's not researching, writing and editing all things birding and gardening, Kirsten is enjoying the outdoors with her nature-loving family. She and her husband are slowly chipping away at making their small acreage the backyard of their dreams.