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
Kirsten is the executive editor of Birds & Blooms. She's been with the brand in various roles since 2007. She has many favorite birds (it changes with the seasons), but top picks include the red-headed woodpecker, Baltimore oriole and rose-breasted grosbeak. Her bucket list bird is the painted bunting.