Garden Plants: Coleus

Coleus is sometimes called the poor man’s Croton because it matches and even surpasses its stately rival in the brightness and colour range of its foliage, and it does this at a fraction of the cost. You can, of course, buy plants in pots but it is easily raised from cuttings or seed. There is another advantage – Coleus is easy to care for, unlike the fussy and demanding Croton.

There are features where Coleus is clearly inferior to the imposing and long-lived Croton. The bushy 1 ft high plants are soft-stemmed and need pinching out regularly to stop the plant becoming leggy and defoliated. In addition the specimens remain attractive for only a short time – they can be overwintered but the best plan is to treat this foliage plant as an annual by sowing seeds or taking cuttings each spring.

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