Adding late season garden color with coleus

I went shopping today for some late season color in the garden. I’ve always thought Coleus is the perfect late season annual, when grown by a nursery or garden center who knows how to take care of its plants. When one of our local garden centers (Country Arbors in Urbana, IL) announced a sale on coleus and other annuals, I knew it was time to make a visit.

I ended up buying 12 plants and nine cultivars — Versa® ‘Burgundy to Green’, ‘Strawberry Drop’, ‘Tilt A Whirl’, ‘Buttercream’, ‘Trailing Purple Heart’, ‘Dark Star’, ‘Chocolate Mint’, ‘Religious Radish’ and ‘Shocking Pink’. They were all extremely healthy, well-branched plants that I knew would last well into October. Coleus also overwinter easily indoors, so I can get more than three months out of these plants.

One of the drawbacks of buying plants late in the season is that they are often rootbound because they’ve been growing in a small pot for nearly four months. If you plant a rootbound plant in the garden, its roots will likely never grow outside of the girdled mass.

The secret to planting a rootbound plant is to tear the matted roots and the bottom and edges. One of the great myths of gardening is not to disturb a plant’s roots, but by opening up the root mass, you encourage new root growth than leads to a healthier plant.

I planted most of the new coleus in the second level of our patio garden, just below another grouping of coleus, banana and begonia on the upper level.

I’ll share closeup photos of the new coleus once they recovered from transplanting, but here’s one of my favorites — ‘Strawberry Drop’ — a trailing variety that I planted at the edge of the garden wall.
If your garden needs a splash of color at the end of the summer, give Coleus a try.