How to grow a priceless collection of rare Coleus


How to grow a priceless collection of rare coleus

Landscape gardener Teresia Wanjiku at her Ngong street stall with various non-flowering plants and hanging potted plants. 5 August 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

If plants had superpowers, the Coleus plant would be one of the strongest. Its ability to bring colour, texture and shape to any garden is unparalleled.

It’s the rainbow on the floor. Among the many plants and flowers Teresia Kinuthia sells at her garden center along Nairobi Ngong’ Road, Coleus plants rarely rest.

“They are popular for their colorful foliage, varied textures and shapes. Unlike seasonal flowers, Coleuses are stunning on a daily basis. They are also low-maintenance, resistant to pests and diseases, easy to propagate and can be trimmed to the shape you want,” says Ms. Kinuthia.

She has eight cultivars of the plant in monochromatic or multicolored cultivars.

Creating a garden with Coleus

Versatility and the showiness of a Coleus plant make it easy to style. Plant them individually or in a group and combine their different colors and textures in pots or soil. Alternatively, you can combine it with other plants for an exotic look. In a small garden, the coleus plants will be a real pick-me-up, says Anabelle Njoki, a coleus lover in Nairobi.

“Since there is no end season, use it to create a center of interest or focal point.”

If you’re using a layering system, which is common in gardens secured against a wall, give this tropical plant a front row seat to let it shine as it doesn’t grow tall.

Let it light up the edges and borders to maintain the look of the garden throughout the day, or create blocks of color with its solid color variants. “If your garden beds are in shady areas, choose a shade-tolerant variety to add more zest,” shares the entrepreneur.

Use the bold colors in the Coleus to ward off the gloomy atmosphere in corners or soften the edges of stairs.


Landscape designer Teresia Wanjiku installed various non-flowering plants and hanging potted plants at her street stall in Ngong on August 5, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Place it around your patio furniture but in a contrasting color to make it more fun.

You can also use coleus plants on tree roots as a carpet over the root system. This gives the base a classy touch. Also, place hanging baskets dripping with Coleus Glory and Aura on the doorway or on the garden walls to create a bright air garden.

Putting it in pots singly or in groups works. Because of their different colors, you can plant many in a single pot or mix and match.

However, layered potting with other plants adds freshness. To make such a pot you need a thriller, a filler and a spiller. Individual or mixed Coleuses are perfect as fillers. A great combination with Coleus is a croton and ivy.

“The trick is to ensure a balance between light and dark variants and hot and cool tones,” adds Ms. Njoki.

Propagation of a Coleus

“Using clean scissors, cut off two to three inches of the plant’s shoot. Remove all but two pairs of leaves,” Ms. Kinuthia explains.

“Take this cut section and plant it straight into your potting soil, but under indirect sunlight. After two weeks, new life will appear.”

Alternatively, place the cut piece in water and under direct sunlight, top up the water if necessary, and change the water if it appears cloudy. Once the roots emerge, plant the newly rooted plant in potting soil.

“Give the new plants enough water and plenty of space to thrive. When watering, avoid spilling water on the leaves of the plant to minimize fungal infections,” adds Ms Njoki, who waters her coleuses early in the morning to protect them from moisture.

“To prevent pests, a mixture of oil and soap on the underside of the foliage renders the plant uninhabitable.”

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