The Return of Indoor Coleus, or the New Life of Decorative Nettles
Once very popular under the name of house nettle, and then forgotten by everyone, coleus today are one of the most striking garden and indoor plants. At least among flyers. They are not in vain considered stars of the first magnitude for those who are looking, first of all, for non-standard colors. Easy to grow, but not so demanding as to suit everyone, coleus expect constant control and very quickly lose their decorative effect. But if you take care of them, bushes of velvety unique leaves easily outshine any competitor.
Coleus - plant description
The affiliation of coleus to ornamental deciduous plants is undeniable. Bright and beautiful, bold and surprisingly textured, they have transformed into modern stars thanks to the breeding of hundreds of original varieties.
The coleuses, which were once so tired that they completely disappeared from the window sills, are no longer those pink-leaved with a dark border, bulky and deformed room pets. These are modern, fashionable and surprisingly well adaptable stars.
Understanding the names of Coleus is not always easy. Plants continue to be sold, and they are bred under this old name - Coleus (Coleus) And in colloquial terms they continue to call coleuses simply nettles or decorative nettle. According to the botanical classifications, coleuses have long been transferred to the genus of plectrans, and before that, for a long time they were classified as salinostemons. One way or another, despite the "legal" botanical name and belonging to the genus Plectranthus (Plectranthus), coleuses remain very easily recognizable plants.
Coleus belong to the family of Labret. In nature, they are very widespread, found mainly in flat areas, but only within the tropical climate. The largest representation of coleus is characteristic of Asia and Africa; they are considered quite rare plants on both American continents. Coleus are able to successfully conquer territories and fill entire glades.
Hybrid coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) - varietal coleuses obtained through crossing are usually much more compact and densely leafy than the original species. But still, they remain the same unrestrained, fast-growing, requiring the control of Coleus, who need constant care.
Compact, densely branched or more mature and elongated plants always form quite powerful shrubs with long, usually tetrahedral, juicy shoots, densely branched and easily controlled by pruning. The height of the coleus directly depends on how the plants form and what are the characteristics of the variety. Among the coleus there are dwarf varieties with a height of 10 to 30 cm, and giants above 1 m in height.
Leaves, colors and flowering of coleus
Coleus conquer with its oval, heart-shaped or ovoid, medium-sized leaves with a beautiful wavy edge, unique velvet texture and obligatory colorful coloring. Cogs, cuts along the edge of the coleus leaves always surprise with unique symmetry and accuracy. Despite the differences in the shape of the varieties, coleus is still very similar to nettle.
The Coleus color palette can include all shades of the color spectrum, usually in contrasting combinations. The dominant among the coleus are green and red of very different tones. But white, yellow, pink, purple, orange, brown patterns and almost black color variations bring the palette to an unimaginably rich.
The patterns on the leaves of the coleus can be either symmetrical or completely chaotic. There are varieties with strict spots and borders that repeat the shape of the sheet itself, but there are also with different stripes, specks, spots that create colorful chaos. In some coleuses, the patterns are almost identical on all leaves, in others they can change on each leaf.
Despite the fact that the flowering of coleuses occurs actively and massively, they are not considered to be decorative characteristics. A little reminiscent of the inflorescences of the crypt, rare apical spikelets of coleus with small spongy flowers in blue tones do not decorate the plant. Flowering begins with the deformation of the bushes, they are extended, the leaves partially lose their colors, the internodes are lengthened, the whole bush seems to be falling apart.
Types of indoor coleus
It’s very difficult to meet a species coleus or even old varieties. They have transformed in recent decades. And the novelties of selection, surprising primarily by their colors, completely changed the idea of this plant.
Many cultures combining garden and indoor use have a clear division into species that can be used either in interiors or in landscape design. But coleuses are absolutely universal: any varieties are suitable both for open soil and for pot culture.
Many people know (previously considered separately) the names of species coleus - Coleus Renalt, Bloom, hybrid. But all of them have long been retrained and combined under a single plelectrant species - Scallop plektrantus (Plectranthus scutellarioides, outdated synonyms - Coleus blumeii, Coleus rehneltianus) This name should be indicated in the detailed information about the plant.
Despite the fact that the name of all coles remains the same, plants are still distinguished into several groups according to the form of growth:
- Ampel Coleus - beautiful varieties with unstable, hanging, flexible shoots and fairly large leaves of a typical "nettle" shape. The base plant is easily recognizable by brownish-rusty, with a red tint of velvety color, emphasized by a green border.
- Bush Coleus - the overwhelming majority of modern varieties, low-, medium- and tall coles, which are easily recognizable by tetrahedral, densely branching, juicy shoots and serrated along the edges, heart-lanceolate leaves. On their surface contrast zones, stripes and borders with combinations of white, green, orange and red shades of the spectrum, the beauty of which is emphasized by the velvet edge of the surface.
Choosing coles is always better for the desired height and color, to your taste. Legendary mixes "Wizard" (Wizard) and "Rainbow" (Rainbow) became famous for their variegated, unusual two-color variations and luminous veins or watercolor color transitions.
There are also beautiful series with twisted leaves, cut in half, like "Fantasy", as well as individual varieties with extravagant shades, causing a variety of associations. Pay attention to the difference in the shape of the edge and the density of leafy.
Growing conditions for indoor coleus
Unpretentious, popular, bright, coleus capable of growing in almost any warm environment - plants are well-known and easily controlled. But to think that they will be content with literally any place will be a big mistake.
Coleus are much more tolerant of temperatures, but require a strict selection of lighting. And control over conditions allows plants to maintain decorativeness longer and reduces the need for rejuvenation.
Despite the status of the plant as universal and popular, coleuses require caution: they also belong to the number of poisonous crops, and care must be taken with coles, like placing them in a house with young children or pets.
Lighting and placement
The magnificent colors of the Coleus themselves signal that this culture is not one of the shade-tolerant. In order for all shades and patterns to appear fully, coleus needs bright lighting. At the same time, direct sunlight in summer leaves visible burns on the leaves, and diffused light always remains an ideal option for coleus.
Choosing a place for this plant in the interior and not on the windowsill, it is worth focusing on the signals that the coleus itself is giving. With uncomfortably low light, the coleus not only changes color shades on young leaves, but also slows down growth, begins to stretch, and internodes are lengthened. Therefore, to find the maximum possible distance from the windows, given these plant signals, is not so difficult.
Coleuses of new varieties are often advertised as shade-tolerant, but experimenting with placement even in partial shade is not worth it before you verify the normal development of plants: coleuses were and remain photophilous plants, capable of growing in a bright or sunny place.
When choosing a place for coleus, you should first of all pay attention to such rooms for which frequent airing is natural. Coleus grows well in living rooms, but the living room, kitchen, winter gardens, the area at the entrance to the house will suit them much better and simplify care at times. But in the living rooms, the coleus will feel great with proper care.
Coleuses are not soloists. It is no coincidence that this plant is so often planted several copies in one pot: in groups, coleus are transformed. They are not afraid of the neighborhood of other plants. But if it is possible to combine different varieties and colors with each other and create different compositions from coles, their extraordinary beauty will appear in all its splendor.
Coleuses can be used to decorate floor flower girls and dividers, to introduce large containers with plant compositions into the interior.
Temperature and ventilation
Coleus is considered one of the most adaptive indoor plants that should feel good in any residential or office space. Cool and restrained room temperatures are perfect for a plant. But the Coleus does not like the heat, it is extremely difficult to compensate for it. The plant does not lose the attractiveness of leaves only with high levels of humidity or in the fresh air.
Coleus in the warm season will prefer to grow at a temperature of 16 to 24 degrees. Raising the temperature to 25 degrees requires appropriate measures if you want to maintain the flawless appearance of a coleus.
Coleus prefer to spend a rest period in a cool. The optimum temperature is about 15 degrees. But it can be reduced to 12 degrees. For coleus, which grows in the soil all summer or is spent in the garden as potted plants, the wintering temperature is slightly lower - about 10 degrees. Above 18 degrees usually lead to a strong pull of shoots and loss of shape, but the plant is well restored after pruning in early spring.
Coleus can normally overwinter in a warm room.
In summer, all coleus can be taken out to fresh air. They feel great on balconies, terraces, in the garden. You can use plants like ordinary potted plants or transfer them to flower girls. Coleus are instilled and transplanted into open soil. At the same time, open-air coles feel good even on sunny areas: access to fresh air compensates for the intensity of lighting.
Coleus care at home
Coleus unpretentiousness is no coincidence has become legendary. They are so popular today as an alternative to ordinary flyers in the gardens due to their unpretentiousness and endurance. But, if the coleus in the gardens does not require containment and can grow enough, in room culture they still need much more thorough care.
The uniform humidity of the substrate is the main secret in the cultivation of coles. And the main efforts to care for this plant are aimed specifically at irrigation. But it is impossible to achieve high decorativeness from coleus without one more point of departure - formation.
Watering and humidity
In order for the "nettle" to become a star in your interior, you need to create as stable conditions for the plant as possible and keep the substrate equally moist. Coleus are afraid of dampness and drought almost equally. For them, watering should be moderate, but frequent and uniform.
When watering a plant, it is worth letting the top soil layer dry up to 3-5 cm of the substrate, but no more. When watering a plant, it is better to dose the amount of water and drain the excess from the pallets immediately.
When watering the coleus need to be careful. Especially when it comes to overgrown, dense and low bushes. The green of the plant should not get wet, and the water should not even get on the stems. Coleus prefer to water soft water. Its temperature should correspond to the temperature of the air in the room.
Coleus, despite belonging to pubescent plants, are afraid of any wetting of the leaves and do not tolerate spraying, even in the most accurate form. But high humidity is desirable for them. And the beauty of the velvet texture of the leaves, and all the richness of colors, and the fast growth rates of coleus are fully revealed only at an air humidity of at least 50%.
Coleus can survive and even maintain decorativeness and compactness in dry air, but the difference in colors and textures will be striking.
Fertilizing and fertilizer composition
Despite the very bright colors of the leaves, coleus does not belong to plants that need frequent and generous top dressing. For them, it is better to apply fertilizers with a classic frequency. Excess fertilizer is not good for leaves: plants grow too fast, deform, often losing color. Especially careful to be with an excess of nitrogen.
The ideal feeding rate for coleus is rightly called 1 time in 2-3 weeks.
When choosing fertilizers for coleus, it is better to choose balanced universal fertilizers or special fertilizers for crops with bright leaves. For this culture, you can alternate mineral and organic dressings, but in this case, the frequency of these procedures is better to increase to 8-10 days.
Unlike many indoor plants, coleus grows well with long-acting fertilizers of any type. It is advisable to choose granules or sticks designed for decorative leaf crops. When using fertilizers of prolonged action, it is worth strictly adhering to the recommendations of the manufacturer.
Coleus trimming and shaping
The rapid growth of the coleus and the tendency of the shoots to increase primarily the height require vigilant care. Coleus will be able to maintain compactness and develop in the form of dense, dense bushes only with constant formation. It is better to start it already on young plants, regularly pinching the tops, cutting the bushes to thicken them and limit the size.
Coleuses tolerate even a strong haircut, but still the main tools for the formation of this culture remain pinching and removing the tops of elongated shoots. Such regular procedures on each new shoot and branch after releasing 3–5 pairs of leaves allow coles to be kept in shape by controlling the height, density and size of plants.
Removal of peduncles is mandatory for all coleus. To prevent deformation of the bushes, stretching, loss of leaf density, flower stalks are better to break out or pinch off before they are fully formed. The more flower stalks develop, the stronger the flowering affects the decorative plants. If you plan to collect your own seeds, then do not leave more than 2 inflorescences on coleus.
To rejuvenate and renew the coleus, you can use the radical pruning method. Plants are cut literally to hemp, stimulating the complete renewal of ground parts.
Coleuses can be tied up and formed on supports.
Transplant, containers and substrate
Coleus is traditionally transplanted annually in early spring. It is believed that coleus is better to update or replace annually, but if formed, they can last several seasons. If the bush does not fully absorb the substrate, then even with a cardinal pruning, it is better not to transplant until absolutely necessary.
Coleus can be content with any quality substrate. They love nutritious, light and pH neutral soil. You can choose a ready-made purchased substrate for coleus both for universal use and for decorative deciduous plants. And you can mix the soil yourself.
A standard soil mixture for coleus is considered to be a substrate consisting of sheet, soddy soil, humus, peat and sand in a ratio of 4: 4: 2: 1: 1, but any loose, non-compacting nutrient soil mixture is suitable.
For coles, standard containers or wide cups are suitable for planting in a group. The containers should not be too large, they are increased by several centimeters compared to the previous pot. When transplanting, the drainage tab is required. The depth of the coleus is kept the same.
Diseases, pests and problems in the cultivation of coleus
Coleus problems more often arise due to improper wintering or improper lighting. Stretching, dropping leaves, warping, exposing the bottom of the shoots, falling apart are common problems. Diseases among coleuses, with the exception of rot in constantly moist soil, are rare. Of the pests, only whiteflies and spider mites threaten the plant.
Coleus breed very easily. To fully maintain the characteristics of the variety, it is worth choosing vegetative methods - cuttings. It can be carried out throughout the spring, during active growth, from February to June.
For cuttings in coleus, not segments are used, but the tops of shoots. Usually, in old coleuses, it is in this way that the bush is rejuvenated, re-rooting the top and thus updating the plant. Coleus shoots take root not only in the soil, but also in water or sand. For this plant, there is no need to arrange shelter under a cap or film. On average, rooting of standard cuttings from 8 to 10 cm long in a coleus takes about a week.
Coleus seed mixtures provide bright and variegated, unexpected results. Pure coleus varieties are sold very rarely, but variety mixtures demonstrate excellent germination and vivid surprises.
Sowing is carried out according to the standard scheme for garden flyers - in shallow containers, universal soil, slightly sprinkling seeds with soil. For coleus, it is better to sow several seeds per hole, but the usual scheme is also suitable.
Light soil moisture, warmth, shelter with glass and a cap - all that is needed for the rapid emergence of seedlings. Care should be taken for coleuses carefully, they are afraid of getting wet and require stable light humidity. Shoots after the appearance of the second pair of leaves, several plants in one pot.