Grow coleus here in Texas

Grow coleus here in Texas
Grow coleus here in Texas

Talk about “Texas Tough,” the coleus is just that. As we know the weather around here can be hotter than Hades one week and dry as a bone, then comes five days of rain and little sunshine. When those folks up North brag that their plants can survive the heat of over 90 degrees we just kind of giggle. We have the plus and minus of long growing seasons, hot summers and mild, erratic winters. One plant option that can serve us well here is the coleus.

Coleus is native to Southeast Asia, Africa, Australia, India and Sri Lanka. The largest population is in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. They found their way to Europe and then to America in the bags and boxes of traders and botanists. Some accounts place coleus in Europe as early as the 1600s. The Dutch botanist Karl Blume is usually credited with naming the coleus 200 years later as he researched plants in Java, according to Rosy Dawn Gardens, which specializes in growing coleus. They often use it to create “carpet gardens” with intricate designs that could be seem from windows high above the garden itself.

The coleus regained much of its historical popularity in the 1990s. A few zealot coleus hybridizers began making inroads into the marketing of their favorite plant and began to expand the market. Today coleus is very popular again.

Need color in a semi-shady area? One of the main strengths of coleus is that is can provide color without flowers. The color is in the vibrant leaves themselves. The coleus is often found in shady and semi-shady spots in the garden that sometimes are difficult to add color to. There is a coleus for sunny areas, too. They do like lots of humidity. (No problem for us.) They want good ventilation, reasonably good soil and regular water.

They love heat, so give them some protection this winter. In their tropical, native homelands, they are perennial. Lots of avid gardeners pot up their coleus and bring them into the garage in the winter. Others have found that the coleus die back with cold weather but often stay “root hardy” and will come back in the spring.

Coleus is available in vibrant hues and colors of foliage. They give constant color in containers and planted into your landscape. There are so many varieties. They are different sizes and shapes with some trailing and some upright. The leaves even vary, with some rounded and wide and some ovate with ruffled edges. And what colors? Coleus can now be found in red, pink, purple, green, yellow, orange, brown and all shades in between. Check out the new varieties, and I think you will be amazed.


Joette is an avid gardener and prides  herself on staying up-to-date on the latest gardening activities and tips. To share your gardening news with Joette, call (409) 832-1400 or fax her at (409) 832-6222. Her e-mail is joreger [at] msn [dot] com.