Tuesday, August 4, 2009

ABC Wednesday: Colorful C's

For this week's ABC letter of C, you probably would guess that I would feature my signature plant, the purple coneflower, which is still in riotous bloom at the moment. (See sidebar photo to the right for the latest visitor here.) But I have written about this favorite of mine and posted so many pictures of it that I thought instead today I would feature a couple of shady characters who haven't received much press here.

First, the Coleus. Several years ago, when the Kong Coleus pictured above was first introduced, it was all the rage. It's understandable, although this rather washed-out photo doesn't do it justice: its large leaves and deep colors commanded attention in any container planting.

In the last few years, however, breeders have created so many interesting variations of the original, humble coleus that I seldom buy the Kong variety any more. Most of the coleus in my garden are used in container plantings; this pink-veined green and white one provides the perfect complement to some hot pink impatiens.

Others, like this gaudy multi-colored coleus, are planted in the shade garden to add some much-needed summer color. All my coleus are planted in partial shade, but they will grow well in any light conditions. However, according to planting instructions, their colors intensify in shade or partial shade.

This coleus actually has more of a bronze tint than shows up here and is paired with a yellow callibrocha and a "Key Lime" heuchera in a large crock.

While many of the coleus I purchased this season had no names, this one does--it's called "Royal Glissade." But the names really don't matter anyway, as each plant can differ from its parent in appearance. I don't look at the tags when buying them . . . I just pick out the ones I like. And this year I had to restrain myself from buying one every time I went plant shopping!

Coleus are so easy to grow; anyone can grow these in a garden or as a houseplant. Remove the seed heads as they form, and pinch them back every so often to avoid their becoming too leggy. This "Religious Radish" can grow to 42" according to its label, but I have pinched it back frequently to create a bushier shape. Although I purchased all my coleus seedlings this year, they are very easy to grow from seed or to propagate from cuttings. I've already taken cuttings from all the plants purchased this spring and rooted them in water, then planted them in new pots. If I take care of them over the winter I won't even have to buy new ones next spring . . . unless I see another one I like, of course:)

"Big Red Judy" was the first choice this spring with her dark red, almost black foliage. Indeed, "Judy" is so big that I couldn't get all of her in this photo:) Notice how well she partners here with another shady plant . . .

. . . the Caladium

Like coleus, Caladiums are grown for their interesting foliage rather than blooms and come in so many color combinations to add color to the shade garden. They can be planted as bulbs in the spring, but this year I splurged and bought plants instead. This fall I plan to dig them up and replant them again next spring.

None of the tags had names, other than "Pink" or "White," but it doesn't really matter what they're named . . .

They're all beautiful to me!

Thanks to the ever-gracious Mrs. Nesbitt for hosting another round of ABC Wednesday.


  1. Beautiful caladiums (especially the last one). I have the purple coneflower everywhere in my gardens too. Even a white one!

  2. What beautiful colours, and lots of good information. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Coleus have come a long way since those first introduced spindly plants. You found some really pretty caladiums this year too. I love the polka dotted one. Certainly Clever C's.

  4. Some of the things that grow in profusion in your garden are treasured pot plants. It all depends where you live!
    You where clever with you *C* choices!

  5. I could have a garden full of coleus and nothing else! I love decorative leaves even more than flowers.

  6. Hi Rose....I must say I was never very keen on coleus but this year my father talked me into growing them, from seed, in the greenhouse. I have many different colours and have dotted them around the garden and I must say I am now very taken with them (thank you Dad). Poppi has put some in her mini border (which I must post at some point). The rabbits do have a munch here and there, but I can live with that.

    Caladiums are beautiful and I must say that Meems has made me drool sometimes with her wonderful Florida garden. As much as I love these plants I shall keep them inside the house....I do not feel they belong in an English country garden. Yours are exquisite......do keep them Rose so that I can drool over your planting as well......

    For me, the coneflower is the best of the bunch....I am smitten with mine and I have you to thank for that. After visiting your blog last year and seeing them in bloom, I was hooked. They fit in beautifully with my planting and they are a keeper. I have a little bit of the prairie in my garden......

    Have a good week........

  7. And they are as beautiful to anyone who visits your site. My preference is the last one.

  8. Beautiful leaves on the Caladiums. Thanks for another lovely Colourful post!

  9. Rose girl ! How are you : )
    I love the coleus you have highlighted for your post .. I have to take a picture of my front step planters again with those new coleus I have tried this year .. I was a "Kong" girl for quite a few years but now have ventured out to the newer cultivars and they are gorgeous !
    I have way too many coneflowers to post about .. talk about "cone flower overload ??" haha
    Very pretty post !

  10. I like the new colors of coleus --especially the sun coleus. Great for color without needing blooms! This year I bought a box of caladiums (at Sams) and have a wave of the same color sweeping along the edge of the hedges.

  11. I love how you can get beautiful color from plants that have no blooms. You pictured some of my favorites Rose.

  12. Paula, I don't have many caladiums, but I love the way they brighten up a shady area. I do have lots of coneflowers, though!

    Hildred and Charles, Thanks; I love the colors of these two plants.

    Lisa, I agree; the old-fashioned coleus weren't much to look at.

    Maggie May, These can also be grown as houseplants, which I forgot to mention. They don't survive in the garden after the frost arrives.

    Rinkly Rimes, I've grown to appreciate pretty foliage as much as showy flowers, too.

  13. Your coleus are so pretty. I grew them successfully one year. ONE year only. Never could figure out what the problem was so I gave up. I'll enjoy yours as yours looks so healthy and happy.

  14. Cheryl, I would love to see Poppi's border! The coleus of today are so much prettier than years ago; I remember my mother used to keep some as houseplants. I meant to add a link to Meems' blog; her caladiums are amazing. I can understand why you don't plant them; they're more of a tropical plant, and I don't have anything tropical here, either, other than the caladiums.

    I am so happy the coneflowers have done well for you this year, and it warms my heart to think you have a little bit of prairie in merry old England:)

  15. Regina, Thank you, and thanks for dropping by!

    RuneE, I took the photos of the caladium after a rain--plants always look best when a little rain-kissed:)

    Suburbia, Like the coleus, it was hard to choose among all the pretty varieties of caladium.

    Joy, One can never have too many coneflowers!:) I do want to see your pots of coleus...I like all the new ones better than the Kongs these days.

    Janet, The wave of caladium border sounds beautiful!

    Susie, I have always gone after showy blooms, but I'm maturing as a gardener:) Now I look at the foliage as well.

    Tina, I wonder what the problem was with those coleus. They're one plant I've always had good luck with. But then there are many plants you can grow that I have no luck with either:)

  16. Dear Rose,
    I am so happy to see your lovely coleus and caladiums.
    Never can I see too may photographs of Coneflowers....like the bees and butterflies, I too love them.
    Happy ABC Wednesday!

  17. Not only beautiful but informative as well.

  18. Your caladiums look great. Wish mine were that nice. These nights in the 50's (May thru July) just don't make caladiums happy.

    Will look for a window where I can grow some coleus over winter. I have a couple that are beautiful if I can keep them alive inside.

  19. I adore coleus and have to ask myself (interrogate really) why this is the first year I've really grown them myself--it's not like I don't have enough shade. Also love caladiums... I have an elephant ear this year which reminds me in shape of caladiums, though not as, well, red!

  20. Two of my favorites--Coleus and Caladiums, and you have many gorgeous specimens.

  21. Beautiful photos. I love coleus. My grandmother used to have many and they grew to be huge. She would plant them outside in the summer, and pot them and take them in during the winter. I have the coneflower in my garden and love the way they multiply.

  22. They are ALL beautiful, indeed! And always love the information -- gives me a chance to learn something new! Your photos are gorgeous!

  23. Caladiums and coleus are two of my favorite plants. I have so much shade in my yard that I really need them around to brighten things up. The pics of yours are wonderful! -Jackie

  24. Lovely variations! So colourfull frowers. You never know how they look?

  25. Sherry, I enjoy my coneflowers every day; I have taken so many photos of the bees and butterflies on them.

    Roger, Thank you; glad you enjoyed it.

    Marnie, My hope, too, is that I can keep some of these coleus over the winter. For me, it's a matter about faithful watering:)

    Monica, I asked myself the same question last year:) I haven't tried an elephant ear yet--that's next on the list.

    MG, Thanks! I hope things are cooler and wetter in your garden these days.

    Carol, My mother did much the same thing. My coneflowers seem to have exploded this year:)

    Sylvia K, Thank you! Good to meet up with you again.

    Ellie Mae, I think that's why I like both these plants--otherwise my shade garden would be a solid green this time of year.

    Mari, If you plant coleus from seed, you never know exactly what they will look like, but surprises are fun!

  26. Hi Rose - I haven't used your C's at all in my garden, so it's great to find out a bit more about them :)

  27. What a selection of C's you have Rose. The coleus breeders have really been busy, and thankfully so many of the named varieties can take quite a bit of sun without burning to a crisp unlike the older unnamed. Your Caladiums are wonderful too. I wish we had the shade and moisture to grow them as you do. Coleus in pots are a perfect combination. :-)

  28. Exquisite colors! I'm tempted to try some...the leaves are almost better than a blossom.

  29. i am loving the coleus and caladiums here at the farm too.thanks for sharing your varieties. there are so many and it is fun to see them all.

  30. I agree, they've come out with so many outstanding looking coleus in the last few years. They're so easy to grow and place here and there that I don't know why I don't grow more of them. (Now that I think about it, I probably don't plant them that much just because they're annuals.) The same is true for caladiums - lots of great new colors.

    Rose, I think you should succumb to succulents now that you have a good place for them. :-)

  31. You've got such great coleus! I'm glad to see it get attention because I'm loving coleus this year too. I plan to save mine as a houseplant over the winter, and yes, they are super-easy to grow from seed!

  32. I never have much success with these.

    Thanks so much for contributing.


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