Resilient even when it’s dry


The Citizen (KZN) - - City - Alice Spenser-Higgs Care for Sun Coleus

His­tor­i­cally shade-lov­ing plant can sur­vive well in full sun.

Four years ago, when wa­ter-wise tri­als were car­ried out at the Ball Straathof es­tate in Honey­dew, the plant that sur­prised ev­ery­one with its re­silience was Sun Coleus Camp­fire.

It came through the three hottest months of the year, from De­cem­ber to the end of Fe­bru­ary, re­tain­ing its lush­ness, bril­liant leaf colour and com­pact shape.

Ac­cord­ing to mar­ket­ing man­ager Kathy Var­ney plants in large pots were di­vided into three groups; those that got no wa­ter, ex­cept rain­fall, wa­ter once a week and wa­ter ev­ery se­cond day.

“Those that had to sur­vive on rain­wa­ter or once-a-week wa­ter­ing did flag and look re­ally sad, al­most dy­ing at times when it was very hot, but with a bit of wa­ter they bounced back re­mark­ably well,” said Var­ney.

“We wanted to in­ter­ro­gate what is wa­ter wise, so we chat­ted with Rand Wa­ter’s Wa­ter Wise division to fig­ure out a grad­ing sys­tem, clas­si­fied from one to four.”

In­ci­den­tally, the other plant that took ev­ery­one by sur­prise was Sun­pa­tiens. Like Sun Coleus both are his­tor­i­cally shade-lov­ing plants that have been mod­i­fied and hard­ened through breed­ing to per­form bet­ter in the sun. The other plants on trial in­cluded An­gelo­nia, Ba­copa, Be­go­nias, Cal­i­bra­choa, Delosperma, Echi­nacea Gaura, Leu­can­the­mums and Ver­bena. “We al­ways ad­vise gar­den­ers that Sun Coleus and Sun­pa­tiens planted in full sun need more wa­ter and while we would con­tinue to ad­vise that, we were sur­prised at how they stood up to the sunny, dry con­di­tions and bounced back af­ter wa­ter­ing or rain­fall,’ said Var­ney.

The tri­als in­cluded pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive con­trols, records of daily min­i­mum and max­i­mum tem­per­a­tures, and the amount of light plants re­ceived was also recorded. Some were in full sun with oth­ers in af­ter­noon shade.

Since Red­head caught ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion as the first Sun Coleus, the range has ex­tended to in­clude Henna, Camp­fire, Saturn, Wasabi and the new­est in the range Pinkplo­sion and Flamethrow­er Salsa Verde.

These low-main­te­nance, high-im­pact plants stand out as fea­ture plants in a mixed bor­der.

The vivid leaf colours and pat­terns add colour to a pre­dom­i­nantly fo­liage gar­den and taller va­ri­eties work well as a back­drop for Sun­pa­tiens. They are sump­tu­ous con­tainer plants as a fea­ture for the pa­tio or in the gar­den.

Pinkplo­sion has ser­rated green leaves with a pink-and-cream cen­tre that be­comes deeper pink the more sun­light it receives.

Plants are sturdy, grow­ing into a neat, bushy fea­ture plant 35cm to 70cm high and al­most as wide.

Plants flower late, or not at all, which means that their vigour is not di­luted. batatas).

The com­pact na­ture of the plants, 30cm to 35cm high and wide, makes it a ver­sa­tile gar­den plant for small gar­dens and land­scapes.

Full-morn­ing sun is ideal and plants can take some af­ter­noon sun if wa­tered more of­ten.

Grow in fer­tile, well-mulched soil that re­tains mois­ture but doesn’t get soggy. Wa­ter well while es­tab­lish­ing.

The nat­u­rally branch­ing plants don’t need pinch­ing. Re­move flower spikes for larger fo­liage.

Gar­den plants should be spaced 30cm apart.

Plants in con­tain­ers should be wa­tered daily or ev­ery se­cond day in sum­mer.

Pinch off any flow­ers and spindly stems to keep the plant bushy.

SUN LOVER. Coleus Pinkplo­sion.

GOOD FOR SMALL GAR­DENS. Coleus Flamethrow­er Salsa Verde.

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