Resilient even when it’s dry
COLEUS: LOOKS SAD BUT BOUNCES BACK WITH WATER
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.