by Connie Oswald Stofko
Coleus is “probably one of the easiest plants to grow in your garden,” said Doug O’Reilly, horticulturist and head gardener at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. “That’s why I grow them.”
A Coleus Show will be held from this Saturday, May 7 to Sunday, May 29 at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Ave., Buffalo.
Hours for the show are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors over age 55, $7 for students ages 13 and up with ID, $4 for children ages 3-12 and free for Botanical Gardens members and children under 3.
Coleus is enjoyed for the color and shape of its leaves. They will take sun and shade, though the colors will be more vibrant in the sun, O’Reilly said. They can’t sit in water, but they will thrive in good, well drained soil.
You’ll see about 30 or 35 varieties in the show, though there are probably a thousand varieties on the market, O’Reilly said.
You can find coleus at local garden centers as well as at the Botanical Gardens’ sale, which is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and 15. (Volunteers and members of the Botanical Gardens get the first opportunity to buy plants from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, May 13.)
In addition to its many varieties of colors, coleus comes in sizes from short to tall. One of the volunteers at the Botanical Gardens has a variety that grows two feet tall, O’Reilly said, and is so big it looks like a bush!
“If they get leggy, cut them back hard and they will bush right out,” O’Reilly advised.
While coleus is generally chosen for its leaves, some people also enjoy the flowers, which grow in spikes and are usually blueish.
Coleus is an annual; the first hard frost will kill it, O’Reilly said. Many people have success growing them inside over the winter.
Colelus is easy to propagate from cuttings. O’Reilly cuts off the piece he wants, making sure he has at least one node. He dips the piece into growth hormone, then sticks the piece into sponge oasis (the material you might use when arranging flowers). In two to three weeks, he said, he will have roots. (Get more tips here on propagating plants from cuttings.)
I have also had success rooting coleus in water.
Coleus grows slowly in low light, so O’Reilly cautions you against overwatering the plants in the winter.
For more information on the show, go the Botanical Gardens website or call 827-1584.