Southern Gardening: Include sun coleus in Mississippi gardens


Sun coleus such as this Alabama selection will continue to be colorful from summer all the way to frost when kept consistently moist.

Sun coleus such as this Alabama selection will continue to be colorful from summer all the way to frost when kept consistently moist. Photo by: Gary Bachman/MSU Extension


Gary Bachman



A couple of weeks ago, I gave you my thoughts on the second summer season in our Mississippi landscapes and gardens. In my vegetable garden, the harvest output of my heirloom tomatoes and pickling cucumbers is declining, and I am taking these plants out. But my peppers are stepping up and providing my family with a bounty of brightly colored fruit.


My front landscape also is changing.


As my petunias reach the end of their season, I've been replacing them with one of my favorite colorful summer plants: coleus. It used to be that colorful plant that would grow only in the shadows, never to be exposed to the sun. Kong coleus is a great choice for this type, as it was named a Mississippi Medallion award winner in 2006.



But today, I want to tell you about the group of coleuses we can grow out in the full sun.


Sun coleus foliage colors are rich and diverse, with highly variegated variations that offer a kaleidoscope of colors and combinations. We grow coleus for its boldly colored foliage, so if any flowers start to form, simply pinch these off to help develop a bushy plant. These flowers stalks are easy to spot.


Another great feature of the newer coleus selections is they have been bred to resist flowering until late in the season. My favorites are the ones that don't bloom at all.


Though there are a lot of coleus plants to choose from, you really need to take a close look at Electric Lime Coleus, chosen as a Mississippi Medallion winner in 2010. At 24 inches tall, the beautiful, lime-green foliage makes this an outstanding garden performer in either full sun or shade.


Electric lime coleus is a durable plant capable of pairing with spring flowers as well as mums in the fall.


Alabama sun coleus is another favorite in Mississippi landscapes. The new leaves start out as sunny yellow, and the foliage develops a color combination ranging from reddish pink to red. The red color intensifies with greater sun exposure. This selection is also known as Bellingrath Pink, as it is reported to have first been selected at the Bellingrath gardens.


The last coleus I want to mention seems appropriate for the current situation we find ourselves in. It is called Apocalypse.


The leaves of Apocalypse have deeply scalloped edges and a velvety appearance. The foliage color is stunning, with deep purples contrasting with bright-green margins.


Like many of my other annuals and perennials, I love growing these coleus selections in 15-gallon containers, which makes them look like colorful shrubs in my landscape.


I think sun coleus is a foolproof landscape plant and provides vibrant color that's perfect for second summer. Remember that sun coleus requires consistent moisture during the hot summer months. I use drip irrigation in my landscape beds and containers to keep these plants happy during the hottest weather.


Coleus is perfect when planted in the second summer, and it will continue to be colorful all the way to frost in the fall. Sun coleus belongs in every garden and landscape.


Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi and hosts Southern Gardening television and radio programs. Contact him at [email protected]




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