How to grow a priceless collection of rare coleus


Landscaper Teresia Wanjiku at her Ngong roadside stall with various non-flowering plants and hanging potted plants. August 5, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

If plants had superpowers, the coleus plant would be one of the most powerful. Its ability to bring colour, texture and form to any garden is unparalleled.

It is the rainbow on the ground. Among the many plants and flowers that Teresia Kinuthia sells at her garden centre along Nairobi Ngong’ Road, coleus plants barely rest.

“They’re popular because of their coloured foliage, different textures and forms. Unlike seasonal flowers, coleuses stun daily. Additionally, they’re low maintenance, resistant to pest and diseases, are easy to propagate and can be trimmed to one’s desired shape,” says Ms Kinuthia.

She has eight varieties of the plant in single or multi-coloured varieties.

Styling a garden using coleus

Versatility and the showiness in a coleus plant makes it easy to style. Plant it individually or in a group combining its various colours and textures in pots or soil. Alternatively, combine it with other plants for an exotic look. In a small garden, the coleus plants will be a real tonic, says Anabelle Njoki, a coleus lover in Nairobi.

“Since it has no end season, use it to create a centre of interest or a focal point.”

When using a layering system common in gardens that are backed up against a wall, give this tropical plant a front row seat allowing it to shine since it does not grow tall.

Let it blaze the edges and borders to maintain the garden’s look as the days wear on, or create colour blocks using its solid hue varieties. “If your garden beds are in shady areas, select a shade-tolerant variety to add zest," the entrepreneur shares.

Take advantage of the riotous colours in the coleus to ward off the gloomy atmosphere in corners or to soften the edges of stairs.


Landscaper Teresia Wanjiku's various non-flowering plants and hanging potted plants at her Ngong roadside stall on August 5, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Have it around your garden furniture but in a contrasting colour to make it more fun.

You can also use coleus plants on the bases of trees as a carpet over the root system. This adds a classy touch to the base. Furthermore, have hanging baskets dripping with coleus glory and aura by the door or garden walls to create a bright air garden.

Popping it in pots individually or in groups works. Because of their different colours, you can plant many in a single pot or mix and match.

However, layered potting with other plants adds freshness. To make such a pot, one requires a thriller, filler and a spiller. Single or mixed coleuses are perfect as fillers. A great combination with coleus is a Croton and ivy.

“The trick is to ensure a balance between the light and dark varieties and hot and cool tones,” Ms Njoki adds.

Propagating a Coleus

“Using a clean pair of scissors, cut two to three inches of the plant’s shoot. Remove all the leaves save for two pairs,” Ms Kinuthia explains.

“Take this cut section and plant it directly into your potting soil but under indirect sunlight. New life will begin to show after two weeks.”

Alternatively, place the cut part in water and under direct sunlight, topping the water when need be and changing the water if it appears cloudy. Once the roots emerge, plant the newly rooted plant into potting soil.

“Give the new plants enough water and plenty of space to thrive. When watering, avoid spilling water on the plant’s foliage to minimise fungal infections,” adds Ms Njoki, who waters her coleuses early in the morning to keep them damp-free.

“To avoid pests, a mixture of oil and soap on the underside of the leaf works will make the plant uninhabitable.”

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