Gardening

The joy of Croton Coleus, Geranium

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Coleus flower at Intriscapes Plant Nursery in Kiambu County. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG

Summary

  • Geraniums, Crotons and Coleus plants are long-time favourites of gardeners.
  • They are easy to grow, they keep giving and can survive a little neglect, they are colourful due to their bright blossoms and foliage, and they have lovely scents.
  • Esther Kang’ethe of Dayato Homes, Barbara Makanga of Urban Plants and Agnes Kimani of Plantstherapyke, have mastered the art of growing them so that they reveal their abundance.

Geraniums, Crotons and Coleus plants are long-time favourites of gardeners. They are easy to grow, they keep giving and can survive a little neglect, they are colourful due to their bright blossoms and foliage, and they have lovely scents.

Esther Kang’ethe of Dayato Homes, Barbara Makanga of Urban Plants and Agnes Kimani of Plantstherapyke, have mastered the art of growing them so that they reveal their abundance.

Agnes started growing and selling geraniums and other plants to beat idleness.

“In July last year, the advertising and the communications industry was heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic and I found myself idle,” she says.

“My aunt, a lover of plants, kept asking me to help her pot and repot her plants,” she adds.

Every day, she would wake to pot tens of flowers.

“In the process, I got so many plants for my home until there was no space to keep them. You’d even trip while walking into the house,” she says.

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Nancy Wanjiru working on Croton flowers at Intriscapes Plant Nursery in Kiambu County. NMG PHOTO

Then she started giving out the plants to her friends and family yet she could not stop buying more plants.

“It hit me that gardening is a form therapy. I felt happy interacting and nurturing plants and that’s how PlantsTherapyKe was born,” she talks of her online plants business with a nursery in Nairobi’s Kasarani.

One plant that gives her joy is the geranium. Geraniums, also called Pelargonium, are the most popular blooming plants in Kenya. The most common types of geraniums are zonal, ivy, regal, and scented.

“They can be planted in a garden or in pots. The ivy type is wonderful as a hanging option in baskets or as a spill-out from pots,” says Agnes.

For Esther, it is the Coleus that gives her joy.

“The best thing about plants is their generosity. Plants keep on giving. They bring out the beauty of any space,” she says.

Coleus is a tropical perennial foliage plant from Southeast Asia, which comes in yellow, lime green, burgundy, pink, and red. There are over 200 types from the Fishnet Stocking, Wizard Mix, Trailing Plum, Salmon Pink, Religious Radish, Chocolate Coleus, and the Kiwi Fern.

“Most of these are available locally. I’m yet to come across the kiwi fern. I would be glad to own one,” says Esther.

Coleus Care

The plant thrives in evenly moist well-drained soil. Soggy soil leads to root rot. When the plant is dry it will wilt. However, after watering it will bounce back, making it a very forgiving plant.

The plant flourishes in a shade but requires sunlight. The morning sun enhances the intensity of its colour. Coleus can either be potted or grown directly to on the ground but away from the hot midday sun. When planting, ensure you mix the soil with compost.

Since the Coleus is a shrub, regular pruning will enhance growth. Pinch the top of the tall growth to enhance a bushier look especially if planted on the ground. If potted, propagate it using cuttings for you to achieve a fuller look.

“Something else, you can have one plant with four different varieties. This can be achieved by grafting,” she says.

Like other plants, the Coleus can be attacked by pests such as mealybugs, slugs and spider mites which slow the growth. A mixture of cayenne pepper, garlic, and ginger sprinkled in the infested area in the evening, will work wonders.

“You can also wipe off the pests with a soapy cloth,” says Esther.

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Geraniums Care

For Geraniums, she says, they require a minimum of six hours of sunlight.

“If well taken care of, they can bloom almost all year long, up to 40 years,” she says.

For those looking to pot geraniums, use the porous terracotta pots because Geraniums do not like sitting in water.

“Apply fertiliser twice a year and top-dress with compost. Geraniums can’t do without coffee. Therefore, save your leftover coffee grounds and sprinkle them onto the soil and as you water your plant,” she adds.

Barbara loves Crotons.

“I can’t believe there was a time I had no plants. Now I have 22 fully-grown plants, which have changed the appearance of my home. Caring for plants has taught me to trust the process in different aspects of life and it help with emotional and mental well-being,” she says.

The Croton (Codiaeum variegatum) has thick, leathery leaves of many colours, shapes, and sizes. As it ages, its colour may darken to nearly black. In the wild, they grow up to 10 feet tall.

“There are many different Croton varieties. For example, Petra, Gold Star, Eleanor Roosevelt and Oakleaf,” she says.

Croton Care

Crotons are popular because of their colours. These stunning plants can be potted and kept indoors in a very well-draining soil/potting mix, but should be put in a location that receives four to six hours of sunlight and generous amounts of humidity. Without light, Croton’s colours will fade.

When the soil dries out, water the plant thoroughly until the water flows out the bottom of the container. They are not as thirsty as other indoor plants but will drop leaves when too dry.

“Don’t panic if your plant drops a few leaves upon arrival. Generally, Crotons don’t like to be moved, so a few falling leaves within a week is normal,” Barbara says.

Crotons can be attached by mealybugs, scale, thrips or spider mites.

“You can fight these unwelcome visitors by rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or with dish-washing soap with water,” she says.