Not your grandmother's houseplant anymore.
Coleus or Solenostemon Scutellarioides...(is it any wonder they are called just Coleus)...was popular in Victorian times but then fell out of favor for years, thought of as an old-fashioned houseplant. But in the 1990s breeders changed all that when they developed hundreds of varieties in all sorts of colors, leaf shapes and sizes, both sun and shade loving.
Coleus will survive in the sun though it really thrives in a shady location...part sun/part shade tends to be ideal. In the shade the colors tend to be enhanced but I have found the deeper colors such as a dark purple do better in a sunny location.
Small insignificant flowers bloom in late summer but it's the foliage that really is the selling feature. Coleus prefer moist well-drained soil and are basically maintenance free, though I would suggest pinching any blooms to encourage a bushier plant.
I have never been very good about saving the identity tags on annuals but in recent years I have changed that policy for Coleus...certain varieties have become favorites and I seek them out such as "Sedona", a lovely rusty orange that pairs beautifully with any purple or yellow plant. I have also come to love "FloridaSun Jade" a brilliantly multi-colored plant and "Gold Giant" a beautiful ochre yellow with purple under leaves.
"FloridaSun Jade" in the same container as an Abutilon.
"Sedona, mixed with "Black Magic" elephant ears and a sweet potato vine.
"Gold Giant" is stunning with a simple orange impatiens.
Paired with a purple salvia in a dusty green container this "Coco Loco" will be on my "must have" list next year. One of the beauties of Coleus is it's rate of growth as you can see here, the difference is only a couple months.
I have found just three coleus in a container can make quite a statement...in this case from left to right..."Freckles", "Religious Radish" and "Electric Lime".
I found this pair very satisfying though I'm not 100% certain of the names....I believe the back Coleus is "Saturn"* and the other is "Beckwith's Gem"*.
With the right container you can simply plant one Coleus and be dazzled, such as here with "Schizophrenia".
Coleus work exceptionally well in hanging containers. On top "Kaleidoscope"* is paired with two colors of potato vines and on the bottom three Coleus, a geranium and a potato vine make a stunning arrangement. On the bottom I believe the Coleus are left to right "Violet Metzger"* "Trailing Red"* and "Swiss Sunshine"*.
I must admit to a weakness for Coleus that appear to have paint splattered on them. On top "Kaleidoscope"* and on the bottom "Careless Love"* and "Gok 7"*.
I tend to use a lime green Coleus most often because of my penchant for purple...it adds the perfect contrast.
Coleus work well in containers, as an underplanting and in hanging containers...it's a very versatile plant and is guaranteed to catch your attention where ever you place it.
*For a great many of the above plants I have used www.coleusfinder.org to identify them. In some cases I'm not completely sure if they are correct and have placed an asterisk(*) to indicate such.