With leaves that will grow big enough to cover your face, the new Kong series of coleus will certainly add drama to any sad shady spot desperately in need of a little color.
Every few years, it seems, garden-trend prognosticators announce the end of coleus, the darling of English gardens since the mid-19th century. But gardeners of all levels of sophistication and experience refuse to give up these sweet little plants that grow so easily and so colorfully. And plant breeders keep coming up with new irresistible color combinations, patterns and mosaics.
The Pan-American Seed Co. developed the Kong series of coleus three or four years ago and it continues to win new admirers each spring.
Unlike many recent coleus introductions that have been bred to withstand more sun, Kong plants like full to part shade. The leaves tend to burn in full sun. Heavy summer rains can damage the foliage, too, so try to keep the plants in a sheltered spot.
Known botanically as Solenostemon scutellarioides, coleus plants are grown for their foliage, not their rather insignificant flowers. Keep pinching them back all summer to maintain a robust, bushy plant. Kong plants will grow 18 to 20 inches tall.
They like well-drained soil — add organic matter if you have heavy clay.
Colors in the Kong series include red, scarlet, rose, mosaic and salmon pink, which is new this spring. When used in combination planters, Pan-American says Kong grow best near the outside of the container.
The first fall frost will kill them, but it’s easy to propagate coleus by taking cuttings and growing a new plant indoors over the winter.