Coleus 13°C/55°F; South East Asia

Of the less ex-pensive foliage houseplants there are none that can compare with the Variegated Dead Nettles when it comes to leaf colouring. From a single packet of seed sown in the greenhouse in the spring come plants with colours and colour combinations of an almost infinite variety, including purple, red, bronze, yellow and white. Although seed-grown plants are not as good as named varieties that have been raised from cuttings (taken at any time when they are available provided there is a warm greenhouse or propagating case available for starting them off in) you can, nevertheless, get some very fine plants if the best colours are selected for growing on in larger pots. Pinch out the growing points regularly to promote bushy side growth. Coleus are generally greedy in respect of feeding, but need for feeding can be reduced by potting plants on into larger pots-it would be quite possible to have spring sown seedlings growing in 18cm/7in pots by the autumn. Use a loam-based mixture when potting and be sure to select only the best coloured plants, as there is no point in lavishing extra care on some of the more cabbage-like plants that one may find among the seedlings. All coleus do best in good light and reasonable warmth with a little tender care thrown in for good measure. Although seldom grown on for a second year, good forms can be overwintered for cuttings to be taken from them in spring.

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