What do Betty Grable, famous pin-up for World War II enlisted men, and coleus, famous rainbow-hued plants, have in common?
Legs! Well, not really legs where the coleus are concerned, but definitely a bit of legginess can develop as my young coleus sprouts grow.
Coleus, left side, before pinching, right side, after pinching out growing stem.
When my coleus sprouts begin to shoot up and become leggy I know it’s time to pinch out the middle top leaves. Before I do this, I make sure the plant has at least six true leaves. Using my hand as a garden tool, I carefully grasp the last set of leaves between thumb and forefinger, and pinch the topmost leaves away. This will allow the top to branch out into two separate stems. I continue pinching throughout the summer months, helping the coleus to become bushy rather than tall and leggy. On August 1st, I stop pinching and let the flowers develop. Another plus to growing coleus is helping out the pollinators who make use of their flowers; at this point bees happily cross-pollinate the plants for me.
The coleus in the foreground has already been pinched. At this stage I can judge which sprouts are going to be tall and large-leafed, and which will be small with interesting swirled, fringed leaves.
Here’s a look at a sample of my sprouts. I have between 150 and 200 growing in the house. Our weather has been very cool and I want these babies to have the best start possible. Coleus cannot tolerate cold weather.
I’m thrilled with these babies since I know they will only improve, deepen in color, begin to swirl and turn, develop scalloped edges or stay straight, as they begin to grow outdoors under the pine.