Plants – Coleus Week/Creating a Topiary Tree- Part II

This is my coleus topiary, in the works for two, maybe three years; I’ve lost track of time. Started from a spindly specimen, it has grown into a beauty.

Since the lush growth makes it top-heavy, I have added a whole bag of river rock to the potting soil. The extra weight keeps the plant stable in the wind that sometimes whistles through the porch screens during summer storms. In the winter I don’t have to worry so much about it toppling over, but I like the look of the stones and will leave them in place when I bring the plant indoors before cool weather begins.

The leaves of this coleus are a perfect example of how light affects the color. You can see the changes in saturation and design. There must be half a dozen variations on this one plant. I love the mosaic look of the newer leaves at the top, but also enjoy the deep pinks and maroons of the earlier leaves. It’s fun to move a coleus around from window to window, and outdoors too, to see what kind of rainbows the light will create.

Plants – Coleus Week/Volunteers

It’s a hot, hot, hot day here in the Mid-Atlantic State of New Jersey. Heat-loving plants and people are doing well, those who dislike the temperature hovering near 100 degrees are not so good. If kept well-watered, coleus plants do well in July; they love high temperatures. Not only do they thrive in the heat, they also offer up volunteer sprouts in surprising nooks and crannies courtesy of last year’s seed stalks.

They are not particular about soil, many come up in between the rocks bordering the garden. It sometimes makes for crowded conditions, but it also gives me some interesting color combinations.

The plants will continue growing throughout the late fall. I have stopped pinching them, and now they will begin to bloom, sending up seed stalks for me to gather in mid-autumn. I have even dug a few up for special projects…a bit of a teaser for tomorrow’s post. Stay tuned!

Plants – Coleus & Betty Grable

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By Frank Powolny – 20th Century Fox studio promo portrait [1], Public Domain, Link

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.

 

Plants – The Big Coleus Transplant – Hooray! (Tips for Etsy Seed Purchases)

I’ve been growing this year’s coleus crop in recycled chicken rotisserie containers since mid-winter. They have grown well, and it’s time to transplant them. Before I begin I gently move the larger plants aside; the coleus are already showing different colors, sizes, and leaf shapes. Years ago, and I have no idea where the advice came from, I read that often the best coleus are the last ones to sprout and grow large. I have found this to have a modicum of truth, beneath the larger coleus sprouts are often the best plants.

I transplant into small cups with a drainage hole cut into the bottom. A light potting soil is best, I add a bit of vermiculite to lighten it further, but it’s not necessary if the soil drains well.

The best method to remove the seedling from the surrounding sprouts is to use a fork. The fork lifts without cutting through the roots.

At this time I closely examine each plantlet and take note of those that have the most potential. I was impressed by this small sprout. Although it it is tiny it is loaded with color and sass. I like the spots and it reminds me a bit of a leopard.

Here’s my first tray of seedlings potted up and ready to grow on for a few weeks. Coleus cannot tolerate cold temperatures. I will grow them on in the trays until after the full moon on May 7th. At that time they can be placed in their permanent pots outside.

I love coleus. They can be sown and planted at any time throughout the year. They make an amazing houseplant. I’ve included a photograph of a coleus I’ve grown into a topiary.

The Flower Ark Etsy Shop Coleus Seeds

Phlowers – Coleus Sprouts/Leaves of Many Colors

This is a leaf from one of my favorite indoor coleus. Have I  mentioned that in late summer, I choose a few favorites, take cuttings, and then grow the rooted coleus all winter? This gives me many pots of colorful plants and a good head start on summer color. The one above is a favorite. The leaf is large enough to cover my palm. The colors are a great mix, Kelly green, lemon yellow with touches of chartreuse green, and purest pink. I enjoy the textured growth of this leaf, and also the fringed edges. The leaf has a slight downward curve, giving it a graceful swoop as it grows from a strong stem.

Twelve months ago, the large coleus looked much the same as this year’s sprouts. Perhaps a few of them are offspring of this particular plant. The sprouts are just beginning to color and even display different shapes and sizes. I see one in the front that shows promise of interesting texture and color. I planted these coleus using my small seed technique. They are well-spaced, giving each one plenty of room to grow and giving the soil adequate airflow to combat damping-off disease.

The good news is these sprouts are only beginning to develop. They will become prettier, fringed, and deeper textured with each passing day. In about six weeks they will ready to plant into their final pots to wow the borders of the yard with their colors.

 2020 Coleus Seeds available for purchase at The Flower Ark Etsy Shop.

Planting – Selective Cross-Pollination

I grow most of my coleus in large pots beneath the dappled shade of pine trees. I start out with a good potting soil enriched with fertilizer. I plant three to four plants in each pot and keep a watchful eye on the moistness of the soil. It’s one of my gardening joys to watch a sprout with only the promise of color grow and develop into a beautiful and unique plant.

If I was growing coleus only as an accent plant in the garden I would pinch out flower stalks as soon as they appear, but for me, the emerging spiky blossoms indicate good things to come. My coleus will soon begin to cross-pollinate with each other and then produce seed for 2019. I have collected seed from my plants for many, many years. To keep only the prettiest and most unusual coleus producing seeds I will only let the best plants begin to flower. Diligence in culling out the common in appearance will assure only my favorites will be harvested for seed. I’m already excited for next year’s crop. Is that counting my seeds before they are harvested…probably!

Planting – Tips on Tuesday/Coleus Samplers 2018 Part I

 

Coleus are one of my favorite plants, and also a plant that grows better by having the growing tips pinched out. I gave my coleus their final pinch during the week of July 4th. Chrysanthemums are another plant that will bloom better by pinching out through early July. I am letting my coleus flower because I collect and sell the seed throughout the year. If I didn’t want the plants to produce seed for harvesting I would continue to pinch the growing tips throughout the entire summer.

Most of my coleus plants are growing in pots of rich potting soil. They are doing well this year, and being heat-lovers are growing strong in the current summer condtions. I’m hoping for amazing cross-pollination for this year’s harvest of seeds.

Collage samplers created in Ribbet.com

 

Quick Tip – Transplanting Tiny Volunteers

Anyone who reads my blog knows I love plants that come up on their own in strange places. This week, in my front garden, I noticed several coleus sprouts beneath larger plants, volunteers from last year’s coleus. The coleus are extremely small and have no chance to thrive if left to grow beneath large trees.

After I spot a desirable sprout I dig a small shallow hole for transplanting. My favorite tool for removing the small plantlet is a putty knife. The knife slides into the soil easily and lifts the sprout right out of the ground. I don’t want to disturb the roots any further so I fill the transplant hole up with water, and while it is sinking into the ground insert the sprout into the well of water. The pull of the water plants the sprout without me having to touch it or crush it with a stream of water from a watering can or hose.

If you spot a small volunteer sprout in your garden and have a perfect spot for it to grow, give this technique for planting a try.

Planting – Coleus Cuttings

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Coleus are one of my favorite garden plants to grow from seed, but that is another post, perhaps later in the week. This small cutting is rooting on my windowsill now. Did you know there is a rumor that cuttings root faster in green glass with sun shining through it? I don’t know if it has been proven, but why not try if you have green glass around the house. (Perhaps a green soda bottle would work too!)

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The coleus I’m rooting for Spring, is a cutting from a rooted and transplanted cutting I took in the Autumn. That’s a bit of a tongue-twister, isn’t it? I took about a dozen cuttings of my favorite coleus before the first frost, and they are rooted and growing strong on my windowsills. They will be replanted outside in pots in the first few weeks of May and be grown beneath the pine trees in the ivy beds. Coleus thrive in this area and add a lot of color to the gardens.

I’m partial to the light yellow colors that several of my coleus have developed over the years, and tend to plant and root more of these each season. Rooting coleus cuttings is easy, cut a sprig from the mother plant 4 -6 inches tall, place in water, and wait a few weeks for roots to develop. When the roots fill the container, plant in potting soil. I have great luck doing nothing more than these easy steps.

 

Photographs – Cee’s Challenge/Light Green

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I enjoy taking part in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenges now and then. Since I have quite a few good examples of light greens in my garden today…the challenge was perfect. Here are a few examples of my Light Greens

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Many of my coleus are blooming, hopefully producing seeds for next year’s garden. I love the light green color on many of the leaves.

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Hydrangeas are another good example of a plant with a beautiful array of green, the deep green of the leaves is the perfect backdrop for the flowers, aging from pink to light green before they fall.

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I’m not sure what type of mint this plant is, but the bees don’t care about the name, they love the nectar and pollen they find in its tiny white flowers. When the bloom is finished the plant forms interesting, light green pods.

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These gigantic Nicotiana plants are volunteers. Where they came from is a mystery, but I’m glad they decided to grow in the cracks of my sidewalk and along the edge of my garden. I love the brilliant light green of the leaves. They might not have time to blossom before first frost, but I have my fingers crossed.

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Quick Tip – Stabilizing Pots

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I had a late start growing my coleus from seed this year. To give them a better chance to grow larger, I planted them in pre-fertilized potting soil in pots. My ivy beds beneath the pines were the perfect spot for the pots to sit. The vines were the perfect height and strength to hold the pots in place. Now some of the coleus are nearing twelve to eighteen inches in height. The wind has continually knocked them over in the last few weeks. To stabilize the pots and keep them from overturning I aligned short stakes with the drainage holes and hammered them into the ground. This has worked perfectly, a quick solution to a constant problem. I also thought a dollar store pack of pencils would have done the trick for holding the pots in place. Sharpened, and pounded in through the drainage areas, they would also keep the pots stable.

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Plants – Coleus Cuttings

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The day is dreary. A perfect moment in time to do a little indoor gardening in preparation for the growing season. The coleus cuttings I took from my outdoor plants in the Autumn have thrived. Now, it is time to take cuttings from these indoor plants, continuing the cycle of growing coleus indoors and out each year.

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I took several cuttings of the longest plant branches. An important next step is the removal of leaves that will be below the water line.

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My recycled jelly jars are the perfect size for rooting coleus cuttings. Direct sunlight is not a good idea with clear jars, but green glass is supposed to be good for rooting in direct sunlight. I placed my cuttings under a grow light, but any soft, indirect lighting will work. Within four weeks I should have dozens of roots growing from the stem. At that point I will place the coleus in potting soil and grow on in the house for a few more weeks, until the danger for frost is completely gone. Coleus will not survive a heavy frost.

Plants – Coleus – The Secret of Vibrant Colors

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My favorite coleus is one I grew from seed several years ago. I call it Raspberry Twizzle. A progeny of several years of cross-breeding coleus in my garden, Twizzle is vibrantly hued, rippled, and boasting scalloped edges. The beautiful color is not guaranteed. The plants in the photograph above are all from the same mother plant. The reason for the lackluster color of the middle coleus: the wrong light conditions. Coleus grown indoors must have very bright morning and early afternoon light. If they are grown in too much shade their colors will fade, even though they retain their fancy frills and ripples. Strong afternoon light will have the opposite effect, and make for faded color.

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Coleus root in plain tap water. This cutting is only a few weeks old and is ready for planting. If you have coleus growing outdoors, bring a few sprigs in and keep your plants alive for planting out next Spring.

Plants – Mid-Spring Garden Update

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the garden: planting, weeding, watering and tidying up. Likewise, the garden has been the subject of quite a few recent posts. Here are a few quick updates on some past posts, and then I’ll try to turn my blogging intentions elsewhere, at least for a few days. 😀

Birdie, birdie in the tree

Sparrows made use of my birdhouse and the tree has been a-twitter with the chirping of baby birds for over a week.

Koi in Pond

I’ve been enjoying the pond, it is on the small size, but the koi are huge. They don’t seem to mind the small confines. Two have grown to twelve inches from three/four inch sized babies.

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A coleus grown from my own gathered seed has finally, after years of pampering, become a beauty. I love the finely edged leaves and vivid pink color. I named it Raspberry Twizzle. It has the characteristics of other coleus I have grown, but I have never seen such a brilliant pink in other coleus. I love it.

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I love my potted pansies and dahlia near the front porch.

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I found an old favorite, Mimulus, or monkey flower at a local nursery. The plant is heat intolerant, so I am growing it in pots on the porch.

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My Meyer Lemon and  Carambola sprouts are also vacationing on the porch for the summer. At some point I am going to have to decide which to keep and which to give away or discard.

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I replaced a rose that didn’t make it through our long winter with one of the Hasslefree Roses variety. I love this beautiful apricot beauty called: About Face.

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The Tomato Transplants in the Straw Bales are doing very well, so are a crop of mushrooms. The mushrooms sprout up overnight and succumb to the heat of the afternoon sun. They don’t seem to be doing the tomatoes any harm. This new technique of growing tomatoes has been a lot of fun.

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The Square Foot Gardens are up and doing well.

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Our Iris plants in this area are blooming weeks later than usual. Here is my favorite. I can’t remember the name, but oh the joy I feel when it unfurls its amazing pink petals. The blooming of this beauty prompted me to go on my yearly “Iris Hunt.” My “hunt ” is a long, circular bike ride through all the surrounding neighborhoods to find and photograph as many gorgeous Iris as possible. More on this at a later date. Thanks for looking, and thanks to those who have been asking me for this garden update. Blessings on your day!

Plants – Updates/A Bit of This and That

Several of my past projects are thriving, or at least still growing.  The Meyer Lemon Seed sprouts are deep green and perky in appearance, but growing very slowly.

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Growing a Meyer Lemon Tree from Seed

One of my Carambola seeds finally sprouted after many weeks sown in potting soil. I was about to give up on this planting attempt, but saw green just in time.

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How to Sprout a Carambola Seed

In a day or two after sprouting the seed fell away and tiny fronds emerged.

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My Coleus seeds, sown in January, are showing many colors, but in sync with the carambola and lemon sprouts, growing slowly. This week I will take the seedlings outside to the screened in porch and let them begin the hardening off process. If there is a forecasted frost I will keep them in the garage overnight. Coleus are extremely susceptible to cold temperatures.
How to Grow Small Seeds/Coleus

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Are my Morning Glories blue or pink? The stray pink Morning Glory was a fluke, most of the flowers are blue. Unfortunately, in their quest to face the sun, the plants and flowers grew toward the window. I decided they would create a better display outdoors.

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I had to be ruthless and cut the vines and flowers off at the top of the pot, leaving many inches of vine to wither on the venetian blinds. The Morning Glory plants will be better for the harsh pruning. Each cut vine will branch out in many directions.

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This weekend I gridded and planted a few squares in my Square Foot Gardens. I forgot to take a picture afterwards, so the only image I have is from this morning, taken from my upstairs window in pouring rain.

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Happy Gardening my friends!

Plantings – Manic Monday Update

This post is definitely a bit later than most. I have a good excuse. I live in New Jersey and already the snowflakes are falling, only the beginning of what they are saying could be a record-breaking snowfall. Hopefully, we will get only about a foot of the white stuff. Are you gasping in disbelief? Only a foot! Am I crazy? No, I’m just glad I don’t live further north where they are forecasting near thirty inches will fall before the blizzard is over. When you compare twelve inches to thirty, twelve certainly seems better!

I was one of those crazy people who drove to the Supermarket at 8:00 this morning. I have a gallon of milk, I have bread in the freezer, but wouldn’t you know it, I needed cat food and the orange juice bottle was empty. I ventured out. In the rush of the crowds, comparable to the eve of a major holiday, wouldn’t you know it, I forgot eggs. Grrrrr….

Anyway, it’s a good day for a quick update on my recent plantings. All are doing exceptionally well. The Heavenly Blue Morning Glories sprouted in less than a week. Hooray! If you look closely at the picture you can see I have a “sport.” One sprout a little different than the others. I will definitely keep this one growing. Who knows? It might turn out to the best morning glory ever grown. I can hope!

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Some of the coleus seeds have sprouted too. They grow slowly. It will be weeks before there is a hint of color in the leaves.

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The Meyer Lemon Sprouts are still erupting from the soil. As of now, I have eleven sprouts, but there are a least two more seeds ready to burst into leaf. O Happy Day!

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Planting – Small Seeds/Coleus & Others

It’s that time of year again…my coleus seeds need to be planted now if they are to reach a decent size by the end of April. Below you will find a re-blogged post on how I plant small seeds. It may seem tedious, but it keeps the small plantlets separate and drastically cuts back on damping-off disease.

I have collected seeds from my coleus plants for well over ten years. Each year I plant the offspring of the previous year, the seedlings grow, are cross-pollinated by the bees, and new seeds are harvested in the late Autumn. I start my coleus very early, the seeds are small, quick to sprout, but slow to grow. I don’t sow them thickly into the flats. Seedlings sown too close together tend to get damping-off disease.

I found these great lidded containers made by Solo this year. They are the perfect coleus incubator/flat.

I sow the seeds sparingly using the sharpened point of a pencil. I dip the pencil point into water and touch it to one seed. The dampness grabs hold of the seed. I touch the seed to the wet seed starter mix in the flat, and the seed adheres to the wet soil. I repeat this process between sixty and seventy times per flat.

I use wire garbage bag ties, marked in segments with magic marker, to guide me in the placement of the seeds.

After I sow a row of seeds I remove the wire guide so I don’t double plant a row.

The next step is a gentle spray of water to seal the seeds to the wet soil.

I cover the flat with the lid. It is gratifying to observe it instantly steam up with warmth and humidity.

I place the planted flat of coleus seed on top of my refrigerator or near, but not on, a heating vent. I’ll update the progress as the seeds sprout and grow.

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Plants – Coleus Sampler 2014

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Here’s a sampling of my coleus this summer of 2014. The weather in my area has been unseasonably cool, and the coleus have never reached their full potential. They are half the height and breadth of past coleus  grown in Southern New Jersey. Not to worry though…they are beginning to put out flower spikes and next year’s coleus seeds will soon be developing.

Plantings – Garden Growings-On

Seedlings, Seedlings, Seedlings! They are EVERYWHERE! Last night I had to bring them into the house instead of overnighting in the garage…it is going to be very cold during the next twelve hours or so. I also covered the spinach and the kale I planted Sunday with overturned terracotta pots. They would probably be fine without the protection, but why risk it?

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My dining room table

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Coleus galore! I have more in other rooms, and I started another batch a few weeks later for those bare spots left by poppies, bleeding heart, spring bulbs and other plants that die away near the end of June.

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Gorgeous tomato seedlings…I tried many varieties this year.