If you want to add a splash of spicy color and unique foliage to your yard this spring, look no further than the FlameThrower coleus series, one of the unique selections by the LSU AgCenter for the 2020 Louisiana Super Plants program.
FlameThrower coleus are unique, multicolored plants that grow upright and compact and can tolerate either full sun or shade. Bold colors of foliage make this striking collection ideal for containers and landscape beds. These plants supply lasting color, and the uniquely shaped leaves add texture to the landscape.
The developers got creative when they named these seven spicy varieties: Salsa Roja, Serrano, Habanero, Chili Pepper, Chipotle, Spiced Curry and Salsa Verde. All feature striking color combinations and electric patterns of gold, green, chartreuse and burgundy red.
The FlameThrower coleus series has consistently performed well in trials at research stations across the state. These easy-care, warm-season plants are a breeze to grow. With few pests or diseases, this series can be grown year-round in south Louisiana’s climate. In cooler areas, it performs more like an annual and may die back in extended freezes or cold weather.
The FlameThrower collection, which joins the Henna coleus as a Louisiana Super Plant, looks great when one or varieties are planted together.
You can use it to edge a border, as an accent in raised beds, in containers or hanging baskets or as a houseplant. For a real impact, create a mass planting in the landscape.
One added benefit of this series is that it is one of the last to flower.
Most coleus are grown for their foliage, but they do display an inconspicuous spike of small blue flowers in late summer to early fall that attract butterflies.
Although they perform well in shade, FlameThrower does best with at least three hours of direct sunlight up to full sun. Fertilizing once a month and pinching off the spires of blue flowers down to one full leaf set below the flower spike will keep the foliage growing all season. Trim them regularly to keep plants from overgrowing containers.
Plant FlameThrower in the spring at a spacing of 16-18 inches apart. They will grow and spread to about 16-18 inches. This coleus grows relatively fast, and plants will reach maturity in about four to five weeks. They tolerate pruning well, so pinch off the top inch or two of new growth if plants become too tall or leggy. FlameThrower does tolerate clay soils fairly well, so that’s good news for us.
Mix plenty of organic matter or compost into landscape beds for best performance, and make sure to have good drainage.
After planting, water thoroughly and periodically when the soil feels dry to the touch in the top few inches. Coleus is not particularly drought tolerant. Fertilize with slow-release general fertilizer granules or a water-soluble liquid fertilizer every 14 or more days as needed.
When planting in containers, be sure to use a lightweight, well-drained potting mix to discourage fungal growth.
You can bring coleus indoors if you have a spot with bright light, which will insure it keeps its colorful leaves year-round. Water only when the top inch of the soil is dry to the touch. To keep the plant compact and to prevent spindly growth, pinch it back as necessary and fertilize with a general-purpose indoor plant fertilizer at half the rate in the spring and fall.
Look for these plants in local nurseries, and always ask for Louisiana Super Plants, which is an educational and marketing campaign that highlights tough and beautiful plants that perform well in Louisiana landscapes. These plants have a proven track record and are universally tested and industry approved.