If you are looking for the perfect partner for your favorite flower then look no further than Gene Autry coleus. I often give seminars showing all of the hot new plants and captivating combinations. At some point in what may seem like a whirlwind lecture I stop and tell the class that if they get confused seeing so many plants then remember this—plant coleus. Whether you choose to plant coleus with coleus or coleus with flowers, you’ll be guaranteed to have a stunning garden.
Not long ago I had the opportunity to see and photograph an incredibly striking combination planting that would be easy for anyone to duplicate at their home. The garden featured the brilliant lime green and cream colored Gene Autry coleus contrasting with a Donalena verbena that was iridescent purple/pink.
The Gene Autry coleus is part of the Stained Glass Works series that has become a staple at most garden centers. This coleus has winner written all over it and has scored high in university trials from June through September. This kind of performance represents great value for your gardening dollar.
The Donalena verbena comes from Danzinger seed, a well-known supplier from Israel. Though popular in many regions of the country, you may have to select a similar color from an easier-to-find series. The verbena is a staple of the garden center and you should be able to find a great choice to partner with whatever coleus you may choose.
Your happiness in designing your combination begins with proper soil preparation, and site selection is essential in your verbena and coleus success. Add 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and till to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. While doing this, spread two pounds per 100 square feet of a slow release fertilizer like a 12-6-6, 8-8-8 or something fairly similar.
Provide full sunlight, water and you are well on your way to enjoying months of color. Whether you choose Donalena or some other verbena know that these are vigorous plants. They bloom for weeks and weeks, and then get a little tired. Although they’ll still have a few blossoms, they’ll look a little weak.
This is the time to cut them back and side-dress with a little fertilizer. The verbenas will send out new runners and give more blooms. You might need to do this twice in a long growing season, but that is how you have verbena blooms in spring, summer and fall. The Gene Autry coleus will likewise appreciate a little pinching back in late summer and will literally jump with new growth for fall.
Remember that it is the complementary color scheme that makes this combination planting so striking. Just like spouses who complement each other because they are so different, the same can be said for choosing colors that are opposite one another on a color wheel. In this case, the purple/pink from the verbenas is from the cool side of the wheel and is a dazzling contrast from the lime green and cream colors found in the Gene Autry coleus.
There are a lot of great coleus and flower partnership opportunities awaiting you this planting season. Let your artistic talents shine in your garden.
Norman Winter is executive director of The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.”