Coleus is widely grown as an annual for its dependable leaf color throughout its life cycle. Coming in mixtures of purples, pinks, oranges, green, lime green, and white, coleus is a staple for areas of partial to full shade. But what about when Coleus cannot be grown, or when gardeners want to change things up? This article will look at six plants that can be grown in place of coleus.
Rex begonias provide similar color and size as coleus. They come in shades and mixtures of green, red, pink, purple, and silver. Although more limited in color than coleus, they make up for it with a variety of different leaf textures, shapes, and patterns. Plants grow about 12-18 inches tall and wide and grow best in shaded areas with rich, moist, but well-drained soil. They cannot stand wet conditions, too much fertilizer, or sun. Rex begonias have become popular recently, and new varieties are always being introduced.
Caladiums can be grown as a shade loving annual. Plants range in size and can grow over two feet in height. Leaves are heart shaped and come in mixtures of green, red, pink, purple, white, and silver. There is a lot of variation in pattern of color and in shades of the colors, which more than makes up for Caladium having less of a color range than coleus and less diversity of leaf texture and shape than rex begonias. Because all parts of the caladium plant are poisonous, they should not be grown if children or pets are likely to try eating the plants.
Hypoestes phyllostachya, or polka-dot plant grows well in shade and has leaves that are speckled or mottled with white, pink, purple, or red over green. Polka-dot plant grows a foot tall and wide, and does well in partial shade and hot temperatures. Plants can be pinched to keep bushy or allowed to grow freely. It comes in many shades of pink and complements other annuals.
Ornamental sweet potato comes in purple and lime green and grows in sun or part shade. The purple comes in cut leaves and heart shaped leaves. Sweet potato provides a different habit as it is a vine, and the lime green plants contrast well with other leaves. Plants in partial shade will exhibit a more greener shade as opposed to being more yellow in sun.
Iresine, or bloodleaf grows much like coleus and comes in shades of red, green, and pink, but mostly red. It grows about two to three feet high and grows in sun or shade. The more sun, the better the color is drawn out. Iresine can tolerate wet conditions and does not like drying out.
Strobilanthus dyerianus, or Persian shield grows about two feet wide and tall, with large purple and green leaves. It resembles a coleus in color, but the plants do not vary much in color and shape. However, Persian shield is an addition to the shade garden that adds diversity and variety to the annual color.
These six annuals provide good color variation and are viable alternatives to coleus. Having a variety of annuals allows the garden to stay productive as different plants have different requirements and so the soil does not deplete or harbor disease as easily. These annuals will provide variety to the garden and balance or replace coleus well.