LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
(04/03/20) If you want to add a splash of spicy color and unique foliage to your yard this spring, look no further. The LSU AgCenter has selected a unique series of plants that are sure to please for the 2020 Louisiana Super Plants program this spring.
FlameThrower coleus has unique, multi-colored foliage on an upright and compact plant that tolerates either full sun or shade. This coleus series can handle the heat as it spices up the landscape. Bold foliage colors make this striking coleus collection ideal for containers and landscape beds. It creates lasting color and uniquely shaped leaves that add texture to any landscape.
The developers got creative when they named these seven spicy varieties. They include 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 the 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 temperate climates such as south Louisiana’s. In cooler areas it performs more like an annual and may die back in extended freezes or cold weather in north Louisiana.
The FlameThrower collection is a low-maintenance, medium-sized coleus that joins Henna coleus as a Louisiana Super Plant. You can plant either or combine the two in your garden.
You can create a gorgeous combination with more than one variety. Either a single or mixed-color planting provides both color and texture. 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. If you like butterflies, keep the flower spikes around to provide ecosystem services for pollinators.
Although they perform well in shade, FlameThrower performs best with at least three hours direct sunlight up to full sun. Fertilizing once a month and pinching off the appearance of 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 over-growing the containers.
Plant FlameThrower after the last threat of frost in the spring at a spacing of 16 to 18 inches apart. They grow and spread to about 16 to 18 inches. This coleus grows relatively fast when it is in a favorable environment. Plants will reach maturity in about four to five weeks, providing lasting color for the landscape. They tolerate pruning well, so pinch off the top inch or two of new growth if plants become too tall or leggy.
When planting in containers, be sure to use a lightweight, well-drained potting mix to discourage fungal growth. 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 ensure proper drainage as well. After planting, water thoroughly and periodically when the soil feels dry to the touch in the top few inches. Keep in mind that 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.
You can bring coleus indoors if you have a spot with bright light. With enough bright light, coleus keeps its colorful leaves year-round. Water it like you would most other houseplants — only when the top inch of 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.
So spice it up this season with the 2020 Louisiana Super Plant selection FlameThrower coleus. Look for them in local nurseries, and always ask for Louisiana Super Plants.
The Louisiana Super Plant program is an educational and marketing campaign that highlights tough and beautiful plants that perform well in Louisiana landscapes. Louisiana Super Plants have a proven track record having gone through several years of university evaluations and observations. They are university tested and industry approved.
FlameThrower coleus features ruffled edges. Photo by Ashley Edwards/LSU AgCenter
Salsa Verde FlameThrower coleus offers chartreuse color. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Salsa Roja FlameThrower coleus brings heat to the landscape. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter