Coleus: the plant with colored leaves
Evergreen plant of the tropical areas of Asia and Africa, the Coleus is a very common plant in the apartment where it reaches about 50 cm in height, although some specimens also reach the meter, is renowned for its oval, heart-shaped leaves or lanceolate, with smooth or serrated edges, of different colors combined, among them red, yellow, orange, green and white. The flowers consist of a panicle inflorescence of red, white, blue or purple but they are certainly not the main feature for which to choose this plant.
The Coleus must be kept at a temperature between 20 ° C and 25 ° C, as it is a plant of tropical origins, it can survive even at a temperature of 12 ° C but under which it dies.
Love the sun, it would be good to always keep it positioned to the south and also expose it to direct sunlight, except during the hours of greatest sunstroke. The color and brightness of its leaves are due to the amount of light it receives. Attention instead to the air currents, are not well tolerated by the plant that at the end of summer loses the lower leaves and then make them grow again with the arrival of spring.
As for the ground, it is advisable to mix fertile soil, peat and sand with pebbles on the bottom so that the water can drain and do not stagnate inside the pot. Any repotting can be done in the spring.
Being a plant that loves humid environments it is advisable in the summer, to spray water on the leaves. The soil must always be wet therefore the waterings must be frequent in summer and more rare in winter when the plant is in the vegetative resting phase. In order to stimulate the growth of new branches and keep the plant in order, it is good to proceed to the topping of the vegetative apices every 2-3 weeks or so.
As for fertilization, it should be done every 15 days in the spring and summer, just pour liquid fertilizer into the water for watering.
Multiplication can be done by cuttings or by seeds. As for the cutting, just take a new jet about 7-10 cm long in the period from April to September, the cut must be sharp and oblique while the leaves closer to the base should be removed. It should therefore be planted in a mix of peat and sand, the soil must be kept constantly humid and the temperature must be around 20 ° C. When it has rooted and grown, you can repot it.
The seeds are instead planted from January to February in a mix of fertile soil and sand, then watered and covered with a plastic sheet until they sprout, then they will be ready to be moved into larger pots.
Parasites and diseases
The most common diseases of the coleus are related to watering, too much or little water can lead to rot the plant or present notes of fading / yellowing, respectively. The same goes for the lack of light, the leaves will tend to yellow and wilt.
As for the parasites, pay attention to the aphids, small whitish animals that infest the plant, to eliminate them you can use a specific pesticide.
Attention also to the floury cochineal, it creates spots on the lower leaf plants, you can easily remove them with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. If they are more resistant, use a specific product resold by specialized dealers.
The coleus belongs to the same family as the mint and nettles, even if it has leaves with colors that are much more intense and particular.
The tuberous root is used in cooking as a side dish while the leaves can be stored in brine. According to Ayurvedic medicine the plant has the ability to aid in the digestion processes. It is also recommended as a natural remedy for those suffering from respiratory problems such as bronchitis and bronchial asthma or to overweight people who wish to lose a few pounds.