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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Coleus; A Plant to Brighten Up Shaded Gardens

Last year, I began interning on campus with the University of Maryland Arboretum/Horticultural Services and was assigned to random locations on campus. In these locations I would either help maintain plants, by watering or weeding, or manage plants, by putting them into the campus plant inventory. For the primary amount of time during the summer, I worked with inputting woody plants into the plant inventory database (which can be accessed under the Arboretum and Botanical Garden folder in the layers tab).

However, for a short period of time, I was assigned to work with Jeff Weiser, horticulturalist, and his crew at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. While there I completed various tasks including watering, feeding, weeding and pruning of plants in and around the center. One of the tasks I quickly grew to like was the maintenance of several raised planter beds in front of the center.

Planter beds at the main entrance to Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

These plant beds contained three different plants; Amur maple, sweet potato vines, and coleus. On a routine basis, I would go to this location and water the plants or prune the flowers off of the coleus in order to keep uniformity. The reason I enjoyed this task so much was due to the coleus which I was taking care of. I've always been a fan of shade gardens and cooling off from the summer heat under a large shade tree, but one problem I've always run into is finding something with nice bright vibrant colors that can tolerate the shade which I so love.

When I discovered coleus, I couldn't have been more excited. Coleus, known by the scientific name of Solenostemon scutellarioides, is a partial shade to full shade tropical plant commonly used in this area as a summer annual. It's greatest feature is the diverse variety of colors and shapes of the leaves in different cultivars which have been bred over the years. Coleus can vary in color from deep red and green to bright yellow and orange.

Coleus 'Kingswood Torch' behind 'Margarita' sweet potato vine
Coleus 'Pineapple'
'Kingswood Torch' Coleus, the plant that I was working with, is one of the new cultivars of coleus that can withstand sun and prefers full sun-partial shade. The beautiful pink, red and green foliage in the planters provided a nice colorful view for people sitting on the nearby benches. The coleus also benefits from being placed under the Amur maple, as they can tolerate shade.While the sweet potato vine, Ipomoea batatas 'Margarita,' flowing over the edge of the planter, benefits from being placed near the edge, as it needs a lot of sun.
Amur maple, 'Kingswood Torch' coleus and 'Margarita' sweet potato vine

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Contact Information

UMD Arboretum and Botanical Garden
Landscape Services/Building 050
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742-7215
Phone: 301-405-3320
Fax: 301-314-9943

Butterfly feeding on the nectar of Russian Sage blossoms

UMD Arboretum and Botanical Garden

The University of Maryland, the state’s flagship campus, is located in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. The American Association of Public Gardens, by designating the university as an arboretum and botanical garden in 2008, recognized former President C.D. Mote, Jr.’s commitment to becoming a green campus. Maryland is also the first university in the state to be honored as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

The Campus inventory of over 8,000 trees, garden plantings and nearly 400 acres of undeveloped urban forest is a beautiful reminder of Maryland’s history and a harbinger of Maryland’s future. The university looks at the campus’ green space as a major resource for its educational, research and service missions.

Hornbake Plaza

Hornbake Plaza
Honeylocust fall foliage color

Tawes Plaza

Tawes Plaza
Kim's Knee High Purple Coneflower, Russian Sage, White Out Rose and Dwarf Pampas Grass are featured in this planting.