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Weekly planter: Campfire coleus offers rare rusty-orange hue

Campfire coleus, with its rusty orange leaves is an exceptional partner with lime green foliage.
Campfire coleus, with its rusty orange leaves is an exceptional partner with lime green foliage. TNS

The search for the perfect rusty orange coleus may have ended with a hot new selection called Campfire.

Campfire certainly has an appropriate name as it takes on the hues of glowing embers. The rusty-orange-red coleus is packed with vigor and stands out from a great distance. It is being brought to us by Ball FloraPlant, which is the same company that gave us the Wasabi, the best chartreuse-leafed coleus in the market, and Redhead, the premier burgundy red-leafed selection.

Recently while I was visiting in Columbus, Georgia, Campfire seemed to be lighting up both commercial and residential landscapes. In each case the beds were composed of prepared landscape mixes that allowed the coleus to reach its true beauty and potential.

At the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens we have soil we call muck and other areas that are fairly sandy, so we are always working on soil improvement with compost. If you have tight heavy clay, then you will want to work on improving your soil condition, too. To accomplish this, spread 2 to 4 inches of organic matter and about 2 pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet.

My favorite fertilizer for coleus is a 12-6-6. Till this in, and you’ll be ready to plant. This pre-plant fertilizer followed by light monthly applications will keep the plants growing well.

Like Wasabi and Redhead, Campfire will reach about 3 feet tall and as wide. This is the perfect size to serve as a richly colored backdrop to seasonal flowers or foliage. Gold-leafed durantas like Cuban Gold, Gold Mound or the taller Gold Edge will make a stunning partnership. But don’t forget You can never go wrong planting another coleus as a companion, and in this case look no further than the lime green of Wasabi.

When it comes to Campfire coleus, don’t forget the color blue. A light blue such as that associated with plumbago plants would be absolutely riveting, but spikey blue salvias like Mystic Spires Blue or Cathedral Deep Blue would make a a complementary partnership worthy of a photograph.

Planting some coleus like Campfire this weekend with your favorite flowers or in some thrilling combinations with other foliage will give you a bed that performs for some months. This coleus promises to be good value for your gardening dollar.

Norman Winter is director of the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South.”