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Agriculture Today

Using coleus for shady beds

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April 5, 2011 | 3,228 views | Post a comment

Q.I have been reading about coleus. Tell me about them. Why don’t we use them more for summer color?

A. Foliage plants are not as popular for color as blooming plants and coleus is not always a disciplined grower, but it works well for color in the shade.

Coleus is a foliage plant that is a good choice for shady beds. Some varieties do well in sun if they are established early. There is a large variation in color. Some can be nearly black and others a very yellow-green. There are many of versions that are bi-colored green with red tracings. The dark red selections are very showy where there is enough light to see them. A mix of light green alternated with the violet-red works well. There is some variation in coleus size, but most grow to 18 inches tall and wide.

Q.My live oak dropped its leaves this year. Is that a problem?

A. No, live oaks drop their leaves every year in February or March. We usually don’t notice, because they re-leaf so quickly.

Q.What is your formula for keeping spider mites off tomatoes?

A. Since kelth-ane has left the market, there is no great way to control spider mites. I apply a seaweed spray (2 tablespoons per gallon of water) to the undersides of the leaf once per week. Once you see mites increase, change the spray frequency to twice per week. Apply the spray in the morning or evening, not during the hottest part of the day.

Q.When do we begin our spray program for peaches? We are determined to fight off the insects this year.

A. Begin spraying an insecticide, such as malathion or Sevin, and a fungicide like captan when the petals of the blooms start falling. Spray every week. Organic gardeners can try neem oil and sulfur products. Look for a combination spray with a fungicide and an insecticide.

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s project director of regional initiatives and special projects. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, e-mail him at

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