"There are probably thousands of cultivars," says Barbara Pierson, nursery manager at White Flower Farm, in Litchfield, Connecticut, which sells many of the latest introductions along with vintage favorites. "Some varieties actually brighten in sun, which can fade the older hybrids. But part shade is perfect for every coleus I've ever met." So is rich soil amended with organic compost and sand for drainage, she says, along with a monthly dose of seaweed-based fertilizer. If you nip off flower buds, plants will grow lustily into fall, sometimes developing odd branches called "sports," with a color or pattern different from the rest—proof that new variations are never-ending.
Shown: (1) 'Pink Chaos'; (2) 'Grape Expectations'; (3) 'Midnight Rambler'