Thanks to the constant color it offers while ephemeral bloomers come and go, coleus has long been one of summer's most useful garden staples. But, as Pierson explains, the newest varieties have extended the spectrum of colors, textures, and growing habits even further, making coleus all the more versatile. Cultivar names are often a juicy tip-off to a plant's talents. Upright, 3-foot-tall 'Big Blonde,' for example, features burgundy stems and veining on broad, happy-yellow leaves. 'Gnash Rambler' is a puckered, pink-and-purple trailing variety, while 'Alligator Tears' has rafts of narrow, yellow-blazed green leaves. Even more intricate to the eye are the fringed, near-black 'Midnight Rambler' and the exotically frilled red-and-lime 'Bone Fish.'
Shown: (1) 'Bone Fish'; (2) 'Gnash Rambler'; (3) 'Dappled Apple'