'Oompah' Coleus

"maze of coleus leaves
green caterpillar gently
arches into sunlight."

-Brahman Narayanan,
India, 1987


Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Oompah' (also sold as Coleus x hybridus 'Oompah') is from the Stained Glassworks Series developed at Paul Ecke Ranch. Leaves are long, broad, & showy. The toothy edges are a shimmering green framing bright purple & red through the center. It grows swiftly to one or two tall, or a bit taller.

In Zone 10 & 11 'Oompah' is a tender perennial that can be kept year round in the garden. But here in Zone 8 it functions as a colorful bright shade annual, a bit more sun-tolerant than most coleus, but having better leaf color in dappled shade. It tends to grow with an upright & mounded stance, but can spread & trail a bit.

If kept in pots or baskets, it can be brought indoors for the winter & will keep its beautiful looks year-round. Organically rich soil that holds moisture is important, as coleus should never experience droughtiness.

If used as an annual, cuttings can be taken in autumn & rooted indoors through the winter, as coleus is among the easiest of plants to start from cuttings. In a warm window leaves will root in three to four weeks. By spring they will be a substantial little plant. Pinching will encourage branching. They are ready to put into outdoor containers or garden edges as soon as night-time temperatures are in the 40s & there's no more threat of frost.

Ours spent its first spring & summer on the shaded back stoop as a potted plant. It'll be brought indoors at the first sign of autumn chill & kept as a houseplant through the winter. As long as we don't forget to keep the soil moist, & mist it daily, it should make it through the winter never losing its looks, & can go back outside on the stoop or shade patio come spring.


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