Solenostemon is a genus of perennial plants, native to tropical Africa, Asia, Australia, the East Indies, the Malay Archipelago, and the Philippines. They are commonly known as Coleus, a name which derives from an earlier classification under the genus name Coleus, which is currently treated as two: with species included in either the genus Solenostemon or in another genus, Plectranthus.
Many cultivars of the southeast Asian species Solenostemon scutellarioides have been selected for their colorful variegated leaves, typically with sharp contrast between the colors; the leaves may be green, pink, yellow, black (a very dark purple), maroon, and red (somewhat resembling the unrelated caladium). New cultivars with varieties of colors are constantly being made. The plants grow well in moist well-drained soil, and typically grow 0.5-1 m tall, though some may grow as tall as 2 meters. Coleus are typically grown as ornamental plants. They are heat-tolerant, but they do less well in full sun in subtropical areas than in the shade. In mild areas (no snow in winter), plants can usually be kept as perennials if well managed. In colder areas, they are often grown as annuals, since the plants are not hardy and become leggy with age (to encourage bushing in leggy plants, simply pinch back growing tips). In bright, hot areas, the colors of the plant are typically be more intense in shaded areas rather than in full sun, and the plants will require less water there. Coleus also make low-maintenance houseplants, and can often be propagated by clipping a length of stem just below the leaves and putting the stem in water to root. The plant's flowers grow on a stem above that stem's leaves, and tend to be purple and quite small in comparison to the leaves. The plant is not generally grown for its flowers, as it promotes stem elongation (remove to halt this).
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