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Making a Coleus Standard

Of the four 'Wasabi' coleus cuttings I took last fall, only one is still with me. Another one I potted and gave to my sister. The third and fourth I admit I ended up throwing away in a fit of housecleaning around Christmas. I had not yet gotten around to potting them up!


But the remaining plant is doing very well, and what's more I've decided to elevate its status (literally and figuratively) by training it into a standard—in other words, tree or lollipop shape.

I can picture it when its "finished," sitting in a nice, big pot by our front steps, underplanted with annuals that I'll change out with the seasons. It can spend its winters indoors.

It seems like all that is a long way off, though, since currently it is about six inches tall. But I know it will make a lot of progress when the weather warms up in summer. The original plant grew to monster size in no time last summer.

Here are the steps I'm taking to train my coleus standard:

1. Remove any new branches as they appear along the stem. (I am leaving single leaves for the time being, though. These will probably drop off on their own as it gets taller.)

2. Once the roots fill the four-inch pot it is currently in, I will move it up one pot size and keep removing potential new branches along the stem. I'll insert a stake next to the stem and gently tie the stem to it.

3. I'll keep moving it up to bigger pots as the roots become crowded, keeping it staked for straight growth, until it is finally at the height where I want its "head" to begin and in a proportionate pot.

4. Then I'll pinch the top of the stem. The plant will respond by making two branches. I'll let these grow a bit then pinch them back by half to encourage them to make more branches, and so on until it has a nice, round, bushy head.

We'll see how it goes. If you want to try making a standard, some other good options besides coleus are lantana, fuchsia, hibiscus and zonal or scented geraniums (Pelargonium spp.).
Horticulture's "Houseplants" PDF includes an illustrated guide to making a standard, plus four other how-to articles.