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Chocolate Mint coleus offers incredible beauty
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
I have fallen head over heels in love with Chocolate Mint, a new coleus making its debut this year.
The catalog refers to the leaves as having a chocolate-colored line with mint-green margins, but to me the leaves are a dark mahogany, and the margins are a dark lime-green color.
Chocolate Mint is made for the shade or filtered-light area of the garden. I first thought the plant could not take our intense heat and humidity, but it is a real trooper once acclimated.
Chocolate Mint coleus defies everything I was taught about coleus. I was taught to look for vegetatively propagated coleus because seed-produced coleus make flowers and therefore seed. We grow coleus for foliage, not flowers.
Chocolate Mint is a seed-produced variety being introduced by Pan American Seed. Here we are in August, and Chocolate Mint hasn't even given a hint of a bud set, but I have already had to pinch flowers on some of my prized cutting-grown coleus. Even though it is a seed-produced variety, you will still buy transplants in the spring.
The leaves are large, reaching 6 inches across. At my house, the plant has reached almost 3 feet tall. It offers incredible beauty and versatility when it comes to picking plant partners. One of my most notable partnerships for Chocolate Mint is with the new Limon Talinium or Jewels of Opar. The dark lime-green margins of Chocolate Mint are the perfect match for the lime green of the Limon.
I also have it partnered in another section of the landscape with gingers and the Imperial Taro or Illustris elephant ear. It looks exotic and tropical in this area.
Then I have it partnered with the new Electric Lime coleus that grows exceedingly well in sun or shade. Chocolate Mint would look awesome with Sum & Substance hosta, Lime Zinger elephant ear, Tiger Fern (the variegated Boston type) and other plants like bananas.
One of the keys to success with Chocolate Mint -- or any coleus -- is to improve bedding soil. In heavy clay soil, organic matter will improve drainage and aeration and allow better root development. Liberal amounts of organic matter help sandy soils hold water and nutrients.
Organic matter, which improves soil and serves as a food source for soil fungi and bacteria, comes in the form of peat moss, compost, hay, grass clippings, barnyard fertilizer, shredded bark, leaves or even shredded newspapers. Add enough to physically change the soil structure. Ideally, at least one-third of the final soil mix should be some type of organic material.
To accomplish this, spread 2 to 4 inches of organic matter and the recommended rate of fertilizer over the garden surface and till to a depth of 6 to 10 inches. My favorite fertilizer for coleus is a 12-6-6. A preplant fertilizer followed by light monthly applications will keep plants growing well.
I can't predict when Chocolate Mint will arrive at your favorite garden center. I can predict whether or not you will like it, and believe me when I say this plant has winner written all over it.