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Big Red Judy to come in spring
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
As you contemplate what plants to try when winter has finally run its course, let me recommend using a lot of colorful foliage. There are amazing choices available today in both leaf color and texture.
In our Mississippi State University trials last year, two coleuses attracted quite a bit of attention. Both were planted in full sun, but they would do equally well in filtered light.
The first is Big Red Judy. I think the name is catchy, and this coleus has “winner” written all over it. The plants get big, easily reaching 3 feet. The leaves are large and vibrant red. We grew it both in the field and in mixed containers, and it was a hit in both places.
I don't know whether it was the luck of the draw or divine intervention, but we partnered Big Red Judy with another coleus called Rose Stem Lace.
You may think you've seen everything in coleuses, but this one will be a surprise. The leaves are yellow with hints of chartreuse. That alone makes it a good partner for Big Red Judy, but there is more. The stems of Rose Stem Lace are the same color as the leaves of Big Red Judy. The Rose Stem Lace leaves are deeply lobed, making them look like rounded teeth. These leaves are edged in red, as are the veins in the basal portion of the leaves.
This combination will look good all growing season as long as you keep it watered as needed, feed it a little and remove any flowers that start to form. We didn't find flowers to be a real issue.
Another foliage plant to consider is the Blazin Lime iresine. Last year you might have tried the red version, Blazin Rose, but this lime green variety (kin to the old chicken gizzards) is very showy in the filtered-light or shade garden.
The large leaves are deep green with lime variegation and some red in the veins of the basal portion. Pushed with a little fertilizer, they should reach about 2 feet tall. The stems are a deep shrimp pink.
One of the prettiest companions I have seen with Blazin Lime is the Aurora Black Cherry coleus. The Aurora is compact and controlled, reaching only 12 inches tall. It is perfect for planting in front of the taller Blazin Lime. The leaves are small and serrated with dark lime green margins and a deep burgundy red in the middle. Blazin Lime would excel in the tropical garden combined with bananas and elephant ears, but it does need protection from the hot afternoon sun.
This gardening season is going to be a blast with so many choices of flowers and foliage. Since we are weeks away from planting, take advantage of any warm days to improve your soil by adding organic matter like compost, humus or peat. It will certainly give you the green thumb come summer.