Kong Junior, a monster coleus of living color for the garden

It has five years ago most of us first saw Kong Junior coleuses in trials across the country. We liked what we saw but knew we had to get our hands on it to see what it could really become. Now we can all say it is truly a winner and worth of all those accolades. This is a coleus you can truly design around.

Five years ago, I was partial to the Kong Junior Lime Vein which is a dark magenta with lime green variegation, and the Kong Junior Green Halo that is a combination of chartreuse with yellow cream in the center. Now it would be hard for me to scratch any off the list.

There are also Kong Junior Scarlet, Kong Junior Rose, and a mix. The leaves of the Kong Junior are about 30 percent smaller when compared to the original Kong series. This will make it so much easier for the grower to ship, for the garden center to display and for you to get home intact.

In Columbus Ga., and as you walk into a store at a favorite shopping center you see Kong Junior Rose head high in a glorious mixed container with Luscious Marmalade lantana and Supertunia Royal Velvet petunia for a dazzling look. This also tells you they are almost in full sun which is way more than we thought five years ago. Even better there is not the first bloom forming on the coleus.

In the shade garden, you will still have an incredibly beautiful coleus reaching about 2-feet in height with an outward spread to 3-feet. You could not ask for a better garden size. Since we grow coleus for its boldly colored foliage, there is no point in letting them use energy to develop flowers. Pinch these off when they form to help keep a bushier plant and those colorful leaves coming.

One key to success with Kong Junior or any coleus is to add organic matter to your 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, shredded bark, leaves and even shredded newspapers. If you have tight heavy clay 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 pre-plant fertilizer followed by light monthly applications will keep the plants growing well.

The Kong Junior coleus varieties allow you to create lush foliage partnerships in the tropical-style garden as understory plants to tall bananas, and gingers or with colorful impatiens that will look like the Balata Garden in Martinique. Whether the landscape, containers or window boxes the Kong Junior coleus allows your artistic side to shine.

The summer has a lot of hot days left and the Kong Junior coleus selections will let you perk up a tired garden and give it a festive atmosphere. I hope you’ll give them a try.


(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)