Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Perilla and Coleus

Perilla and Coleus are often confused . I was confused myself and did a little looking around to try to find out more about whether they were the same plant or not. They do belong to the same family; both  are mints, both have toothed leaf edges, although Perilla has sharper "teeth". Generally Coleus does best in shade while Perilla does well in both sun and shade, but produces markedly different leaves depending on the amount of sun. But even this distinction is being called into question with the advent of the new "Sun" coleus. The one on the left above in one of the sun coleus and is called 'Alabama Sunset'. The more sun it gets (up to a point) the more red tones appear in the foliage. When grown in shade the leaves are mostly yellowish green. The plant on the right is Perilla 'Magilla' and it's foliage develops more purple in the sun, having more cream and green in shade as the one in the picture does.
The Coleus genus has undergone a lot of shifting in recent years so that plants that used to be Coleus are now Plectranthus,  My mother used to grow a Perilla that she called Blood of Jesus, but if you google Blood of Jesus, you find a green plant with a spot of red in the leaf and it grows in the Holy Land. The important thing to take away from all this naming confusing is that both Coleus and Perilla are great plants in shade and sun and can bring refreshing color to the late garden. If you have procured some named varieties, you can easily root pieces to carry over for next year as they won't stand the frost.  Neither 'Alabama Sunset' Coleus nor 'Magilla' Perilla produce seed  so you will need new plants next year. They will root in water, but why not just stick the cuttings in soil to start with. It gives them a better start and they will actually grow in winter rather than becoming smaller and thinner as they pine away over the winter. They will wilt at first, but keep them moist and in a couple of days they will be perked up and looking like miniatures of their parents.

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