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September 2015
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Trial plants will do what they want to do

Proven Winners’ Fireburst bidens took the heat and kept on blooming. Photo courtesy provenwinners.com

Proven Winners’ Fireburst bidens took the heat and kept on blooming. Photo courtesy provenwinners.com

Sometimes you get it right and sometimes, well, Mother Nature has her way.

This past spring, I was thrilled with the trial combos I got from Ball Horticulture Co., annuals selected for color, design and texture.

At the same time, I got ‘Campfire’ coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) from Ball, which I thought worked beautifully as the centerpiece for the combo pots.

The mid May planting of trial plants looks great with complimentary colors and textures. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

The mid May planting of trial plants looks great with complimentary colors and textures. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Everything worked really well until the coleus got its growth spurt and completely engulfed its neighboring plants. Failure to believe the coleus would really get 30 inches tall like that plant tag said was a rookie move on my part. Plants are going to do what they were meant to do, big or small, upright or trailing, long-lasting blooms or fabulous foliage.

By the August, Campfire coleus had taken over the pots of trial plants. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

By the August, Campfire coleus had taken over the pots of trial plants. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

If nothing else, there’s a lesson here about coleus. It is not our parents’ coleus, a plant prized for its foliage and tolerance of shady areas. Today’s coleus cultivars are big, bold, sun loving and slow to bloom. A lot of gardeners do not like the blue flower spikes on coleus and newer introductions have been bred to delay blooming.

Clearly, ‘Campfire’ coleus needed pots all to itself or it needed to be planted in the ground, where it would have created quite a display.

Another trial plant, marketed as Campfire Fireburst bidens (Bidens ‘KOIBID1346’) from Proven Winners, is spectacular. I’ve always thought bidens was kind of a wimpy plant, one that flagged when it got hot. This one, though, was quite heat tolerant. Fireburst has a trailing habit with orange-yellow, daisy-like flowers, a full inch wide. This was a strong bloomer, working well in a hanging basket, window box, pot or in the ground in a sunny spot.

Bidens is fairly cold tolerant, holding its own until a hard frost. Fireburst’s color works well in a fall planting, with yellow mums or blue asters, for example, and an orange pumpkin or gourds. It should be available at garden centers next year.