Published on 05/18/17

'Inferno' coleus has stunning orange foliage of perfection

By Norman Winter

There is an ‘Inferno’ of color this spring coming from a coleus that racked up quite a number of perfect scorecards. ‘Inferno’ hasn’t been out long, but already it has heads turning, especially when you consider that it was total perfection in University of Georgia, University of Tennessee and Michigan State University trials.

It was tops at Missouri Botanical Garden trials and has truly been recognized across the country. If there was ever an orange coleus with the “wow!” factor you have been looking for, it has to be ‘Inferno.’ Those trials were completed primarily in sun, but ‘Inferno’ averaged 4.70 in Mississippi State University shade trials, which means that this versatile coleus gives you the bang for your gardening dollar, no matter where you grow it in the landscape.

This is a fairly large coleus that will push close to 3 feet in height and 2 or more feet in width. You’ll find it remarkable in the landscape or in those designer mixed containers. Whether you grow it with flowers or other foliage as simple as the lime green ‘Wasabi’ coleus, the look will be attention-grabbing.

‘Inferno’ certainly has an appropriate name as it takes on the hues of glowing lava. It is truly the most vibrant orange coleus on the market. The large crinkled or waffled leaves add a texture that certainly does not go unnoticed. I recently had the opportunity to see hundreds of them at a greenhouse with ‘Wasabi,’ ‘Redhead’ and ‘Indian Summer’ coleuses, and it will be a sight long remembered for its staggering beauty.

Coleus is a plant that exponentially rewards you for the amount of soil improvement you are willing to do. At the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm in Savannah, Georgia, we have soil we call “muck” and other areas that are fairly sandy, so we are always working on soil improvement through compost. If you have tight, heavy clay, then you should work on improving your soil condition, too.

To accomplish this, spread 2 to 4 inches of organic matter and about 2 pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet. My favorite fertilizer for coleuses is a 12-6-6. Till this in and you’ll be ready to plant. This pre-planting fertilizer, followed by light monthly applications, will keep the plants growing well until frost.

Gold-leafed durantas like ‘Cuban Gold,’ ‘Gold Mound’ or the taller ‘Gold Edge’ with green variegation makes a stunning partnership to the coleus. You can never go wrong planting another coleus as a companion. In this case, look no further than the lime green ‘Wasabi’ coleus. By all means, don’t forget the possibility of combining the coleus with chartreuse-colored ornamental sweet potatoes.

When it comes to the ‘Inferno’ coleus, don’t forget the color blue. All shades of blue seem to create an artistic masterpiece. Choose your favorite blue salvia, angelonia or verbena and the look will be mesmerizing.

‘Inferno’ is coming out of Ball FloraPlant, which has been developing coleuses that almost never bloom, a much-loved trait in their lime green ‘Wasabi’ and dark burgundy ‘Redhead.’ After all, it is that glorious foliage we crave. ‘Inferno’ will also give you flushing new foliage for weeks on end and is slow to bloom. When it does bloom, a little pinching is a small price to pay for such rich and wonderfully rare-colored orange leaves in the garden.

The summer is just now approaching the midway point. Planting some coleuses like ‘Inferno’ this weekend with your favorite flowers, or in some thrilling combinations with other foliage, will give you a bed that performs until cool weather arrives in the fall.

Follow me on Twitter — @CGBGgardenguru. Learn more about the University of Georgia’s Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm at

Norman Winter is the director of the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm in Savannah, Georgia.

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