• December 28, 2014

Kong Junior a vibrant addition to the shade garden

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Posted: Saturday, July 6, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 1:08 pm, Mon Aug 19, 2013.

It has been almost a decade since Kong coleus caused heads to swirl with the gigantic leaves and packed with an almost psychedelic array of colors. Now Kong Junior is the one that has everyone talking.

Kong Junior will probably be even a bigger hit. Your garden center will have four colors, and all are flashy. I like the Kong Junior Lime Vein which is a dark magenta with lime green variegation, while my wife flipped over the Kong Junior Green Halo that is a combination of chartreuse with yellow cream in the center.

There are also Kong Junior Scarlet and Kong Junior Rose, the latter being more reminiscent of the original series. The leaves of the Kong Junior are about 30 percent smaller than the original Kong. 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 the end you will still have an incredibly beautiful coleus for the shade garden. They will reach about 2 feet in height with a spread outward to three feet. You could not ask for a better garden size.

Partner this beauty with a summer-long performance and the Kong Junior coleus is just too good to pass up. They are easy-to-grow, low-maintenance plants that are almost foolproof when grown in well-drained soil and watered through droughty periods. They also are excellent in mixed containers, when partnered with vining or cascading plants.

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 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 is perfect for planting in the tropical-style garden as understory plants to tall bananas, gingers and elephant ears or a superbly colorful addition to the shade garden. In this situation I love combining them with hostas and ferns..

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