The Mariposa coleus looks great partnered with a variety of flowers like the Mystic Spire Blue salvia.


The Mariposa coleus stands so tall and picturesque next to our blue-glazed Vietnamese-glazed containers. It was everything I knew it could be, but now in retrospect it seems like it was such a long journey.

You see it was well over a decade ago that I first saw Mariposa at the California Pack Trials. I remember it vividly because it stood out like a giant compared to all the others and yielded deep burgundy color that was simply stunning. I thought surely it would soon be the most sought-after variety in the market.

While some surely were in production it was other varieties like Redhead and Big Red Judy that shot to the head of the class. Indeed they have both been outstanding performers.

Mariposa, which by the way means butterfly in Spanish, has survived the industry’s marketing onslaught of new varieties and has indeed made it to the East Coast. It excelled in trials from Oregon to Georgia and has demonstrated both its beauty and durability. It pushes 32 inches tall with huge 8-inch leaves that are variegated with dark purple-burgundy in the center and lighter burgundy as you move outward.

Ours has had no problem with the hot sun and has been slow to bloom, which is just perfect; after all, it is the exotic foliage we want versus the blooms. We gave the area good bed preparation with loose well-draining organic matter. No doubt this paved the way for it to survive torrential downpours and keep performing like a champion.

If you have tight, heavy clay, then work on improving your soil condition too. 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 about 2 pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet. My favorite fertilizer for coleus is a 12-6-6. Till this in and you’ll be ready to plant. This pre-plant fertilizer followed by light monthly applications will keep the plants growing well until frost. Don’t forget to mulch!

At the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens we planted the Mariposa not only in combination with the colorful containers I mentioned above, but also Coral SunPatiens, Wendy’s Wish salvia, Mystic Spires Blue salvia and Blue Princess verbena. It is a very welcoming entrance to our offices.

The rich burgundy of Mariposa allows it to combine well with a lot of other plants, including other coleus. Lime green varieties make exceptional partners. One that I would heartily recommend as a companion would be Wasabi. Wasabi is equally tall though the leaves are smaller.

The leaves are deeply serrated and I have never seen it bloom. My next favorite lime green variety is Electric Lime. It is a terrific lime green with bright yellow veins throughout. It too is vigorous and is slow to bloom. Both Wasabi and Electric Lime reward pinching by developing a small bush-like habit.

The summer is just getting started. Planting some Mariposa coleus this weekend with your favorite flowers or in some thrilling combinations with other coleus will give you a bed that performs until cool weather arrives in the fall. To me this is good value for your gardening dollar.

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