Cretonne (Plectranthus scutellarioides) also known as coleus, is traditionally grown as an outdoor or indoor plant treated as an annual. There are many varieties with very beautiful colors, in this article we will see how to propagate, cultivate cretonne and its maintenance.
How to Propagate Cretonne
You can start growing cretonne from seeds or cuttings.
For seeds, it is easiest to use a seed tray filled with potting soil and distribute the seeds evenly over the entire surface.
Once the seed has dispersed, put a thin layer of potting soil over it and water thoroughly. Put a plastic cover on the tray and place it in a warm place with indirect light.
You should start seeing seedlings in two weeks. When they appear, remove the plastic cap.
Keep the soil moist but not wet. It is safer for your seedlings if they are watered from the bottom of the tray rather than the top.
For cuttings, use sharp scissors and remove 10-15cm segments from your plants. Make the cut just below a leaf node along the stem. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone (optional) look: How to root for cuttings.
Using a pencil, make a hole in the prepared potting mix, carefully bury the cutting in the hole about 2cm deep and gently press the soil around the stem.
Place the planted cutting in a plastic bag, making sure the plastic does not touch the cutting.
Keep the soil moist, but not wet, and place it in a warm spot with indirect light. The plant should take root in a few weeks.
You will know it has rooted if new shoots start to form. At this point, you can remove the plastic bag and transplant it wherever you want.
Prepare the largest pot with good quality soil and take the cretonne out of its other pot.
Gently separate the root mass with your hands and place it in the new pot. Be careful not to break its large taproot.
With your hands, scoop up the soil around the base of the plant to fill in the gaps, pressing down lightly to hold it in place. Don’t tamp the soil, because nature will fill it in for you.
Growing Cretonne (care)
Although it likes warm climates, coleus light requirements are minimal. As a tropical, it is acclimated to most direct sun blocked by the trees above.
The scorching rays of the sun can wash out the beautiful colors of the leaves, so try to provide at least some shade for the best look. For best color, provide early morning sun and afternoon shade.
Expect an average heat of no less than 50°F (10°C), or you risk killing your cretonne.
Suppose you have followed the instructions above and have chosen a point of light that is naturally heated by the sun.
This location will require you to keep the soil moist at all times, which may require removing the watering can once or twice a week. Reduce watering in winter and let the soil dry out a bit.
If you’ve ignored our light advice and chosen a darker location, you’ll still need to maintain humidity, but to do so you’ll need to water much less often.
Misting the leaves frequently is a perfect way to increase the humidity around your chintz and keep the leaves wonderfully clean.
That said, humidity in general isn’t usually a big issue when it comes to these plants.
Cretonne prefers well-drained soil. Do not use soil that contains a lot of vermiculite or moisture-absorbing polymers.
A mix with plenty of perlite or river sand is best, as it keeps the soil airy while improving drainage.
It is also important to cover the soil surface with a gravel mulch. This maintains moisture in the soil and reduces the frequency of watering. Having mulch under the plants will also help prevent the spread of disease.
These plants don’t need to be fed regularly or heavily because cretonne doesn’t tend to be a flowering plant, nor do you want it to grow to large proportions.
A standard fertilizer four times a year (two in spring and two in summer) is usually enough.
If you plan to keep the plant alive through the winter, the following spring prune everything hard and repot with fresh standard potting soil.
You can keep the old jar as there is usually no need to increase the size unless you want to increase its overall size.
The ideal temperature for growing cretonne is between 21 and 45 degrees C. Obviously, heat is not a problem.
However, the cold can be. If the temperature starts to drop below 10 degrees Celsius, use a cold frame to keep them warm. Otherwise, bring them indoors and provide them with indirect light in a warmer location.
Most people love flowering plants. In this case, the leaves are much better than the flowers! When you see a chintz flower, sting it before it blooms.
As they are usually annual plants, they may die after flowering. Pinching flowers redirects plant energy to leaf and plant growth rather than seed formation.
Like most mint relatives, they can quickly become skinny. To encourage a bushier formation, cut or pinch off stems that have legs just above a leaf node.
It is best to choose a node where a visible bud is forming, as this will encourage the plant to branch off there.
Only a few varieties of pests are usually a problem for cretonne, and even then the plant tends to recover quickly.
Scale insects can leave a whitish residue along stem joints and suck sap from the plant.
Aphids are also sap suckers and can cause the plant to wilt rapidly.
Whiteflies also drink plant sap and you can easily see when they become a problem.
And then there are the mites, which feed on both the leaves and the sap of the plant, leaving behind a fine, web-like material.
To prevent these insects from infesting your plants, you can use regular applications of neem oil as a deterrent.
Additionally, beneficial insects like ladybugs or lacewings will feast on these four pests, keeping them at bay.
Overwatering your plants can cause fungal problems like stem and root rot.
Avoid overwatering to prevent rot and use a gravel mulch under your plants as it dries out faster.
If stem or root rot appears on your plants, prune away any signs of rot and transplant them into new, sterile potting soil.
Mold can also become a problem. It is also a fungal problem caused by spores and, although it can occur outdoors, it is much more common in greenhouses.
However, you can treat it with neem oil. Spray the oil all over the plant, making sure to cover both the tops and undersides of the leaves.
It may also be interesting to read: How to grow Gardenia and its care.
You may need to treat the plant regularly every few days until the signs of mold are gone.
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